It is not often that teenagers get to live in the Rashtrapati Bhavan as guests of the President. As part of its in-residence programme, two teens are among the 14 people, a group of innovators, writers and artists, living at the President’s House. In 2016, celebrated author Amitav Ghosh stayed here under the programme.
Akash Manoj, 15, from Tamil Nadu, earned international acclaim for developing a technique for self diagnosis of a silent heart attack — a small silicon patch stuck to your wrist or back of your ear which can be used to monitor whether there has been a heart attack. His technique is currently undergoing clinical trials.
A resident of Patna, 19-year-old Shalini Kumari, developed a walker with spring-loaded self-locking front legs for which she won IGNITE award of the National Innovation Foundation (NIF), among others.
Akash’s cutting-edge innovation has taken him to many countries, but he says there was nothing quite like living at Rashtrapati Bhavan. “In the last 12 days I have explored every part of the Presidential Estate. My day starts with a game of golf, or tennis, I attend main functions here as the guest of the President. I truly feel like a VIP; it is a very special experience,” said Akash, who has been living here since March 3.
“Besides, I like to spend time in the public library meant for the residents of the President’s Estate. It has some fascinating books on science, something that I am deeply interested in,” he added.
Kumari said that her biggest surprise is that the Rashtrapati Bhavan is not just a palatial house but a well-organised city in itself, with so many offices, residences, bank, a shopping complex, post office, ATMs roads and roundabouts. Spread over 330 acres, the President’s Estate is a self-sufficient smart township with over 5,000 residents.
“It is so big I often use a car from going from one place to another. We have been here for 12 days now and we are yet to explore it fully. The whole building is so grand. I especially love Ashoka Hall and its paintings,” she said. “ Sometimes, we take a stroll until 11 pm, the whole estate is so beautifully lit up in the night. ”
The teenagers are impressed by President Pranab Mukherjee’s initiatives, particularly in areas such as education, innovation, community welfare, wellness and e-initiatives. “The President’s new initiatives are visible everywhere here. I particularly liked Sparsh, a rehabilitation programme for differently abled children,” Kumari added.
Taking about food, Akash said that the kitchen here offers a variety of choices ranging from national to international cuisines. “There is so much on offer that I often find it difficult to choose what to eat. I love lamb rack and salmon steak the most,” he said.
“One day, I wanted to order my favourite pizza but the food outlet said Rashtrapati Bhavan is not in their area of delivery, but they agreed to deliver outside the gate. I took the car, went outside, and took my delivery. You see it is all about gate numbers here. You will never get lost if you know the right gate numbers,” Akash added.
So, does he have to follow protocols and dress code? “I love the fact that everyone is so cool about what I wear. I mostly wear jeans and shirt. I have completely forgotten I am away from home,” he said.
One of the biggest perks of staying at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the youngsters say, is the opportunity to meet and listen to the President. “We have had the opportunity to meet him a couple of times at various functions. When everyone, who is a part of the programme, formally called on him, he asked someone where is that little boy, referring to me. He has shown great care in hosting us, which is so heartening,” said Akash. “ He had a long chat with me on my innovation and how it can help people. Nothing is more satisfying than the recognition by the President.”
The teenagers have a packed schedule and when asked if they will be available to meet again the next day, Akash said, “Looks like it is difficult, we have a meeting with agriculture minister, energy minister and NITI Aayog CEO.”
The 12 others residing at Rashtrapati Bhavan two writers, two artists and eight innovaters.
■ Moa Subong
■ Girish Badragond
■ Mansukhabhai Prajapati
■ Paresh Panchal
■ Santosh Pachar
■ Shalini Kumari
■ Akash Manoj
■ Dr Ashokkumar P. Chavda
■ Prabal Kumar Basu
■ Rahul Shailendra Koaste
■ Dheeraj Yadav