7 April 2008
Pooja Vinod, who has been awarded the prestigious Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for the Distinguished Student in the Basic Education Category, gets candid with City Times
WHAT FIRST caught my eye as I walked into Pooja’s home was the glass-fronted cabinet with dozens of gleaming trophies.
“She has over 40 trophies and 85 certificates to her credit,” smiled her parents. I gulped, a little overwhelmed already as I sat down with this poised young lady who studies at the Our Own English High School in Dubai, and has been awarded the prestigious Shaikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for the Distinguished Student in the Basic Education Category (Grades 1-5) for the year 2007-2008. The award will be presented on April 8.
“The criterion for the award was academic performance, co-curricular activities and overall excellence,” says Pooja.
At this I ask her if she always comes first in class. ‘Yes,’ she answers with a smile. Her mother Praseena, a Mathematics teacher, adds, “Right from Kindergarten she took an active interest in studies. She does her homework by herself; we never had to remind her to study.” Her father, Vinod Kumar, a Telecommunication Engineer, adds, “She’s always been number one in academics.”
Intrigued by a child who’s actually interested in studying, and recalling my own distracted primary school existence, I was curious to find out what her other interests were. “I like singing, dancing, drawing, coin and stamp collecting, travelling, swimming and making projects from waste materials,” she says in her clear voice brimming with confidence, adding that she likes drawing most. “I like doing sceneries and also cartoons, like the ones in colouring books.”
Pooja’s accomplishments in music are noteworthy; she has won prizes in many music contests and has participated in classical music concerts as well. She receives training in classical music and light music from a tutor and says she likes to sing ‘all kinds of songs.’
“She sings everything from classical and light to popular music – in Hindi, English and Malayalam,” adds her mother.
She is a fan of Celine Dion, particularly the popular ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from the soundtrack of the movie Titanic. At the Heart Song competition held at Ski Dubai for the release of the movie ‘Happy Feet’, she won the best singer in the sub-junior category for her rendition of ‘My Heart Will Go On.’ She also performed the song live on Valentine’s Day at the Indian Pavilion at this year’s Global Village.
On the radio
She’s enthusiastic about her radio performances. “I like being on the air, people get to hear my voice… and its fun doing radio advertisements; I have recorded one for Indomi Fried Noodles in Hindi as well as Malayalam.”
A little princess
Pooja played the role of Princess Ariel in The Little Mermaid as part of a cultural programme conducted by her school last year. “It was a musical drama and I had to both act and sing.” I didn’t have to ask her if she liked it, her expression said it all.
So with all this on her plate – so many extra-curricular pursuits and being number one in academics, does she have any time for normal kids’ stuff like games and dolls and toys?
“I like playing with dolls, but now I love kitchen sets more,” she says, and at this point I can’t help talking about my favourite brown ceramic tea set that I had as a child. She laughs and says she has one like it too. She talks about a game called ‘Stuck in The Mud,’ which she loves to play and according to her is ‘very funny.’
And what about books? “Enid Blyton is my favourite author, especially the story ‘The Little Lost Hen.'” I almost begin to reminisce about my own Enid Blyton favourites, then realise with a twinge of regret that its time to leave; I’ve really enjoyed chatting with her.
So does she ever get camera shy or have stage fright? Her smile tells me the answer to that one. “I’m all set for the big day,” concludes this charming and articulate young lady who no doubt leaves a big impression on whoever she meets.
Pooja has won accolades for singing, dancing, public speaking, elocution, story-telling and art. Some of her accomplishments include:
* Sub-junior ‘Kalathilakam’ (overall champion) in the Open Youth Festival 2006-2007 conducted by ADMS
* First prize in the Karaoke Malayalam Film Song competition held at the Indian Consulate in May 2006
* First prize in film song competition at the ADMS UAE Open Youth Festival conducted in January 2008
* Her song was broadcast by Asianet Radio 94.7 fm during the ‘Voice of the Year’ programme
* At the prestigious inter-school KGS music festival, she secured first prize in the group event during the year 2006-2007