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Growing Up Gifted

There simply isn’t a single way to define or gauge intelligence. Smartness in kids is a sum of different cognitive abilities not just IQ. It spans across multiple areas: kinetic, musical, spatial, linguistic, logical-mathematical, interpersonal and intrapersonal. We often forget this and tend to benchmark children based on their grades in class. This Children’s Day, let’s take a peek into the world of young, forward-thinking and highly intelligent girls and boys who not just show great promise but are already achievers. They are here as much for their high smarts, as they are for their wisdom, talent, creativity, social consciousness, foresight, bold ambitions and the ability to put others before themselves — a quality that often eludes grown-ups. Meet the artist, the writer, the app/website creators, the inventor, the grand master, the space innovators — and the girl with the perfect IQ test score.

Shorya Mahanot was four when he finally managed to sneak into his sisters’ room. They were the artists in the family and he had never been allowed inside. That day, he was ecstatic colouring with real paint, not the crayons they always handed him. Caught while trying to sneak out, he ran to his room, scared. Instead, Shorya got a big hug. His family had never seen art like this before — there were shades of Jackson Pollock — and his father, Aditya, was beyond excited.

At 10 going on 11, Shorya has created over 100 works in acrylic, some canvases bigger than his tiny frame. One of the world’s youngest abstractionist, with several solo exhibitions under his belt, he has participated at the Artexpo in New York and Microsoft’s Future Decoded in Mumbai, selling paintings worth $46,000 in all. He’s also a featured artist at the Holtzman Gallery in New Jersey, USA, his art displayed alongside musician John Lennon and actor Anthony Quinn. And then, he did a live demonstration for the late cartoonist R. K. Laxman at the age of five. “He invited me to his home to paint in front of him,” Shorya gushed. “He blessed me and encouraged me to paint.”

When he’s not studying, the class VI student, paints laying out his canvas on his terrace floor. His art is multilayered, inspired from nature. “I look at the leaves and the trees,” he says, his voice soft and shy. “They have so many different shades of green.” And when he is not making art, he indulges in photography (“It’s like catching time on camera.”), gardening or working in his other “laboratory”, the kitchen. Or, playing in the lawn.

Just minutes before our scheduled phone interview, an apologetic Aditya called sounding like any other beleaguered parent. Shorya had got bitten by wasps while playing in the lawn, and had to be rushed to the hospital. “I don’t know what he was doing there,” he mutters. The next day, a recovering Shorya mumbles, “I was just walking in the lawn.”

Ask him about the future and he seems relieved at the change of subject, and replies with a quick “I don’t know. I can do whatever I want later. I just want to paint right now.”

— Chitra Subramanyam

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