Dressed in a bright T-shirt and shorts, at first glance, Satyam Kumar looks like any other ordinary 12-year-old, but his achievement of cracking the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) entrance exam at this tender age is anything but ordinary.
Presently studying at a school in Rajasthan's Kota, Satyam has become a 'wonder boy' not just for his family, but for all his peers and fellow candidates who find it tough to clear the IIT-JEE even at 19 or 20 years of age.
The young boy, who comes from a modest farmer family in Bihar's Bhojpur district, has qualified for IIT admission with an all-India rank of 8,137.
In fact, ever since the IIT results on Friday, Satyam is suddenly the centre of all attention in Kota. As the youngest to qualify through the IIT entrance, perhaps the toughest exam in the country, he's now being fed sweets - especially laddus
- by his friends, teachers and everyone he meets in Kota these days. But even as he savours his sweet success, Satyam is a touch disappointed at not getting the high rank he hoped for.
In an exclusive chat with NDTV, Satyam says, "I was thrilled at seeing my name in the IIT list, but I would have been happier if I had got a higher rank in the top 100 or 200."
His incredible achievement sounds even more remarkable when Satyam tells us of his humble origins. Born in a poor farmer family, neither of his parents have even passed high school, and his father flunked his matric exams three times. Given this background, Satyam was not admitted to any formal school till the age of seven, but the child prodigy had by then already memorised the Geeta and Ramayan, by heart.
His family's modest annual income implied that Satyam simply did not have the money to train for IIT at Kota's expensive coaching classes. But seeing his genius, his institute has given him free training for the past five years. Satyam has been living in Kota since 2007 and all his school fees and other expenses are borne by the Resonance Institute and its Director R K Verma.
No wonder Satyam says the main credit for his success goes to his teachers. "I think it is the help and guidance of my teachers and the motivation of my parents that helped me succeed. In particular R K Verma sir helped me financially and emotionally to do my best," said Satyam.
Satyam passed his eighth class from the Rajasthan Board and cleared ninth to twelfth standard from the CBSE-affiliated Modern School in Kota. But even as he waits for his class 12 CBSE result, which is slated to be announced in a few days, Satyam's plans are clearly chalked out. "I will take the IIT exam again so that I get a rank within the Top-100 so that I can become a Computer Engineer from IIT Kanpur," he said.
Besides his IIT course, Satyam has an interesting plan. "I want to develop a social Website like Facebook as Mark Zuckerberg is my favourite idol," he said.
Ask him about his career plans and the bright student has a clear choice. "I want to become an IAS officer as I want to serve poor people in villages. I have seen how most people like my parents suffer in rural areas. But if I join the IAS, I will be able to help the poor in a big way," he said.
And that's a dream, Satyam's grandmother prays and hopes will eventually turn into reality. 70-year-old Kusuma Devi, who lives in Kota to take care of the boy said, ''I pray every day that Satyam will achieve the big success he deserves. If he becomes a big officer, I feel all the problems that our family faces will soon be solved. I'm sure God will listen to our prayers and reward Satyam for his hard work.''
If his feat of qualifying for the IIT is any indication, the child prodigy from Bihar whose talents have been honed at in Rajasthan's Kota - the Mecca for IIT coaching in the country - will definitely turn his dreams into reality.
Clearing the IIT at barely 12 is no less than a miracle. And through his remarkable success this child prodigy has become not just the pride of Kota but also an inspiration for IIT aspirants across the country.