The quiet, nerdy schoolboy who went all the way

SWATHI MOORTHY VINAY KAMATH Chennai | Updated on January 23, 2018

BL12_01_PICHAI_GRANDMA   -  Business Line

B.LINE: Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President, Android, Chrome and Apps at Google addressing a press conference as Google launched the Android One platform , in New Delhi ,on 15.09.14. Pic : Kamal Narang

Sundar Pichai was inquisitive and eager to learn, says grandmother Ranganayaki

Kamikaze auto drivers on Chennai’s streets may make you fear for life and limb. But as a school-boy, auto rides to school did not faze the newly-anointed CEO of Google Sundar Pichai, who, a school-mate who shared the rides recalls, had his nose in his books all the way to school.

Quiet, nerdy and studious is how friends of Pichai remember him from his days at Jawahar Vidyalaya, a CBSE school in Ashok Nagar, Chennai. Pichai was so focused on studies and wanted to fare well in academics that most of his associates don’t remember him participating in sports or any other extra-curricular activities.

A classmate recalls, “Sundar was academically bright, though he wasn’t the first in class. He was always ranked third, behind two girls, who took the first two ranks. He wasn’t very participative and kept to himself.”

Cool guy

Another classmate, chary of having her name on record, recalls that he always had a smile on and never got upset over anything.

The school put all the brightest students and achievers in the 9th standard in section A, where Pichai too was placed. Though, of course, there was nothing to indicate that one day he would go on to head a major global corporation.

That he could be fiercely competitive was, however, evident as this classmate recalls: “When the mark-sheets were distributed in class, he would be the first one to rush to take them from the teacher and compare his marks with other toppers in the class.”

Pichai moved out of Jawahar Vidyalaya to join Vana Vani, a school inside the IIT-Madras campus to pursue his Plus Two under the Tamil Nadu State board syllabus.

Born in Madurai, Pichai grew up in Chennai, where his father worked for switchgear-maker English Electric Co Ltd. Pichai did not have very many friends but he was inquisitive and eager to learn, even at a young age, says Ranganayaki, Pichai’s grandmother, who is 92 years old and lives in the same modest house in a quiet lane in Ashok Nagar where Pichai grew up.

Street cricket

Ranganayaki, her memory still strong, recalls that Rajesh, as Pichai is called at home, hated wasting time and was diligent when it came to his studies.

“Both the brothers liked to play cricket in front of the house after school, though it was mostly just the two of them,” she says.

Another classmate, who is still in touch with him from his school days, says Pichai remains the same quiet person he always was.

“It’s difficult for us to imagine that he now heads Google,” she says.

Published on August 11, 2015

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