Shashrek Ambardar (16), a class XI humanities student of Ryan International School, Noida and a Bharatnatyam dancer since age nine, is busy preparing for a solo dance performance at the International Children’s Festival of Performing Arts (an annual global event of the Ryan International Group of Institutions) scheduled for January 2013. Awarded the Balshree for creative excellence in the performing arts by the National Bal Bhavan — an autonomous Delhi-based organisation of the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry which confers the honour upon talented children in the age group nine-16 years — in 2009, Shashrek’s stage grace and fluidity has won him laurels in India and abroad, in competitive and non-competitive performances. To date, this promising young dancer/ choreographer has staged 22 — mostly solo — perfor-mances at prestigious events such as the Bonn Festival, Germany (2005), World Festival of Children’s Performing Arts, Toyama, Japan (2008) and World Children’s Theatre Ensemble, London (2010). Moreover, he is routinely invited to perform at major public events, before audiences of foreign and national dignitaries and artists.
“Initially, my friends found it difficult to appreciate me as a classical dancer which was embarrassing, but after I started winning awards and laurels, everything fell into place. I have an amazing support team which includes my parents, school and my guru Sindhu Mishra, who have always stood by me and encouraged me,” says Shashrek.
Shashrek’s dedication to Bharat-natyam — the vintage classical dance form of Tamil Nadu — has not deterred him from doing well academically. He cleared his class X CBSE board exam with a cumulative grade point aver-age of 10 last year, and is currently a member of the school parliament. An excellent debater, he has been participating in the India Model United Nations (IMUN) since class VIII. His creative expressions extend on stage through theatre and his paintings. He bagged the Student of the Year Award — instituted by The Times of India’s Newspaper in Education (NiE) programme for academic and all-round excellence — in 2011.
Also a contemporary dance and choreography enthusiast, this accom-plished teen’s career ambition is to enter the Indian Administrative Service. “I want to serve my country and bring a positive change in the functioning of the Indian bureaucracy. I took up hum-anities so I could acquire in-depth and extensive knowledge of the subjects I will opt for in the civil services exam after graduation. Unfortunately, classical dance is not a viable career option,’’ says Shashrek, while sincerely hoping it gets more exposure in the media, especially cinema.
Swati Roy (Delhi)
Like other children his age, Vishal Anand (7) loves ice cream and chocolate, and thrills to running, skating and cycling. The difference is, he is autistic. But in medical parlance Vishal is an autistic ‘savant’, an inarti-culate individual gifted with innate knowledge. According to American psychiatrist Dr. Darold Treffert, autistic savants have prodigious memory and are exceptionally gifted in specialised fields.
Vishal’s special field is physical science, specifically renewable energy. Although socially reticent and unable to verbalise his thoughts, he is a (laptop) computer whiz and with the assistance of his mother Vidhya, keys in his ideas on radioactive renewable energy, which he believes is found in fresh water, and strategies for harn-essing this energy, among others. On these weighty matters, he regularly corresponds with Abhishek Shivakumar, a research scholar at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
Unsurprisingly, Vishal has already written and published his first book Meadow of Moods (2010) when he was six years of age. The book is a wry account of the emotional mood swings of autistic children, with each chapter ending in a philosophical quote in Hindi. Vishal’s love of the sun, rain and water and physical entities also find place in a colourful coffee table book (Landmark, Chennai) for which this young physicist was nominated for the CavinKare Ability Awards 2012 — the youngest ever nominee — and was specially invited to the awards ceremony.
One of two children of corporate executive A.R. Anand and soft skills trainer Vidhya, Vishal attends Sankalp, a special school for children with learning disabilities. Although he is placed in the intermediary group II & III, Vishal’s knowledge far exceeds that of his peers, and school mainly serves the purpose of acquiring social interaction skills. “We have taken him to several occupational therapists to help him develop basic skills for independent living, and hone his motor skills. His mentor Mythili Chari, founder of the Chennai-based Institute for Remedial Intervention Services, has been very supportive in encouraging Vishal’s talents,” says Vidhya.
Vishal’s parents have started inter-acting with researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, who have shown interest in his renewable energy theories. ‘My hero is Nobel laureate Albert Einstein. I am keen on doing research to create a device using radioactive renewable energy in columns of fuel cells which can be used in cars, homes and industry,” he enthuses.
Power to your elbow!
Hemalatha Raghupathi (Chennai)