Mumbai: Like most Class X students in Mumbai, Ankit Sing is busy these days preparing for the upcoming Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams.
But he appears more elated than nervous because a few days ago he received a recognition he perhaps yearned for more than a distinction in the board scorecard: a Silver Play Button from YouTube.
The 16-year-old student at the BMC Shastri Nagar Mumbai Public School got the coveted plaque for surpassing one lakh subscribers on his video gaming channel on the social media site.
The Kalina resident managed to achieve this feat in merely two years despite his humble background and limited resources. Ankit, whose father works as a security guard, first started recording and uploading his exploits at Free Fire, a popular ‘battle royale’ mobile game, during the Covid-19 lockdown. But what started as a pastime to kill boredom during the pandemic, soon evolved into a gratifying activity, as his ‘Ankit Gamerz’ channel amassed views and subscribers.
His teachers, while constantly nudging him to focus on books, didn’t dissuade him from pursuing his passion. And when he crossed the one lakh subscriber milestone, they, along with municipal education officials, felicitated him as a role model for excelling in whatever one likes.
“I used to be a topper in primary classes, but when the school got shut during the lockdown, I started losing interest in academics. I took to mobile gaming as there were no notebooks to be completed or homework to be submitted.
While attending classes online, I would spend hours playing Free Fire on the mobile phone that I shared with my elder sister. My parents would often ask me to not spend so much time on the mobile, but I would still lay awake at night editing the videos,” Ankit says in a matter of fact tone.
Initially, the views were low and the number of subscribers remained static until one of his videos hit a million views. There was no looking back. His channel now boasts of over 400 videos and 3.4 lakh subscribers. His mobile phone is the only equipment he has to produce the videos.
While his teachers were initially perturbed by his extracurricular activity, they tried to steer him toward a balance between academics and content creation.
“Initially, I thought that he is just playing video games, but later I realised what he was doing. I counseled him to continue making videos, but also to focus on studying. I would keep an eye on how much time was he spending on YouTube and guide him accordingly. I have also encouraged him to diversify his content,” said Imran Nerlikar, one of his teacher.
Swapnil Japtap, the school principal, believes that students need to be encouraged in all their pursuits. “Ankit is an average student, but he has got a platform in the form of his YouTube channel. Often students waste themselves on video games.
But we realise that if one is not much into academics, they can even make this a source of income. We are happy that he is able to follow whatever he is interested in,” he said.While Ankit is yet to decide his future course of action, he plans to continue on his content-making journey. “I want to become a YouTuber and support my parents,” he said. His teachers are more than happy to guide him along the way.
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