Here is the full transcript of child author Ishita Katyal’s TEDx Talk: Why You Don’t Have to Wait Till You Grow Up at TEDxBhilwara Conference. Ishita Katyal is the author of Simran’s Diary, born 2005, and TED speaker from Vibgyor High School in Pune.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: Why You Don’t Have to Wait Till You Grow Up by Ishita Katyal at TEDxBhilwara
I’m 10 years old today. Yes, today is my birthday. Thank you.
Many times since I was four or five years old, I was asked: what do you want to be when you grow up? This is a common question people ask kids. Maybe this question is a way to get to know the kid better but in a way I feel this question has an inherent problem. We are telling children it is OK to wait to do what you want. It diminishes or undermines what the kid is capable of doing today and his or her present identity. We focus only on the dreams and ambitions for the future and forget about the present actions and goals. I believe age is just number. I believe any child is capable of great actions and can touch the lives of others regardless of his or her age. Next time you talk to a child, talk about the present. And the future will take care of itself.
My long experience of life has been of nine years upon today, long enough for me to break the paradigm of the phrase: when I grow up I want to be. Just try and think of the days when you were a young school girl or boy, I’m sure you would remember the many dreams you must have had at that time. One day you would have wanted to be a film star, one you would have wanted to be a doctor, and so it goes on, no permanent role models.
When I was seven years old, I was sitting in the audience with my mom at a local TEDx event in Pune. I had these wonderful speakers who came up on stage and talked with so much of enthusiasm. To be honest, I did not try to understand what the talks were all about. But it was those stories and experiences shared on the stage which sparked my curiosity. I returned home with a head full of new ideas, dreams and role models.
My mom told me that TEDx is a platform for people to share your ideas that can motivate and inspire others. I could see these speakers feeling so good and the audience was overwhelmed with their ideas. I was really impressed with it. Now for all of the few who have children or will be having them in future, imagine it’s your child who is standing here and not me, how would you feel? I can bet. The feeling would be no less than ‘Wow!’ Those were my thoughts. When I first saw TEDx talk live, I felt that the recognition that the speakers were getting would mean a lot to a small child standing up on the stage, sharing something unusual with the world, it would really uplift their confidence and self-esteem.
I started to think about how it would be so great if my school would include a course on doing something no one has ever done before and sharing it with the world. This will prepare the kids to give talks like I had seen in the forum. No, I did not have the courage to call for such a program in my school. I knew my school is already burdened with a big curriculum and expecting your school to do everything is expecting too much.
But a few months later, while reading a book, I saw [our friends] do Maslow’s study of needs and reading that got me really fired up. I think some of you are already aware of this. Basically this is guy called Abraham Maslow who became famous for his study that certain needs must be met before others. It looks like this: once your needs for food and water are fulfilled, what will be the next set of needs? Security and then to the next. As a child, our parents take care of the bottom two blocks: our security, safety, care, comfort and want but the needs in the top two blocks which are esteemed needs and self-actualizing needs are usually left to be met as the child grows. However, we children have an equal right to realize our full potential and reach the top of the pyramid at an early age. Why not? I visualized that giving a TEDx talk and pushing oneself to do new things will be the perfect way for a child to uplift their confidence and self esteem.
So at nine years of age, encouraged by my parents I applied for a TEDx license to organize an event to enlighten everyone with the ideas that the youth has. After doing rounds of interviews with Amanda ma’am, my license application was successfully approved. I was super excited. I gathered together a group of close friends as an organizing team for the event and we chose the theme: making life simple through the use of technology. I was supported by my father, mother and two coaches and mentors. I did face a lot of struggles along the way of organizing my event.
The first challenge was to get the students to be aware of what TEDx actually is and come ahead and participate. The children had many questions and if you thought it was about saving and planting trees and Swachh Abhiyan. We didn’t give up. Our vice principal ma’am allowed me to give a presentation on what TEDx actually is during our school assembly. We showed them a few TEDx talks which included: Pranav Mistry’s talk on Sixth Sense technology and Adora Svitak’s talk on: What adults can learn from kids to make them understand the difference between what TEDx actually is and what they were thinking TEDx to be.
Now that they had an idea what I was talking about, we kept a box on each of the floor to let the students drop in any interesting idea they wanted to share. With my team, I went through a selection process with interested students. After the process we got wonderful speech ideas from three girls. We organized the event on February 7, 2015. We called the parents and the community to the event. We did have an Indian classical dance performance too. I still remember, a lot of funny moments we had, while practicing the talks and setting up the venue.
TEDx turned out to be a great platform for me and taught me so many things, which included: how to be totally confident, how to make great friends and how to create talk.
After the event, I felt so great because so many people came to me and said, ‘Are you Ishita Katyal?’ ‘Good job’. ‘Amazing’. ‘I want to be like you too.’ Oh, I too distinctly remember the days when I used to go to meet the kids with my parents in the underprivileged community. Those days were definitely a turning point for me, seeing the thoughts and dreams of the children there really inspired me. I even asked my friends what their dreams were. So I connected these two inspirations and thought of writing a small book called Simran’s Diary. The story behind my book is very simple. I thought we all have asked in school: what you want to be when you grow up? Children say ‘I want to be a doctor, an artist or an author’. I always wanted to be an author.
But I asked myself: I am an empowered kid; why do I have to wait till I throw up to realize my dream, why not now as a child? I thought of writing my own fiction book based on happy, sad, and funny experiences in a child’s life. I wrote Simran’s Diary during my summer vacations. I still remember how I used to think of ideas even in my sleep and used to write them down anywhere anytime. These ideas led to a story with sweet characters. The main characters of my book are: Simran, Tom, Alice, Mom and Dad. Basically the theme of my book is around what goes to a child’s mind. Simran is totally me. Simran can be any girl. So I’ve not called her Ishita. Saying Ishita I think will be specifying me. I don’t have any current siblings but my younger cousin brother is Tom, because he is very naughty and my younger cousin sister cannot be Alice because Alice is very mean in the book.
While writing the book I never thought of publishing it. But how knew it would happen someday. Initially when we approached publishers they said they publish books written for kids, not written by kids. I thought who did the kid understand better what’s good for kids? Then we decided to self-publish the book on Amazon Kindle. When Partridge Publishers saw my book online, they called us and now my book is in print.
It was a feeling of immense recognition, seeing my book come in print. Most people appreciated my efforts. However a few said, ‘It was too small and thin’. I thought people were expecting a moon from an eight year old! And that’s not fair.
I am passionate to do various things altogether in my life. Trust me, it’s not an easy ride, juggling with different trades altogether. It’s hard to manage everything like TEDx, writing and my daily routine with studies in school. When I finished writing for the day, I used to realize I’d forgotten to do my homework. Earlier it used to be very difficult but now I’ve got a hang of this. I wake up early in the morning, do my homework and revise.
Curiosity is such a magical thing. There should be nothing that stops a child from experimenting what they want to achieve. I would like to thank my parents to be brave enough to allow me to reach the top of the Maslow’s pyramid. Don’t stop imagining. However imagination doesn’t mean to think and imagine, it means to try, think, dream, imagine and experiment from a zero to 100.
We children are the future, support us. Any age you’ve got to follow your dream, we children do not have to wait till our future time to realize our dream and do what we want. There are so many things we can do now as a child and it seems well fitting here to compare us children with fishes like goldfish in a cup. They can grow according to the space they have. The larger the aquarium larger possibilities of growth; the smaller the aquarium, smaller possibilities of growth.
Standing here today, I urge all of you that next time you talk to a child, instead of asking them what they want to do in the future, ask them what they want to do now. Ask them their vision for a better world. Ask them what they’re doing to change this world. Ask them the real life problems they’re solving. This would allow you all to empower our new generation to go faster than any generation ever has.
Thank you so much.