S. Muthu Manikandan had to go to Nazareth Matriculation Higher Secondary School to know how he had fared in the class XII exams.

But before that, he had to attend to a procession of customers at his father’s mobile phone recharge shop on Bharathi Street in Avadi. As a result, the celebrations were a wee bit delayed.

Manikandan secured third rank in the State with Tamil as his first language — scoring a centum in maths, chemistry and biology and 199 in physics to rack up a total of 1,187 marks.

The boy is under no compulsion to work but volunteers to help his father. “My dad’s small shop is the main source of income. My mother sells flour in the neighbourhood to meet ends. Seeing them go through hardships acted as a spur for me to excel in studies,” said Manikandan.

With the family in desperate financial straits, Manikandan often went to school unfed. He would borrow books from friends and the library. His father struggled to pay for Manikandan’s annual fees. Scholarship offered by the school management saw him through classes XI and XII. In class X, Manikandan stood third at the district level.

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During exams, S. Nivedita burnt the midnight oil. On other days, she woke up early to study for three hours before going to school. And, perseverance has paid off for this student of Zion Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Selaiyur. Nivedita, who took Tamil as first language, has secured 1,187 marks, including a centum in chemistry, computer science and mathematics, and finished third in the State.

“Hardwork never fails anyone,” the topper said. She said she left nothing to chance, and focused hard on each chapter in each subject.

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When she woke up on Thursday morning, Pooja S. Kumar was a bundle of nerves. The anxiety about her exam results was needless. She is State-level third-rank holder with Tamil as first language. A student of Swamy Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Porur, she scored 1,187 marks with centum in four subjects. “I did my preparation everyday, but did not miss out on watching television and pursuing other extracurricular activities,” said Pooja, who is trained in Carnatic music and hopes to become a chartered accountant.

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As a class XII student, K. Rajaram did not have his nose buried in his school books. He had all the fun he could have, going to movies and listening to music, including Hans Zimmer’s. But this CA aspirant knew how to stay focused when he sat down with his books. Rajaram, who took French as his first language, stands third with 1,190 marks.

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Another CA aspirant, R. Sai Nithya, also struck a balance between entertainment and studies. With Sanskrit as her first language, she scored 1,190 marks and secured the third rank in the State. “Apart from listening to music and watching TV, I assisted my mother in cooking,” the star performer said.

(Compiled by D. Madhavan, K. Manikandan, Vivek Narayanan and Sunitha Sekar)