Meet Mohan Abhyas: Samosa vendor's son who secured 64th rank in IIT-JEE and wants to become a scientist

Mohan Abhyas insists he is the wrong person for me to interview. "There are many others who have got a better rank than me in Hyderabad and in south India," he said, reeling off the names and the ranks they secured, asking me to contact them instead.

17-year-old Abhyas has secured 64th rank in the IIT-JEE Advanced examination but even this high rank left him disappointed. He had hoped to get a rank in the top 20. He had reason to because after all he was the topper from south India in IIT Mains and sixth in the country. In the Andhra Pradesh EAMCET (Engineering Agriculture Medical Common Entrance Test), he stood first and fifth in Telangana EAMCET.

"It is embarrassing that a lower rank person like me is interviewed when there are others who have done better,'' he said shyly. It is almost as though he is unaware of the circumstances despite which he has achieved this position.

Abhyas is the son of Subba Rao and Surya Kala — they make their living by selling Hyderabadi Irani samosas. Abhyas and his family lives in a two-room home in Kukatpally area of Hyderabad. Across the same lane from their home, they have a one-room setup with a shed, where they make samosas and savouries to be sold in the market. Kala and her mother prepare the samosas. Rao fries them and then sets off on his bicycle street after street, selling the samosas. "I can sell three for Rs 10. If we sell to a shop, the margin is much less,'' said Rao.

Mohan Abhyas with his mother as she prepares samosas. Firstpost/TS Sudhir

Mohan Abhyas with his mother as she prepares samosas. Firstpost/TS Sudhir

Abhyas has taken difficulties and problems in his stride and has not let those trying circumstances become an excuse for not achieving his dreams. "Till two years ago, I would help my parents by doing the filling in the samosas, but for the last couple of years, I was not able to,'' he said, almost apologetically.

And that's because Abhyas would stay in school from 7 am till late in the night. He sought permission from the Narayana Junior College management to stay on at the institution after formal study hours as it wasn't easy for him to focus on his studies at home, where he lives with his parents, grandmother and sister. Abhyas' parents did not want their son to continue in their footsteps — spending a lifetime filling samosas and selling them.

Rao had dropped out of school after Class XI. Abhyas' grandfather, who came all the way from Bhimavaram, a town in coastal Andhra Pradesh, said, "My son couldn't study, but my daughter-in-law is a gold medallist in BA Telugu in college," adding that Abhyas' was named after the concept of 'Akshara Abhyasa' — a formal initiation into learning undertaken by many families. Kala said that as parents, they knew the importance of education but they never hankered after ranks and did not push their children to study long hours. "I would often say take rest, but he would not listen,'' said Kala, beaming from ear to ear, immensely proud of what Abhyas has achieved.

Mohan's sister Nishchayi is now in tenth class and obviously inspired by her sibling, wants to join the civil service and become an IAS officer.

Abhyas says that he is hoping to join IIT Mumbai. "I need to check as to what is the scope for different streams before I decide what I will take but what I am sure is I want to become a scientist,'' says Abhyas. Former president APJ Abdul Kalam has been a big inspiration and influence on Abhyas.

The other dream is to ensure a better life for his parents and family. "There is nothing wrong in making samosas but they have worked so hard for me. It is not easy. If I can mechanise the work and make it easy for them, then they can continue with the samosa business. Otherwise, no,'' he said.

Friends have arrived and plans have been made to go to a nearby shopping mall. That is, if Abhyas can get away from the continuous stream of media crew and visitors coming in to congratulate him. His parents have already prepared 300 instead of the daily quota of 200 samosas to offer to the visitors.

"I don't know swimming but I want to buy a swimsuit this evening. We are planning to go to a water park tomorrow," he said, eyes shining with excitement, certainly deserving of the outing after having created quite the splash.

Updated Date: Jun 13, 2017 09:09 AM

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