On this year’s list of winners of the Pradhanmantri Rashtriya Bal Shakti Puraskar was our very own Pragun Pudukoli. He was a regular member of the Cilre Theater Club and the Cilre Book Club for a long time. Recently, he received this award in the field of art and culture for his exceptional abilities and achievements in creative writing.
Pragun received this award from the Honourable President of India, Ram Nath Kovind and met and interacted with the Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He also participated in the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi.
Here are excerpts from the interview that our founder, Mrs. Gowri Iyer, had with him.
Gowri: Hi Pragun! The name Pragun means ‘straight forward.’ That’s something I learnt about you the very first time I interacted you. You were a participant in our Cilre theatre workshop, about five years ago and you were quite straight forward about your dislike for dancing at that point in time.
So Pragun, coming straight to the point, what does winning this Pradhanmantri Rashtriya Bal Shakti Puruskar 2020 mean to you?
Pragun: It makes me feel happy that the government is also encouraging and recognising talent in creative writing. It has given me a boost to continue to contribute to this field, and as Modiji said, when I met him, that my fellow awardees and I should only think that this is the beginning of our work in the field; I think exactly that.
Gowri: You received this award from the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind. Met and interacted with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. You also participated in the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi. Having received this prestigious award, do you feel pressured in any way?
Pragun: I have never thought about it to be pressurizing, but now that I think about it, I feel that it pushes me further to work harder in creative writing. I would, however, say that I am not pressured in any way by it.
Gowri: What did the Prime Minister and the President talk to you about?
Pragun: I had presented a poem to our Honourable Prime Minister Modiji when I met him. He thanked me for it and I explained it to him. He talked about many things, mainly on how we should continue to work in our field while thinking that this is only the beginning. We also have to act like an inspiration to others. This is the desired impact that the award should have on us.
Gowri: You won in the Art and Culture category. You are a scientist at heart. You have imagination and a logical mind. How do you combine these aspects when you write?
Pragun: I read about science, especially Physics and Chemistry, which I am interested in. When reading topics, I start thinking about how I could write something about that topic, something about this one and that makes ideas come into my head. I also want a scientific impact in some of my works and that I am able to do only with the certain knowledge that I have and writing about it, sometimes telling only a part of it to the reader so that they may be able to research a little about it on their own.
Gowri: Would you say you have evolved as a writer? If yes, how so?
Pragun: I recently saw how I used to write before. I believe that my writings have mainly changed based on what I have read. I cringed at some of my works when I was younger and have created a new version of those after winning this award, which looks better. One or two poems that I had written before had a deeper impact and interpretation when I read it now than when I had previously seen it. The main thing that has helped me evolve is reading, looking at the various techniques used by authors for impact, and then, trying to apply those techniques in my own writings. That is how I learn more creative writing and I continue to do exactly that.
Gowri: What are your articles and poems usually about?
Pragun: A lot of my articles and poems are regarding nature and related themes. I want to bring about an impact in those fields, so I mainly write about those themes. I also write some science fiction. I write a lot to save my ideas. I recently found this great idea: all one has to do is create something – be it art, architecture or writing, and something new comes into this world; something that did not previously exist. And that was a very deep theme that I thought about. It does not have to be good. Just create something. Somebody may like it more than you do.
Gowri: I remember you saying there is a certain dystopian theme to your NASA novella (for which you received an award as well). What exactly do you mean by that? Do you think it’s possible for your NASA story to come true?
Pragun: Dystopia is like the opposite of a Utopia, which is a place where everything is perfect. A dystopia is technically a place where the bad flourishes. In my NASA novella, the dystopia that I talk about is the Earth’s condition after pollution on earth continued. Many were forced to go into space and live there in space settlements.
This NASA story can come true.
“We, parasites, look at far away lands
To be taken care of like spoilt children, by those lands
after we destroy this land.”
I wrote this short poem at a time when a lot was happening in the area of space exploration to the Moon, Mars etc. There still is. Here, ‘far away lands’ refers to planets, though if the NASA story were to come true, it would be in space settlements instead of planets (that is how I wrote it). But, there is still a chance.
Gowri: Are you working on any sci-fi story now?
Pragun: I am currently working on a sci-fi story where I may be able to bring in a little quantum physics also because my interest in that has peaked recently. I am also planning for it to be a thriller and action story where a lot can happen.
Gowri: What is your methodology when you write poems? What was the theme of the poem that got published along with that of the British poet?
Pragun: Poetry has had multiple definitions, but I look at it mainly as a compressed form where a reader has a lot to do. There are multiple approaches that I may take. One, look at a form of poetry such as a Sonnet or a Haiku and then, try to create a poem on those lines. Another thing that I may do is write down all the details that I may want to include into a poem and then, compress it. The third thing I do is just write down anything and everything that comes to my mind and then, edit it to have a significant impact at certain places.
My poem which got published along with that of the British poet was a poem called ‘The Sculpture.’ It was written by me at a time when I read about how a pineapple in an art gallery was mistaken to be modern art and placed like an exhibit. I then read about a similar case about how a person placed a pair of his spectacles on the floor of an art gallery and people mistook it for a piece of art. People took pictures of it on a DSLR thinking it was so. It continues to this day with the recent Maurizio Cattelan’s banana art. My poetry has changed since then, but at that time I wrote the poem making fun of modern art and how I could not understand it; how people would make a deeper meaning from it.
Gowri: Which is your favourite Epic/Novel/Poetry? Why?
Pragun: My most favourite poem, at this point of time, is Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘’Ozymandias.’’
The first thing that I see is that many already have trouble pronouncing the name of the poem, but the poem is really very great. There is just so much going on in only about 14 lines and most of the poem is about thinking about one of the main themes – how nothing remains the same with time, no matter the glory of the person. Shelley starts the poem by saying ‘’I met a traveller’’. So, we cannot directly say that it is his own opinion, but a great opinion nonetheless.
Gowri: As a guest editor for a newspaper, what was your main job like? Which part did you enjoy the most? Any challenges?
Pragun: As a guest editor, I got the chance to edit articles that had been submitted for publication. I also got to edit certain pages and make the layout as I wished. I had to proofread a lot also.
I enjoyed the end layout part the most because that was what made me feel like an actual editor at that point of time, editing the magazine and making sure all is right. I, at that time, was not as strong in grammar as I am now and was a little unsure as to what I would title certain submissions, but I gave them some titles and made the sentences better.
Gowri: You were part of Cilre Theatre workshops and the Cilre Book Club. Would you recommend such programs for children for their personal growth?
Pragun: Yes. The workshops helped me in participating in a play in Alliance Francaise and that was a fun experience that I would never forget. The Book Club also introduced me to new books. These workshops, at the least, would help children try something new and see if they find it fun, but it will do much more than that.
Gowri: In the theatre festival at Cilre, you played a major role of Lord Agni and won accolades for your superlative performance. Though initially, you had apprehensions about dancing, you pirouetted to glory as Lord Agni and got thunderous applause from the thrilled audience. How did you overcome your dislike for dancing? Did that help in your endeavours in other areas?
Pragun: I had some interest to participate in the festival and in the end, came to the conclusion that a little practice would get me there. Dancing seemed to have been an important part of that role and so, I made myself think that I would not be able to do it without that. Then, it was only practising.
It has helped me do things that I would not like to do, but would hate myself for not doing, like participating in certain extracurricular activities.
Gowri: Who and what have been the major influential factors in your success as a young star?
Pragun: My school, Sishu Griha, has certainly been an important factor in my success as they are the ones who helped in my foundation into the field of writing. Some of my teachers have also been important factors by giving me the belief that my writing was worth continuing to work on. The books that I read were also a significantly major factor, if not the major one in helping me reach this level in writing.
Gowri: We know you are interested in nature and also in stirring positive changes in society through your literary works. What style of writing would you choose to influence society?
Pragun: I mainly plan to go through a sort of brevity route to influence society considering that many, apparently, do not have enough time to read long essays. I do not want to put forward a preachy tone. Something that is brief but has a huge impact is what I would concentrate on. However, I would also write some long stories which have deep emotions like how the best authors have done which makes me cry while reading one of their said stories.
Gowri: What next, the plan for the future?
Pragun: I plan to continue to write along with editing the drafts for books and other drafts that I have while trying to improve my writing further by reading more and learning more from other authors who use amazing techniques. I will try to use such techniques in my own writing.
Gowri, is a storyteller at heart, with a passion for entertaining and engaging children. She writes stories for children too.