Published: 13th February 2021
I had almost lost hope that I would get the award: Bal Puraskar winner Souhardya De
Souhardya De, a XI grader, is currently working on a work of fiction set during Mughal emperor Akbar's reign
He was born to two history teachers and grew up in a house with shelves full of History books. So, Souhardya De displaying an interest in India's past, heritage and culture did not really come as a surprise to too many people. He distinctly remembers how his fingers lingered on those books on the shelves, before he deftly pulled them out and skimmed through them, when he was a teen.
That was when he had a rather compelling realisation. "There were many gaps in those books. A lot of things about our past were still unknown and unheard of. So, I made it a mission to unravel it," says the 16-year-old, who recently won the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar for Art and Culture, a yearly award presented to children Puraskar to children with exceptional abilities and outstanding accomplishments, in the fields of innovation, scholastics, sports, arts and culture, social service and bravery. "There is so much to explore in history and the currently available books only give you a gist of India's glorious past," he says.
Until now, he has authored two books on history and mythology — The Chronicles of Suryavansh and The Scion of Suryavansh — and is currently working on a history-meets-fiction story set during the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar. This XI grader from West Bengal's Midnapore says that he is widely inspired by the books of various authors including Amish Tripathi, Devdutt Pattnaik, Shashi Tharoor and William Dalrymple. He has also written more than a hundred columns in newspapers on topics related to Indian history. A fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of London, he also hosts a podcast that deals with "connecting mythological legends of India, Greece, Rome and Mesopotamia through cultural interaction."
Why you wonder? "All of these cultures and civilisations promoted similar philosophical ideas," he says.
But back to the Award. Strangely, De doesn't shy away from admitting that he had expected the award. "I had expected this award because I had done so much in this field. I was quite confident. But I was quite stressed too," he says. "I had almost lost hope because I did not receive an email until January 21. But the email on January 22 from the Ministry of Women and Child Development was a pleasant surprise. I would like to thank the Prime Minister for this," he says.