“I believe age is just a number, I believe any child is capable of great actions which can touch the lives of others regardless of his or her own age. Next time, you talk to a child talk about the present. The future will take care of itself”- can you guess the age of the person making these statements? Well, these are words by a 10-year old girl, Ishita Katyal. An author, a public speaker, a dancer, singer, a basketball player, Ishita, has the audacity and vision to say that “age is just a number”. When most at her age think about cartoons and games, she had asked some really hard questions, Why do you have to wait to answer the question ‘What do you want to be when you grow up’? Why can a child not pursue his or her dreams now?
Most of the time as adults, we undermine a child’s dream or our childhood dreams, because we think a child is immature, impractical and has not seen enough of the world; that a child does not understand the real world and its challenges. We forget the effect or impact of a child’s experience and its impressions in a child’s life. We undermine contribution of the curiosity of a child’s mind. But little Ishita’s statements and questions are an eye opener for many. With just a few years of experience in her kitty, Ishita, shows the world of a child’s realization of a dream and a determination to follow the dream.
Born on 26th July, 2005, she has just completed 11-years but her journey to pursue her dreams started even earlier. Three years back, as a seven year old, she had attended TEDx in Pune. Though she could not quite understand everything that was said, the stories and experiences, shared aroused her curiosity; and “Curiosity is magical”, says Ishita. The little girl was mesmerized by the idea of sharing ideas. She came back home “with a head full of ideas, dreams and role models”, determined to pursue one of her own.
Full of enthusiasm and determined to share her own ideas, Ishita, contacted the organizers of TEDx, who impressed by her zeal permitted her to organize TEDx@Balewadi, at her school, Vibgyor High School in Pune. She was only eight then. She successfully qualified two rounds of interviews with the Global Volunteers at TEDx and subsequently became the youngest organizer in the Asia-Pacific region.
Hurdles were many but Ishita overcame all with her determination and support from her parents and two mentors. During assembly, she gave presentations at school to introduce TEDx to the other students and float the concept of sharing ideas, concepts and visions. With the help of some other fellow students, Ishita, put boxes in every class to collect ideas from the students and finally, made TEDx Youth, a success in February 2015. Later in July that year, Ishita also participated in TEDx at Bhilwara, followed by the TED Youth Conference at the Brooklyn Museum in New York on 14th November, 2015, sharing the platforms with NASA engineer, filmmakers and entrepreneurs. Her goal, simply to tell the world that you can pursue a dream at any age; that a child’s dream is as important as that of an adult; that a child too can make a difference.
All along, Ishita aspired to be an author. For most this would be a dream that you fulfill when you grow up. But for Ishita, that was not the case. Why wait till you grow up? Why not write a book now? Determined to start her pursuit early, she wrote her first book, Simran’s Diary, during her summer vacations. A book is centered around Simran, Tom, Alice, Mom and Dad, dealt with the dreams, aspiration and thoughts of a child. But most publishers refused her book, stating that they published books for children and not books written by children. Such a cliché! Would a child not understand the needs of a child better, Ishita argues. The refusal of some did not deter Ishita’s spirits and soon she found a publisher, Partridge publishers, who published it. Her book is now available on amazon as well.
At 9-10 years of age, multitasking between school, homework, TEDx, writing was not easy but as the old saying goes, if there is a will, there is always a way. “EEarlier it was very hard for me to manage everything-school, studies, TEDx, writing. Sometimes I finished writing and realized that I had forgotten to do my homework. Then my dad suggested that I wakeup early”, says the little Katyal girl. So she would wakeup early at 5 or 6am and finish her homework and revise. She said she would make a checklist of things she had forgotten, to ensure that she did them the following morning. Such was and still is her determination and her dedication to her dreams.
We start dreaming since childhood, then why do you need to wait to grow up before we can follow your dreams, asks Ishita. She refers to Abraham Maslow, the renowned American psychologist, and his famous hierarchy of needs, where he proposes psychological development and health, that transcend through the stages of physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem and finally self-actualization. Although just a 10-year old, Ishita, recognizes and claims the right and importance of a child to reach the pinnacle of that pyramid by fueling esteem and self-actuation.
Ishita is passionate and believes that potential exists in every human being irrespective of their age. She believes in the empowerment of children to make a better tomorrow. She urges the world to think of children as the present because they are the future. “Ask them what they want to do now. Ask them their vision for a better world. Ask them what they are doing to change the world. Ask them the real life problems they are solving”, urges Ishita in her talk. “This would allow you all to empower our new generation to go farther than any generation ever has”, she says.
“Any child is capable of great actions and can touch the lives of others regardless of age”- Ishita katyal
Image credit- cosmopolitan.in, dnaindia.com, tenuz.com, thequint.com