The Weekend Leader - Aiming for the stars

Grooming a potential Nobel laureate outside the humdrum of school

Abhishek Pandey   |   Kanpur


Vol 1 | Issue 2

Not all mothers identify a child’s academic potential before schooling.  But Dr Ruchi Kaushik did that when her son was just two years old and took the unusual decision of keeping the boy out of school, despite widespread criticism from people around her. Now, 12 years later, she has proved how right she was with Sahal Kaushik earning the distinction of being the youngest student to step into the hallowed portals of an IIT at the age of 14.

In fact, Sahal, who is now pursuing his integrated M Sc course in physics at the Kanpur IIT, was ranked 33 in the All India Joint Entrance Exam, topping the Delhi zone. He has also proved that he is cut out to reach dizzy heights in the study of science by being the second Indian student to win the Gold medal in International Biology Olympiad (2010) and Silver, and Bronze medal in Asian Physics Olympiad (2009 and 2010).

Such achievements have come by Sahal’s way because his parents had galvanized his talents and been supportive of his dreams. First Dr Ruchi Kaushik quit her practice as a doctor and her husband stood by her decision firmly. Ruchi then took upon the task of nurturing her son at home.

She took the unconventional decision to home-school Sahal because she felt his talents could be quashed if he were to be trapped in the traditional education system. Today, Sahal agrees with his mother. “Home-schooling gave me freedom to develop my own style of studying. I explore the topics to any depth without thinking about the syllabus,” he says.

A happy family basks in Sahal's success - Photo by Vicky Raghuvanshi

Sahal has been a quick learner. He started recognising words and was well-versed with alphabets at the age of two. He learnt multiplication tables up to 100 at the age of three. And at the age of six, he was solving trigonometry problems.

“Everyone tells me that I have sacrificed my life for Sahal ; but it’s not true. It was the easiest task to do as he had the interest and intelligence. I just had to show him the way,” says Ruchi. He has also tried his hands in many sports including horse riding, skating, badminton, table tennis and cycling; but badminton and swimming are his favourites.

Sahal chose M Sc Physics, though he could have opted for any of the courses in engineering offered by the IITs, only because he had a love for astronomy. Apart from preparing himself for admission to the IIT, the young prodigy finished reading the book ‘Time Machine’ by HG Wells when he was just six years old.

However, he had missed out on many other small pleasures of childhood.  Despite being far ahead of children of his age, in terms of knowledge, he had not enjoyed the fun in school. He also grew up with almost no friends of his age group.

 Sahal is too shy to speak about himself and is not keen on being photographed. His response to questions on his success lacks eloquence. “I am interested in research in the field of astrophysics or physics. I like astronomy and want to be a physicist. I love reading historical books and listening to old songs. I also love solving challenging problems,” he says after much persuasion.

Perhaps his mother has groomed him for much higher things in life. Say, a Nobel?

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