Shanmukhananda Auditorium came alive on Tuesday as the city’s brightest young minds walked on stage to receive their certificates and trophies at the awards ceremony of the sixth edition of the HT Scholarship Programme 2015-16 presented by Classmate and powered by HP, SRM University and Zephyr Toymakers Private Limited.
The winners – 50 students who were chosen from 70,680 applicants in a two-tier selection process — were honoured with scholarships of Rs50,000 each. The awards seek to recognise the brightest talent in the city’s schools.
Actors Sonakshi Sinha and Ayushmann Khurrana presented the awards after a lively panel discussion and an interactive question-and-answer session with students, moderated by Soumya Bhattacharya, editor, Hindustan Times, Mumbai.
The scholarship programme, one of several initiatives by HT in the field of education, had students participating from as many as 350 schools this year — up from 300 schools in the previous year.
“[The awards ceremony] is a celebration of the talent, originality, intelligence of these children. It is a celebration of the city’s future, which is in the safe custody of the bright young minds,” said Bhattacharya.
“I advise students that it is important to set high goals in life along with focus and tenacity. But [at the same time] you also have to enjoy life,” said Prabir Bagchi, vice-chancellor, SRM University, one of the partners who powered the event.
Anirudha Rawat, zonal manager, west, HP, who gave away some awards, said, “Do you know what the future of India looks like? The future of India is sitting out here.”
Several parents and siblings took time off from work to attend the ceremony. “I took half-day leave from work to cheer my son,” said Vikas Ladia, a parent from Prabhadevi, whose son, Aman, was one of the winners.
Students said the awards made them feel special. “It was a thrill to receive the award in front of my parents, my grandparents and my sister, all of them came to support me,” said Arjun Chaudhuri, Class 8, Podar International School (IB), Santacruz. “This was a superb experience and a great opportunity,” said Suakshi Soni, 13, a Class 7 student of Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Bandra and one of the scholarship winners. “I have been participating for the past two years, but this is the first time I won. It’s a confidence booster.”
Many students were surprised to know they had won. “When I saw the large number of students participating in this competition, I didn’t think I would win,” said Naina Singh, 10, Class 5, Bombay Scottish School, Mahim. “So I was quite stunned when I won this time.”
Many of the awardees planned to spend their winnings for altruistic purposes. “We will donate part of the scholarship money to Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign,” said Saisha Saxena, Class 6 student, Cathedral and John Connon School, Fort. “I will buy books and donate them to a nearby slum colony,” said Anoushka Dey, a student from Hiranandani Foundation School, Thane. Principals said the event encouraged out-of-the-box thinking. “The essay topics every year, force children to think and come up with creative ideas,” said Suruchi Kataria, principal, DAV Public School, Airoli.
When panelists went down memory lane
Actors Ayushmann Khurrana and Sonakshi Sinha, who presented the awards to students at the sixth edition of the Hindustan Times Scholarships Programme 2016 on Tuesday, engaged in friendly banter with Soumya Bhattacharya, editor, HT, at the panel discussion.
Sinha began the discussion by saying, “Childhood is one part of my life that I would love to go back to,” thus setting the stage up for a debate on whether childhood is indeed the best part of life.
Bhattacharya, who was moderating the discussion, challenged the notion. “People tend to have a romanticised version of childhood. I don’t,” he said, quoting American writer Mari Karr, who had said, “When you are a child, you are three feet tall, perpetually broke, illiterate, unemployed and with no control over yourself.”
Sinha disagreed and insisted childhood was indeed the best phase of life. “Children are more fearless and open when it comes to trying out new things,” she said. Throughout the discussion, she frequently repeated the phrase “don’t grow up, it’s a trap”.
Khurrana suggested artists and creative people need to “keep their inner child alive”. He said he still possessed some inherent child-like qualities. “I am an overgrown infant,” he said, as the room filled with children burst into laughter.
The actors also shared some of their bitter-sweet childhood memories. Sinha said unlike many children, she loved going to school. “I would reach an hour early and play football and stay back late so that I could play volleyball,” she recalled. She said flunking exams was her worst fear.
Khurrana said his best childhood memory was being part of a school musical. He said as a child he dreaded mathematics the most.
When a student asked the actors what they would do if they could relive their childhood, Sonakshi promptly said she would never grow up. She lamented children are in a hurry to grow up these days. “Just chill. Enjoy [life] while it lasts.”
Khurrana, on the other hand, said if he could relive his childhood, he would “grow up a little”. Bhattacharya said he would rather be an adult than a child. “Childhood is not the best phase of life. So, keep hope,” he advised the children.