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Poor and prodigies: Lucknow’s ‘genius’ siblings shake up academics

Educationists have been left scratching their heads for an answer as three “prodigious” siblings from one Lucknow family continue to set new academic records.

india Updated: Aug 25, 2016 18:53 IST
Rajeev Mullick
Rajeev Mullick
Hindustan Times
Prodigy,Lucknow prodigies,Education system
Prodigy Ananya Verma who is set to join Class 9 at the age of 4 years 8 months with father Tej Bahadur, sister Sushma and mother Chhaya Devi at their residence in Lucknow on Thursday.(HT Photo)

Educationists have been left scratching their heads for an answer as three “prodigious” siblings from one Lucknow family continue to set new academic records.

Four-year-old Ananya Verma is the latest from the family of a daily labourer to have hit the headlines on being enrolled in Class 9 of a private school after the district inspector of schools cleared her admission.

Her brother Shailendra was in the news earlier when he graduated in computer science from Lucknow University in 2007 at the age of 14. He passed the examination with 74.93% marks and is now a software engineer in Bengaluru.

Ananya’s elder sister Sushma made waves the same year by entering the Limca Book of Records as the country’s youngest matriculate by passing the UP Board Class 10 examinations at the age of seven.

In 2013, she went on to become the youngest science graduate from Lucknow University and then becoming the youngest post-graduate in microbiology from the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU) in 2015. She reached another milestone by enrolling in a Ph.D course the same year.

Experts are both impressed and baffled by the siblings’ academic feats. “Their intellectual genius is self evident,” says Amrita Dass, a career consultant with the Lucknow-based Institute for Career Development.

But none has much clue as to the reasons behind their academic brilliance. Tej Bahadur, their father, is a daily wage earner. Their mother is illiterate. Experts are puzzled and there is no unanimity about what is behind their academic brilliance.

“Some children are quick learners but even for that, some amount of teaching is needed. It’s impossible to say what has turned these children into geniuses without a medical and scientific assessment of the brain,” says Dr Subrata Sinha, director of the National Brain Research Institute in Manesar.

Dass, who has mentored the two older children, says maximising their potential is the priority, though more in-depth research into what makes them stand out is also required. “Till date, there is not much known about the biology of intelligence. In many cases, nothing in the family history of child prodigies explains where they got this extraordinary genius and talent from,” she points out.

Dr Amit Kumar, CEO and chief scientific officer of Hyderabad-based BioAxis DNA Research Centre Pvt Ltd feels the clue could lie in their genes. “Such a family must be tested for smart genes and they may help to understand associated factors for intelligence other than genetic variations,” he explains.

However, Ananya isn’t affected by the bewilderment she and her siblings have created. Her favourite pastime is reading books, including the Ramayana and Hanuman Chalisa. She goes to St Meera’s School, the same institution that her sister Sushma went to, and already has her principal in awe.

“Ananya is much sharper than Sushma. She picks up things very fast. It is a learning experience not just for Ananya but also for teachers who work with her. It is amazing to see the progress she is making with every passing day,” says Anita Ratra, the principal.

The BBAU vice-chancellor is equally impressed with Sushma. “She is doing remarkably well. She is always eager to learn and we are extremely proud to have her as a research scholar,” says RC Sobti. For the records sake, Sushma had secured seventh rank in the University Research Entrance Test to study environmental microbiology.

As experts debate their prodigious talents, their father who has now been rewarded by the BBAU with a job as a sanitation supervisor is convinced that it is all because of Saraswati, the goddess of learning. “I am illiterate and cannot guide my children. Whatever they have achieved is through the grace of Ma Saraswati,” he gushes.

First Published: Aug 25, 2016 18:27 IST