Indian school exam topper shuts down bullies trolling her facial hair: ‘I am okay with it’

Prachi Nigam (X)
Prachi Nigam (X)

When the board exam results in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh were announced, topper Prachi Nigam expected it to be a cause for celebration.

The 15-year-old scored 98.5 per cent after competing with 5,500,000 other students.

However, the teenager’s moment of joy was sullied by a barrage of online abuse after her picture was posted on X, with hurtful comments about her facial hair.

“However God has made me, I am okay with it. For those who feel there is a difference, it doesn’t matter. Even Chanakya (ancient Indian polymath) was trolled, and he did not care. Similarly, I also don’t care and will focus on my studies,” Prachi told Indian news agency ANI.

Personal care and grooming products brand Bombay Shaving Company also published an advertisement trying to position themselves as standing in solidarity with Prachi, but received flak for capitalising on the situation.

The ad said: “Dear Prachi, They are trolling your hair today, they’ll applaud your A.I.R. tomorrow.” But smaller text below the ad read, “We hope you never get bullied into using our razor.”

Plenty of people called out the abuse on social media, pointing to the double standards young women and girls have to live with.

Prachi said no one in her immediate circle ever pointed out something being wrong with her appearance and she had “never bothered” about it.

“It was only when my photograph was published after the results that people started trolling me and then my attention was drawn to the problem,” she told IANS.

However, she said she isn’t paying attention to the comments anymore.

“It obviously feels bad, but people write what they think and nothing can be done about it.”

“If I had scored less, I would not have topped and become famous. Maybe that would have been better,” she told BBC Hindi.

“People see girls with hair and feel weird about it because they have not seen this before,” she said. Prachi’s parents too seem to have taken on the same attitude as their daughter.

“There are all kinds of people in society. We naturally felt bad, but at the same time, we are proud of our daughter for scoring the highest marks,” Prachi’s father, Chandra Prakash Nigam said.

Eventually, Prachi says, her plan is to study further and become an engineer.

“What will ultimately matter are my marks and not the hair on my face,” she said.