SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Rutvik Gandhasri and his 10-year-old brother Rishik can play a friendly game of Scrabble in their San Jose home, but come Saturday they will be both competing for the top prize at the CBS Bay Area Spelling Bee.
The 13-year-old Rutvik is the defending champion and smiles when asked about his little brother.
“Yes, (we are) definitely competing against each other,” he said with a chuckle.
Rutvik, an 8th grader at Chaboya Middle School, won the CBS Bay Area Spelling Bee last year. He earned a ticket to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Meanwhile Rishik, a 5th grader at Silver Oak Elementary, tied for ninth place in the regional competition.
Sometimes the siblings study together, but most of the time they do so separately, because Rutvik has more homework.
Still, Rishik cannot resist trying to stump his older brother with words many adults never encounter.
“When he’s in the middle of his homework, I’m like, ‘Hey bro, can you spell this word?'” he said with a little mischief in his voice. “Most of the time he just spells it.”
The pair tends to be more cooperative than competitive.
When Rutivk placed in the top ten at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Rishik cheered him on.
“It was really reassuring because along with my Mom and Dad, he’s my number one supporter,” Rutvik reflected.
And when Rutvik misspelled the word “betony,” Rishik gave him a hug that Rutvik said he’ll remember the rest of his life.
“It was so sentimental. Like a lot of siblings, they might get embarrassed by hugging their sibling on national TV, but he just came up and did it,” Rutvik said.
Rishik explained, “I kind of felt said it was over, but I felt happy for him, too, ’cause he got that far.”
On their return trip to the CBS Bay Area Spelling Bee this year, Rishik said he has one hope for his brother, who as an eighth grader will compete for the last time.
“He wins and we’re all happy,” Rishik smiled.
As spelling bee siblings, they feel they’ve already won: building their vocabulary and brotherly bond letter by letter.