TN board topper: Never let success get to your head
Venkatanathan Srinath who topped the Tamil Nadu SSLC class X examination this year lauds the state's new examination system and tells us how it will end the succeed-by-cramming generation of student achievers.
Venkatanathan P Srinath is among the first batch of students who appeared for the class X Tamil Nadu Secondary School Leaving Certificate examination after the samacheer kalvi (Uniform System of School Education) was introduced in the state. And he is also the first topper to ace the state's class X SSLC examination this year.
But what makes his achievement so memorable is the fact that the new system of examination has proved favourable for him in many ways despite several delays in the implementation.
"We had no textbooks till August 2011. Most of us were confused since we did not know what to expect. There were no previous year question papers or reference material to refer to. Some of us were cursing that we might end up as the unlucky targets for the new pattern, especially because we were in class X. But I am glad the results have been in our favour."
On Monday, Tanjavur-born Srinath who scored a stunning 497 out of 500 topped by securing full marks in English, Maths, Science and Social Studies became the highest overall scorer in the state besides being the first topper from the state to have scored full marks in English.
"We did not have much time to prepare. My preparation for Science was not up to the mark; also my English paper II did not go too well. Although I finished it on time, I ended up scribbling towards the end of the paper. I never expected to top the English exam," beamed the topper while adding that the new system is a "great way to end the succeed-by-cramming generation of student achievers."
A student Ponnaiyah Ramajayam Public School, Tanjavur, Srinath never attended a coaching class throughout his life and considers himself fortunate to have mentors in the form of teachers and parents who were there to help him round the clock.
Srinath, whose father Prasad named him after the famous cricketer Javagal Srinath, says he loves the game so much and insists that he never gave up watching a single cricket match nor did he give up surfing the Internet or playing games online.
"Concentration and dedication is what you need to succeed. You can do whatever you want, but when you sit to study, nothing should distract you," added the young achiever.
While Srinath's father works as a deputy manager at State Bank of India, Mellore branch in Madurai, his mother is a homemaker. His elder brother Venkat Prasanna is pursuing final year BTech at King's College of Engineering, Tanjavur.
In this interview, Srinath tells Divya Nair why the new system was a blessing in disguise and how he topped the exam without any coaching. Read on.
When did you come to know that you had topped the state? Did you expect this result?
My school informed me that I had scored the highest marks in the state. I wanted to perform well, but I had not expected to top the state. Few years back, when the sons of a government school headmaster got high ranks at the district level, I was inspired to make my parents proud in a similar way. But this achievement is like the cherry on the cake.
I am glad I could make my parents and teachers happy.
This was the first year since Samacheer Kalvi was implemented. What were the challenges you faced with the new system and how did you overcome them?
As I told you, the textbooks arrived two months late. Since it was our board year, some of us were really worried. But later on, I realised that this was a blessing in disguise for all of us. Unlike every year where students prepare for class X since the end of class IX, this year, we had an advantage: everyone started preparing at the same time and hence the competition was fair. The challenge was to give our best shot with whatever preparation we could manage.
Looking back, I feel the new system is student-friendly. Unlike our earlier system where anybody could cram for a few hours and excel with good marks, the new system emphasises on conceptual clarity. If you don't understand the chapter, you will not be able to answer the questions.
How did you prepare for the exam? Did you take any coaching?
Since our textbooks arrived late, I ensured that I will not waste any time. There was no need for any coaching at all. I would study regularly since the first day. I would do my homework on time and if I faced any difficulty, I'd call my teachers and clear my doubts immediately.
Fortunately, our teachers were also very helpful and committed. We were told that we could call them even after school to discuss any doubt or solve queries. Their dedication really inspired us to perform better.
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Image: Venkatanathan Srinath (in striped tshirt) being offered sweets at school
'It is very important to control your temptations while studying'
What was the most difficult part of the exam and how did you tackle it?
I had problems with most subjects at some level, but there was always some way to tackle it. Initially, I used to be scared of math, but my maternal grandfather would give me mathematic problems that were tricky and interesting. Soon, I took an interest in the subject. Similarly, I had difficulties with physics and chemistry also. My elder brother who is an engineering student would explain the concepts to me back home. No matter how many times I asked him to explain, he never complained.
My preparation for the Science paper was not satisfactory. Yet, I scored full marks. This is all thanks to the new system that discourages rote learning.
Did you face any performance pressure from parents and teachers? How did you focus on your task at hand?
There was definitely pressure, but neither my teachers, nor my parents let it reach me. My father would visit us only once a week, on Sundays. He would discuss everything from cricket to friends with me, but never asked about my exams or scores. I knew that he was getting that information from my mother. In some way, that approach of his made me realise that I was accountable for my performance and I must not let them down.
My mother left no stone unturned helping me convert my efforts to success. If I woke up at 4 am, she would be ready with a cup of tea at 4.15 am. While I studied and felt lethargic, she would come back with another cup at 6 am. I never had to tell her anything. She understood exactly what I wanted and gave me that.
Have you ever encountered failure? How do you handle failure?
When I was in Class VIII, I had appeared for the National Talent Exam. I secured a rank close to 1,500. I had prepared well, but then, I realised that only ranks up to 1,000 were considered. I was very disappointed for a few days. But later on, I learnt that one should not be affected by failure for long. You have to move on.
Before moving on, one should analyse what went wrong so that you don't repeat the same mistake. You should have a positive attitude. There are so many scientists who have failed before they went on to make great discoveries. But people remember them as great scientists because they were able to move beyond their failures and turn it into success.
What are your career plans?
I am fascinated by computers. Whenever I get the chance, I pick up my brother's computer books and start reading. I want to know how programmes are written and coded. So, I plan to take up computer science.
What tips would you like to share with aspirants who will be appearing for the board exam this year?
If you study regularly, you will not require any expert coaching. At the same time, recreation is equally important. I never gave up watching cricket, football or playing games for studies. I would even browse the Internet; spend time on Facebook whenever I could. But when I sat to study, I'd not lose concentration come what may. It is very important to control your temptations and not be distracted while studying.
Also, never pile up your queries or doubts. Solve them the same day to avoid last minute problems.
Don't think of studies as a burden. If you don't understand something, ask people who can help you. Clear your basics and practice as much as you can. Do not cram without understanding the concept behind it; it won't help you in the long run.
How do you de-stress yourself?
I'd play cricket or football, watch television, browse the internet or go for a swim. I like to read. I would read motivational books and stories for inspiration.
What books would you like to recommend to our readers?
I liked some of the advice given in Shiv Khera's book You Can Win. It helps you build self confidence. I would also recommend 6 Attitudes For Winners by Norman Vincent. It tells you how to be positive during troubled times.
What message would you like to share with our young readers?
I like Mahendra Singh Dhoni's attitude. Be cool. Listen to what everyone has to say. You do not have to follow everything. Take the best and forget the rest.
Don't be upset by failures. See them as opportunities to learn and improve. Don't let them fail you.
At the same time, when you are successful, don't let success get to your head. That will only ruin your life and career. You never know what tomorrow will bring along. Be humble, celebrate your success but don't sit on it for long. You have to start walking towards your next goal.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier
Image: Venkatanathan P Srinath