“We need to learn about creativity and networking at school”

Says eleven year old child prodigy, Ishita Katyal. She published her first book at just eight years old and she is the youngest organizer of a TEDxYouth@balewadi event. We must say this amazing child has achieved more than what we could have possibly imagined accomplishing at age 8. She sounds incredibly cheery on the phone and this short and sweet tête-à-tête has been very inspiring.

You’re the youngest Indian to speak at a TEDx. Could you describe your experience?

I was first noticed because of two reasons. One, I published my book called Simran’s diary and two, because I organized my own independent TEDx event called TEDxYouth@balewadi  in Pune. One day, mom received a call asking if I would be interested in speaking at a TEDx in Bhilwara . She asked me if I would go and I agreed but then I was told that the TEDx talk would happen on my birthday, 26th July. And I said I won’t go because it’s my birthday. Mom did try to convince me but I said I wouldn’t celebrate my birthday without my dad.

The organizers at TEDx promised to celebrate my birthday. We reached around midnight and the drive was pretty long. I couldn’t be there for the rehearsal and when we checked in, I actually dozed off. When I reached TEDx Bhilwara, I had mixed feelings; I was nervous and excited, but when I came on stage, I thought I was just talking to my friends.

I am sure you have watched a lot of TED talks over the last couple of years. What are your favorite TED Talks?

I have watched tons of TED talks. My favorite ones include talks by Pranav Mistry’ on ‘the thrilling potential of Sixth Sense Technology. I just couldn’t stop watching it; it’s so inspiring and innovative; it explains how technology is changing our world. There’s also a talk by a little girl (I think she’s 16 now). Her name is Adora Svitak and her talk is about ‘what adults can learn from kids.

You have built this benchmark for kids across India. But there are a lot of ten year olds thinking they only have to focus on school. What do you want to tell these children?

To these ten year olds I want to say, of course school is important. But at the same time if you don’t pursue your passion and find out what you really love, then life would just be waking up, going to school, doing your homework and that’s not at all how our life should be. As we grow up, school is going to become more hectic. But at least take five minutes of your time to dedicate to your passion. If you don’t know your passion, do something you really like. Whenever I get free time, I am always reading and writing. I always carry at least two books with me – a library book and a diary I like to write in (my experiences, what happened today) – you can do this with anything, even singing and dancing. It is very important to find out what you really like.

It’s not just children but parents who are also thinking that a ten year old needs to focus only on good grades. What would you like to tell them?

My mom always tells me school is very important for all of us but it would be so much nice if we learnt about creativity and networking skills. School might bring out a child’s talents but what is really important to focus on things learnt outside of school. My parents always encouraged me to do anything new, so other parents should also encourage their children to experience new things. Take them to new places, give your children opportunities to grow and help them realize different sides of life. You don’t want their life to revolve around six letters, school.

What ideas would you think are worth a TED Talk?

So many ideas come to my mind. I think some of the most important ones will include what the world is becoming and how it needs to be what it really was, similar to what it was in our parent’s time – it was cleaner and greener. We had more time for each other. We also need to talk about issues like poverty and how students and teachers can make a change and how students and teachers influence each other.

Which is your favorite class in school?

We just started with History and Civics in the sixth grade and I am really enjoying it. We are learning about the sources of history and about the many cultures around the world. My history teacher, Uma ma’am makes the class really interesting.  I love Mathematics. Most people don’t like it, but I really look forward to Math class. I am so excited about Math class every day. I also enjoy English Literature class. We have just started reading Charles Dickens. I am not very fond of science class, maybe I will start liking it eventually.

Finally, what are your favorite books?

There’s this series called Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russel and graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier. I love reading about APJ Abdul Kalam and I recently started reading the Harry Potter series and I am learning so many new words. I keep my electronic dictionary bookmark with me at all times. Also, Diary of a young girl by Anne Frank is one of my all-time favorites. I was just gifted the Percy Jackson series for my birthday so I am looking forward to read them too.



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