His mother died three days after his maths exam. The day after her cremation, he wrote his physics exam. In the middle of the worst crisis of his young life, 16-year-old Rishi Mehta did not go to pieces. His resolve never wavered.
Two months and eight days after his mother’s death from a brain tumour, the Jamnabai Narsee student beat 1.08 lakh of his peers across the country to top the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) Class 10 board exams with a score of 98.29 per cent. In his top four subjects — maths, social studies, computer applications and English — he averaged 99 per cent.
On hearing the news on Wednesday at his Vile Parle home, he remained self-contained. “It was tough,” he said. “I worked hard for it, but I did not expect this result.”
At the time of his mother’s passing away, Rishi had given four papers; seven were left.
“Rishi was always interested in studies; it was never a chore for him. He managed to score this well after he fell ill and his mother passed away… I’m proud of him. Except maths and science, he did not take tuitions for any subjects,” said his father, Rajeev, an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, alumnus who works as an operations manager with Kodak.
Rishi’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. “Then she developed a brain tumour and succumbed a few days after Rishi’s exams started,” said Rajeev, who was out of town on a business trip. “Rishi has a genuine interest in science as well — he would be full of questions, which helped him learn the way he did.”
Unlike many toppers, Rishi has an avid interest in the outdoors. He plays cricket. He likes surfing the Internet and experimenting with robotics, eventually hoping to study engineering. “I would like to study at IIT, but let’s see what happens,” said Rishi as he attended to the calls pouring in from friends, family and the media.