Monday, June 3, 2013

The Perfect 10

Two decades after the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci first scored the Perfect 10 in 1976 Montreal Olympics, a girl was born in Bokaro General Hospital, who would go on to score a Perfect 10 in her Class X Board exams years later. Meet Nupur Singh, a darling of her teachers, a student of Bokaro Ispat KalyanVidyalaya (BIKV) from Class sixth to tenth, and a topper throughout.

The Topper Singh
It takes Nupur some time to get settled in our conversation. She admits she is a little shy; has been from her earliest memories. But when she does open up, what an insight she allows in her world of struggle, uncertainty and achievement! Born to a contractual worker Mr Niwas Singh and a home-maker mother Ms Gauri Devi, Nupur speaks of her lack of resources in a very matter-of-fact manner, not once blemished by self-pity. “I feel a wee-bit out of place when children of my age discuss their i-pods, i-pads and other gadgets, but I ignore these conversations and get on with my work”, she adds with a candour that makes one marvel at her maturity. And she’s not even 18.

Talking to Nupur is unlike talking to any other school-girl. A study in simplicity, Nupur is made of stuff which is far from simple. When her CGPA 10 score came out, nobody – her parents, teachers, friends, or she – blinked twice. Her reputation as the cream of the crop is so strong and wide-spread that everyone expected her to be the numerouno. “To me, the result came more as a relief than an achievement. The pressure of performance and the weight of expectations can be unnerving at times. I try to use it as a motivation, rather than letting it bog me down”. Dearth has its own way of teaching depth. When children of Nupur’s age are busy Facebooking or mulling over their future choices, serious concerns bother Nupur. Will she be able to crack the IIT-JEE exams? If she does, how will she finance her studies there, since bank loans, she realises, are not easily available to students of her background? And if she doesn’t, which professional avenues could she pursue? And, when she leaves Bokaro, who will mentor her younger sibling Aditya, currently a Class 5 student at Bokaro Ispat Vidyalaya?
Nupur with her parents and brother Aditya

Eighteen is an age she looks forward to, not for the license to drive or vote, but because it will qualify her to write employment exams. As if she has sensed my melting heart on the other end of the phone, she adds to comfort me, “I will take up a job because I need to earn, but I will keep trying for IIT-JEE”. Some people have tried telling her that in case she qualifies for IIT, she should not take up Electronics, since that field is ‘not meant for girls’. Just like a few others who told her to opt for Commerce and not Science after Class X, for the multitude of career options it promises. But thanks to the eternal support that flows from her family and teachers, Nupur didn’t budge once. “If you take up a subject that interests you, success is guaranteed”, philosophizes the young girl who is an avid reader and a keen quizzer. She has mopped up tomes like Mahatma Gandhi’s The Story of My Experiments with Truth, APJ Abdul Kalam’s Wings of Fire and Premchand’s Godaan. Thanks to her open and encouraging family environment, and a father about whom she talks with an unmixed pride, she has developed a good sense of general knowledge. Winner of two Gold and two Silver medals bestowed by SAIL's Bokaro Steel Plant (BSL) for excellence in academics and over-all performance, Nupur has several other essay and quiz titles to her credit.

The family of four shares a SAIL quarter with a close relative, who is an employee of BSL. “SAIL is not just an organization or a family of people, it is an institution. For me and many others, it is an inspiration. I’ve received so much from SAIL that nothing that I can say will suffice”, is how the little wonder feels about the company. For someone who has been showered with praises throughout her growing up years, Nupur has not lost her touch with reality. She says she needs to ‘work’ on her nature and be more extrovert and adaptive and achieve an emotional balance. That she gets only 4 to 5 hours of shuteye every day, she mentions in passing.

One person she remembers with extreme fondness and gratefulness is the retired Principal of BIKV Ms Madhu Malik. “I do not know if I was born special. What I do know is that my teachers’ faith in me made me what I am today. Madhu ma’am believed in my abilities, she treated me like a star, and I became one. She never allowed a fibre of negativity seep in my thoughts; she never let me think like a loser. Once, when I scored a perfect 100 in mathematics, she told everyone how I was the feather in her cap and how proud I made her”, recalls Nupur with warmth that softens her voice further.

as you sow so shall you reap
A thinker that she is, Nupur separates her short-term goals from her ultimate aim, which is making it to the Indian Administrative Services. “I will try, and keep trying till I can”, she says decisively. Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, she knows. For that 1%, she collects interview clippings of IAS toppers and visits them in peace. The walls of her room bespeak her determination, with quotes like ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ neatly pasted all over.

It is difficult to end this conversation with her, for she’s such a fountainhead of optimism and beauty. Just imagine, Nupur Singh belongs to a family living Below Poverty Line, and yet she says that she is born lucky. Lucky to have got everything she needed, lucky to have found people who help and inspire her, lucky to have a family that supports. Talking to her, while and after, leaves one walking happily in the lanes of one’s own life, thoughtful, blissful and grateful.

Her parting line is just how she is – simple and prodigious. “When I turn 30 and look back at life, it should be a life of no regrets”.


  1. Very well written. Nupur's life and achievements are beautifully nuanced and her multi-hued personality is brought to life by some elegant prose. The narrative touches a chord of empathy in the reader and makes him/her applaud the young fighter, while at the same time flirting with introspection.
    "Talking to her, while and after, leaves one walking blissfully in the lanes of one’s own life, thoughtful, blissful and grateful."

  2. Great !! Congrats !!
    People like Nupur are born to lead .This achievement is a result of strong belief,setting high targets for self and achieve and lods of hard work and dedication .
    Nupur hardship cant be written as every movement of her past must have its own story.
    Congrats once again !

  3. Thanks :) wish i were in Bokaro to convey her the wishes personally