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A quiet, studious, boy none of his school teachers remember

August 13, 2015 12:10 IST

'Ever since I heard the news, I have been trying to recollect his face. Unfortunately I have not been able to.'

'It seems he was a very quiet, studious boy.'

'I still do not know how I might have missed him.'

Teachers at the Chennai schools Sundar Pichai studied sheepishly confess to Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com that they can't remember the Google CEO as a student.

With 500,000 plus searches, Sundar Pichai was unsurprisingly trending the most on Google on Tuesday, August 11, the day he was appointed CEO of the search giant. When the world was celebrating yet another 'Indian victory', his school teachers failed to recall what P Sundarajan looked like.

For ten years Sundar -- as he was known at school -- studied at the Jawahar Vidyalaya, Ashok Nagar, Chennai. Yet the principal, who not only taught him at school, but also handed him the transfer certificate when he opted to join the Vanavani Matriculation Higher Secondary School after completing Class 10 could not recall what he looked like.

Here is a boy, who, in his formative years, was so shy and timid that none of his teachers noticed or remembered him, but somewhere along the way developed the skill and ability to impress Larry Page and Sergey Brin to be chosen only Google's third CEO.

Embarrassed as they are, the teachers at Jawahar Vidyalaya sheepishly tried, but in vain, to recall P Sundarrajan who passed out from the school in 1987.

IMAGE: The Jawahar Vidyalaya, Ashok Nagar, Chennai. Photograph: Ramesh Damodaran

"I am told Sundar Pichai graduated in 1987. I must have given him the transfer certificate to study the 11th standard in some other school. Ever since I heard the news, I have been trying to recollect his face. Unfortunately I have not been able to," says R M Krishnan, principal of the school in 1987 when Sundar Pichai appeared for his Class 10 CBSE examination.

"Teachers tend to remember students who excel in studies or extra curricular activities or sports, but it seems he was a very quiet, studious boy," the former principal said.

Krishnan vaguely remembers Sundar's father, an electrical engineer, who lived in Ashok Nagar.

Though Alice Jeevan, the present principal of Jawahar Vidyalaya, did not teach Sundar Pichai, she is proud that a former student has brought laurels to the school.

"I am told he was a very good student who was respectful to teachers and calm and composed. I don't think he was a topper in the 10th standard. Teachers tend to remember only those who are very popular in school, or someone who was very mischievous or notorious or someone who was very outgoing," she says.

"It seems Sundar was very good in studies, but a very quiet boy," she adds. "That is why his teachers are finding it difficult to place him. We are very happy that one of our students is an achiever."

IMAGE: The Vanavani Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Adyar, Chennai. Photograph: Ramesh Damodaran

Zavier Sahayanathan, vice-principal at the Vanavani Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Adyar, Chennai joined the academy in 1990, a year after Sundar Pichai finished his Class 12.

"He was in this school for two years. That may be why none of the teachers remember him. The news that he studied here came as a big surprise to us. Immediately, we checked our records to confirm the news. Our records said, P Sundarajan."

"Once it was confirmed that he was indeed Sundar Pichai, we announced the news during school assembly and also read out his achievements to the students so that they get motivated," says Sahayanathan.

"We have been calling famous alumni of our school to talk to the students on Annual Day. Now, we will formally invite him also," he adds. "So many people are asking us about him, but unfortunately, we have not been able to provide any information. It is a matter of great pride for the school that he studied here."

Ayyasamy, principal at Vanavani when Sundar Pichai studied there, wonders why he can't remember his student. He feels worse because he taught English to Class 12 students. "I still do not know how I might have missed him. I hope I will be able to remember him once I meet him."

"As the principal of the school," he adds, "I used to encourage students to participate in other activities too. I was very particular that they should excel not only in studies but outside the world of books too. I always wanted the overall development of a student and not just academic excellence. I feel that has paid off really well in this boy. I feel quite bad for not remembering him, but I am elated at his achievement because this is how I wanted all my students to develop."

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MAIN IMAGE: Sundar Pichai. Photograph" Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Shobha Warrier / Rediff.com in Chennai