These twin brothers are quite a story. Shrivats and Kaushik Mohan Iyer scored over 95 per cent in their Grade X exams, received SAT II scores of over 2300, have bagged trophies at inter-school debate contests ... Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary finds out how talent works in tandem

"In form and feature, face and limb,
I grew so like my brother,
That folks got taking me for him,
And each for one another,
It puzzled all our kith and kin,
It reached a fearful pitch;
For one of us was born a twin,
Yet not a soul knew which..."

The first thought that came to my mind when I met Shrivats and Kaushik Mohan Iyer was this delightful verse from The Twins by Henry Sambrooke Leigh.

Twins as a subject is, of course, nothing to write home about. But these two students of Dubai Modern High School, though they look identical, are, in one word, different ... from many of their peers.

The gleaming medals pinned to their school jackets provided the precursory introduction to their multifaceted prowess. But even before I met them I had heard a lot about their achievements - to begin with, at 16 they were at least a year younger than most of their 12th grade classmates.

It was also whispered in the school corridors that it was impossible to defeat the two in debates, quiz or maths competitions. If that's not all, the Iyer brothers topped the tenth-grade merit exams and are tipped to do an encore at the 12th board examinations as well.

And if you thought they were good only off the field you are wrong. They are a force to reckon with when they team up in a table tennis tournament. Why, even at an environmental clean-up campaign, the Iyer brothers are in the forefront.

A couple of months ago, at the inter-school All India Frank Anthony debate held in Kolkata, India, where 1,600 schools participated, it was an Iyer brother who lifted the trophy.

Around the same time they also made a clean sweep at the Doon School's annual feature - the Interschool Chuckerbutty debating competition. Here they won after gruelling extempore rounds, where they spoke on topics such as 'Polka Dots'.

"It was a tough challenging round,'' recalls Shrivats. "But I love situations like that,'' he says.

"I thought of using the stream of consciousness technique (when talking about polka dots) and began with a quote from John Donne. I then continued on the topic of dots and looking at the world from outer space.

You see, when you are looking at something from that distance, all you are likely to see are dots. So I carried this analogy of human beings, appearing as large multicoloured dots, dots that are similar and yet so individualistic.

I extended the topic to talk about multiculturalism and in the midst of it all I genuinely began enjoying the exercise, especially when I saw the audience connecting and responding to my thoughts,'' he says.

The dots connected beautifully, the judges saw the pattern and Shrivats walked away with the best speaker prize and also with the trophy.

"At the Frank Anthony debate, Modern High was the wild card entry into the finals and we both walked away with the award for the best speaker.

"The motion that we had to oppose was 'The foundation of a healthy society needs the presence of a woman'. It was difficult to argue against it without sounding anti-woman and yet we did it and won the award for the third best speaker.''


"We are truly blessed to have them," says Jayanthi, mother of the twins and a homemaker.

"My wife knew she was going to have twins from the moment she knew she was pregnant," says (her husband) Mohan Rangaswamy, a plastic surgeon.

"In fact, this was not clear in the first ultrasound scan she underwent. But she convinced the doctor that there was some mistake somewhere and that she was sure she was carrying twins.

"The ultrasound scan conducted a few months later confirmed her belief," says Dr Rangaswamy, who shares his wife's joy in being the proud father of the two.

Born on June 26, 1990, the boys are almost identical in height, weight and demeanour; the only distinguishing factor is a thin moustache which Shrivats, the three-minute younger twin, sports.

Talk to them and you get a feeling that you are talking to one person - they pre-empt each other's thoughts, end up completing the other's sentences ...

What kind of chemistry is responsible for such envious sibling relationship?

"Communication is the key,'' says Shrivats. "But actually we do not speak much to each other,'' he says and, seeing the puzzled expression on my face, continues, "we instinctively know what the other is thinking. We often tend to complete each other's sentences. We do have many secret conversations because we can read each other's thoughts and sometimes speak in unison."

Says Kaushik: "We love doing things together, not just in the class, but even outdoor activities like playing table tennis, listening to music ..."

Shrivats continues: "There are some very important things that are crucial to our composite identity ... One is definitely humour.

"We laugh together, share jokes ...Kaushik picks up the thread: "The other important thing is love and faith. We have that to a large degree as that is part of being a twin. If there is one piece of advice I can give a friend, it is to trust in your brother and sister.

"Besides that it is important to allow people space. Even if you are one of a set of twins, you need to give space and time to the other to develop and grow.''

The two do have arguments. "Oh yes, we do,'' they say almost together, "We argue about everything in private, but outside we always present a joint face.''

"Having a twin is like having a sounding board,'' says Kaushik. "We value each other's opinion and are each other's toughest critic," concludes Shrivats.

Their excellence is not just confined to school-level competitions. The Iyer twins recently set records with their amazing SAT scores.

While Shrivats stood first in the school in Grade X with a whopping 96.6 per cent, his twin Kaushik came a close second with a 95.5 aggregate.

The two excelled at the SAT II with the elder receiving a score of 2,360 score and the younger 2,330. Both scored cent per cent marks in SAT tests for chemistry, English literature and maths.


What do they credit their impressive intelligence to?
"The boys were always curious and inquisitive about their environment from a very young age,'' recalls Dr Rangaswamy. They retained these qualities even when they grew up. They would spend hours poring over books and almanacs, referring to journals and manuals, surfing the net, having mock debates at home ...

"We were in Chandigarh, India, when they were born and by three they were not just looking at pictures in books but goading their mother to read out to them from encyclopaedias and books that we bought for them," says Dr Rangaswamy.

The twins describe how they prepare for most of their debating competitions:
"Debating is a legacy at Dubai Modern High," says Shrivats.

"Our teachers and some of our predecessors at school trained us in the art of debating,'' he says.

"On our part, we have been mentoring two younger boys, Aditya Srinivas and Rajiv Naresh who, along with us, represent the school as a team."

Kaushik chips in: "We spent our three-month summer break preparing for the two all-India debating events. We were aware of the format of the debate and practised speaking extempore on as many issues as we could think of. We used to time ourselves speaking for four minutes on a topic. It is actually easier than it sounds,'' he says.

He then offers a few tips on scoring high at debating contests:
"When we get a topic, we break it down into sections and list the pros and cons of the theme. The four of us (including Aditya and Rajiv) used to meet every alternate day during the summer, talking about almost any issue under the sun, scanning newspapers about current issues, working on speeches ...

"We would videotape our practice sessions and then examine it dispassionately, analysing our presentations and also being honest critics of each other.

"We would choose a topic, spend 20 minutes writing out a speech on it and then deliver it in four minutes. That is the time frame given at the finals as well. We worked on more than 40 to 50 possible topics,'' he says.

The twins have mastered the art so much so that they head the debating and quiz societies at school and have established a formidable reputation as team leaders both in Dubai and in India. They admit they rely a lot on literature, books in the libraries, literary quotes ... and are confirmed web addicts.

Besides being well-informed and articulate, both boys are voracious readers, devouring a 300-page book in two days. They have finished reading most of the books in their school library and Jayanthi is often hardpressed to fuel their reading appetite.

"They read so fast that one has to keep returning to the library so often. During exams, we stop them from reading books other than those related to their subject and let them concentrate on their study material."


The twins look back on the time they spent in Al Ghubaiba Indian High School, Muscat (where their family was based for a short while) and are thankful to their teachers there for encouraging their talents.

When the two joined Dubai Modern High School in Grade 8, their talent was recognised and honed to perfection and for this they credit, among others, their teacher in English Michael James.

Says Kaushik: "The boys in the senior debating team were our role models. We observed everything about them; picked up nuances of presentation, tips on how to conduct oneself ... we emulated everything.

"It's an important part of being a Modernite. Winning the Chuckerbutty debate has been a tradition with our school and it was left to us to uphold it this year."

Thanks to their enviable SAT scores, the two are hoping to secure a place at a top university. While Shrivats wants to pursue a degree in engineering and a secondary degree in Liberal Arts, Kaushik is looking to graduating in Economics and the liberal arts.