By Neha Kirpal
These two remarkable children are published authors with an important message to share with the world. Manya Harsha, 10, is speaking out for the cause of water conservation and the environment, while footballer and young journalist Ananya Kamboj, 15, is using her pen to share the message of global harmony and peace through football, and the importance of sports in the lives of schoolchildren.
MANYA HARSHAAge 10, Bengaluru
Manya Harsha is no ordinary Class 5 student at one of the VIBGYOR Group of Schools in Bengaluru. Last year, she was awarded the youngest female poet to write a book on nature by World Records India. A passionate environmentalist and avid writer and poet, her recent book Neerina Putani Samrakshakaru (Crimson Corner, 2020) earned her the title of the youngest to write a book in Kannada by the India Book of Records. The book throws light on the threatening water crisis, highlighting simple steps that every individual must take to conserve water.
Manya’s passion for the environment began about four years ago. Born to parents who were smitten by the travel bug, Manya grew up listening to tales of nature. Her frequent road trips as a child exposed her to different cultures, languages, places and architecture at a very young age. The long journeys through the countryside brought Manya close to nature, and gave birth to the poet in her.
She sometimes observed fields and water bodies dry up due to drought, and at other times, watched them flood with rain. “I also witnessed a fire in Bandipur, polluted water bodies at various tourist spots, forests turning into cities, thick clouds of smoke coming out of city factories and long traffic jams,” she recollects. All of these had a huge impact on her, and she felt the need to do her bit for nature.
Since Manya believes that the pen is mightier than the sword, she chose to raise awareness for the causes she was passionate about through her writing. Noticing her talent, Manya’s class teacher encouraged her to read her poems aloud in class. Further, her teacher’s motivation and her friends’ appreciation of the poems, helped increase Manya’s confidence. The turning point in her writing journey was when her teacher asked Manya’s mother to encourage her by getting her poems published.
It was then that her parents decided to compile over 50 of her poems, which became Nature Our Future (Raindrops Publishers, 2019), her first book. The poems describe human beings’ alarming destruction of nature, sending a strong message on the need to create a greener and cleaner planet.
In an attempt to promote the value of water and for supporting countrywide efforts on water conservation and the sustainable development of water resources, the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, launched a contest named “Water Heroes: Share Your Stories”. Manya was awarded the Water Heroes Award in the contest in May.
On World Water Conservation Day in 2018, Manya had also hosted a walkathon with a pledge to conserve water in Bengaluru with around 38 children and 36 adults. Walking through the streets of JP Nagar, beginning at the Doresani forest area and ending at Puttenahalli lake, the group also planted trees in the Puttenahalli lake park with the help of authorities.
Manya also composed a Kannada rap song last year, The Save Water Awareness rap, for World Water Day 2019, about saving water, planting trees and conserving resources.
Currently, Manya is working on her next book, The Lockdown Stories in English, Lockdown Kathegalu in Kannada and Ek Lockdown Katha in Hindi. The project is her dream novel about the current scenario of excessive plastic usage and its repercussions on nature.
She believes that not just education, but common sense and proper understanding can help us cure the terrible disease of wasting water. “It is our duty to build a planet where our future generations can live without the need for masks and medicine,” she concludes.
ANANYA KAMBOJAge 15, Mohali
Ananya Kamboj, 15, is a ambassador of football, peace, SDGs and women empowerment. For the last three years, she has represented India as a Young Journalist at the global Football for Friendship (F4F) social programme, an annual international children’s initiative that unites children of different nationalities, genders and physical abilities.
Apart from this, she is also a goodwill ambassador of BRICS countries and participated in various other projects, including Girl Up, Girls with Impact, Lean In India, SDGs For Children, SDG Choupal, World Literacy Foundation and She’s Mercedes.
Born and raised in Mohali, Punjab, Ananya has grown up in a joint family whom she considers her biggest pillars of love, strength and support. The elder of two sisters, Ananya was brought up no less than any boy, she says.
Ananya, who has been playing football since she was seven years old, says that Barcelona and Argentina’s star Lionel Messi was one of her biggest inspirations, especially since the 2014 World Cup.
In 2017, when India hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup, she took part in a writing competition organized by Mission XI Million (MXIM), an initiative spearheaded by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and All India Football Federation (AIFA) and supported by the Government of India.
The aim of the competition was to popularize the game across the country. Her winning essay, which discussed how football could foster friendship and global peace, took Ananya to the global stage. She went on to represent India thrice as a young journalist in the Football for Friendship (F4F) social programme in Russia.
The day she returned to Mohali after attending the global programme, her father encouraged her to write his memoirs. Her book My Journey from Mohali to St. Petersburg: Powerful Lessons and Insights (Notion Press, 2018) is an anthology of 21 short stories that narrate her experiences of participating in the programme.
The book was launched in Moscow during the 2018 FIFA World Cup and was officially released by Viktor Zubkov, Chairman of the Gazprom Board of Directors as part of the sixth season of the international children’s social programme.
All the stories revolve around the idea of success, happiness and fulfillment in one’s life, reflecting how human values impact performance in sports and how football and sports can help unify various cultures, ethnicities and countries through the power of friendship. “The book interprets sports through human values that collectively enrich the different dimensions of life,” she explains.
Ananya is disappointed that, in India, we do not attach enough importance to sports education in school, which enables holistic growth and development of a child. “When most persons talk about a school curriculum, they think about math, science, social studies, and language courses. Seldom do I hear or read about sports as being part of the curriculum. This negligence is hurting our youth and causing problems in society,” she avers.
In the future, Ananya aspires to be a journalist and wishes to study journalism at university. Her ultimate goal, however, is to pursue the FIFA Master, a sports management course comprising the complete social, legal and economic dimensions of sports.
Her message to young girls like herself: “Do not let anyone trample your dreams—take it forward. Do what you want, never do something to please others. Work hard, dream hard, and you will be able to accomplish what you wish for.”
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