Poverty, surgery, power cuts: He still topped the CBSE
All-India Central Board Secondary Examination Class XII topper Mohammad Ismat battled the odds to score a stunning 99.6 percent this year.
Until a few days ago, Mohammad Basirul Rahaman was just a primary school teacher in Imphal leading an ordinary life and making ends meet. But ever since the CBSE results were announced, people have begun to recognise him as the father of Mohammad Ismat, the all-India Senior Secondary Examination 2012 topper. Ismat also happens to be the first ever student from the North-East to top the examination.
"I am at a loss for words," said Basirul Rahaman, a single father who, after the loss of his wife, raised his son alone from the age of one and a half.
"It's a proud achievement for both a father and a teacher," Rahaman said over the phone, soon after his son was felicitated at school by Manipur State Education Minister Okendro Singh yesterday.
A student of Zenith Academy, Imphal, Mohammad Ismat scored a record aggregate of 99.6 per cent, securing full marks in Mathematics, Chemistry, Home Science and Fine Arts and 97 and 98 per cent in Physics and English respectively.
But his journey to success has not been a cakewalk.
A topper all through Class IX, Mohammad Ismat could not continue studying at Sainik School, Imphal despite scoring 94.2 per cent marks in Class X CBSE, because he could not afford the school fees.
"It was very unfortunate for my child to have lost his mother and then struggled with poverty at such a young age. He has always been brilliant, topping throughout Class IX, securing 100 per cent in all subjects," shared Rahaman, who works in the education department of a government school in Manipur.
Even when the young boy scored 94.2 per cent, he'd topped the state of Manipur and finished second in the North-East. But being the first all-India topper from the North-East is an achievement that is second to none, says the topper.
In this interview with rediff.com, Mohammad Ismat talks about how he could not study for three months due to an anal surgery, why it is important not to lose focus and why he wants to appear for the Civil Services exam and top that too.
When did you realise that you have topped the country in the CBSE results?
Where I stay, there is no access to the Internet. I had SMSed my number to a friend in Bangalore. He informed me that I had scored above 99 per cent, with 100 per cent in four subjects. Later, my school called to inform me that I was the all-India topper.
I thank Allah and all the people who believed in me and supported me in helping make this dream come true. This success is not my own; I owe it to my school management, who funded my education and my father who brought me up despite our family's poor financial conditions.
How did you prepare for the exam?
I studied for eight to 10 hours every day before the exam. I had to put in an extra effort because in November 2011, I had to undergo an anal surgery which restricted me from studying for long hours. For almost three months, I had to lie on my stomach and prepare. It was painful and exhausting, but I did my best.
Did you take any coaching? How important is coaching for success, according to you?
I did not take any specialised coaching. I could not afford it either. But I did approach teachers to help me after school and they immediately agreed. I think coaching is important, but only to guide you, to improve the weaker areas. You can ask your teachers at school, your friends -- anybody who is willing to help.
How did you overcome the challenges you've faced?
Ever since I was young, I have been a victim of adversity, losing my mother, my family's poor financial condition...
But I have learnt that there is no place in society for people who complain. I don't believe in destiny. I believe that each one is responsible for his/her own destiny. Life will always be difficult for those who are looking for excuses. We have to break free from adversity and focus on the bigger goal -- what we want to achieve in life.
You have to be patient, learn from your mistakes and run towards your goal without resting.
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Image: Mohammad Ismat
'I want to light up the lives of students in my state and country'
What challenges do students in the North-East face with respect to education?
The North-East, especially Manipur, is not as advanced as the other states. We have very limited access to the Internet, for instance and are not updated (about things around us) like the city kids are.
Most of us don't even have a Facebook account! How and where will we access it? There are indefinite power cuts. We can't afford to buy invertors or generators. So we rely on candlelight in the evenings. It may sound film-y to most of you, but it is very common here in Manipur.
When you are not studying, what activities do you enjoy?
I love reading scientific journals, most of which I get from the school library. I love to watch sci-fi movies, but we don't have much time after school, because we have to do our homework and prepare for our exams.
The last movie I enjoyed watching was Independence Day. I liked the concept and I could watch it again and again.
Who do you seek inspiration from?
My father would often tell me stories of Prophet Muhammad and legends of great men who braved tough situations and emerged successful. I am greatly inspired by the life and times of Prophet Muhammad. He has left behind great messages for each one of us, for every situation.
You were felicitated by the State Education Minister. What did he have to say about your achievements?
He congratulated me and also promised to take care of my educational needs. He said the Manipur government will give me a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh for my higher education. I am happy that I don't have to worry about my education expenses now.
What are your career plans?
I want to pursue Physics honours at St Stephen's College, Delhi. I have heard it's a big college and it's also the best for science. I would also like to appear for the UPSC exam and top that too, so I can become an IAS officer and work to improve the administration of the state of Manipur .
I want to improve the educational facilities for students and help them in all possible ways -- good study material, good teachers, scholarships etc. I want to light up the lives of students in my state and my country. As an officer, I would like to bring peace and prosperity to my state and country.
What would you like to tell students who will appear for their CBSE examinations this year?
Concentration is the key to success in any exam. You have to work hard to improve your concentration. There will be many distractions in your way, but you must not lose focus. The bigger goal should always inspire you to confront all challenges and obstacles in your path.
Any message for our young readers?
Nothing is impossible. In life, whenever you are sad, you must remember the good experiences and motivate yourself to see better ones. We all fail at some point. But it is important to look at failures as stepping stones that will lead you to success. To achieve bigger success, you have to be patient and let the bad times pass.
Photographs: Rediff Archives