(July 19, 2022) At 18, as his peers are busy trying to decide on a college, Souhardya De is the author of two books and has a long list of achievements to his merit. Mythology is his subject of choice, the teen from Midnapore wrote his first book when he was 13 years old – his debut novel, Scion of Suryavansh: The Ramayana was published in 2017. Two years later, he released his second, The Chronicles of Suryavansh: The Rise and Fall of the Suryavanshis. In 2021, he won the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar, in the art and culture category and is part of the prestigious PM-Young Upcoming Versatile Author (YUVA) Mentorship Scheme, a 75-member cohort of authors chosen from 16,000 applicants.
“These honours only motivate me to bring a greater understanding of religion, spirituality, philosophy, and culture, especially among Gen-Z, through my writing,” the prodigy says, in an interview with Global Indian. His accolades aren’t for his writing alone, however. He was also recognised in the Dettol Salutes Campaign for spreading awareness among his community during the Covid-19 pandemic, teaching them how to ward off infection. The talented young writer who has just graduated from high school will head off to the University of Cambridge, where he has received a bursary for his UGCert in history.
Five months after winning the Bal Puraskar, Souhardya received the Colonelcy, the highest civilian honour from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, USA. He had won the Gold Award in the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2021, patronised by the Duchess of Cornwall.
Souhardya is also an elected member of the Royal Historical Society, University College London and the Royal Asiatic Society for Great Britain and Ireland. Closer home, he has been named the Most Promising Literary Talent 2022 by the Dainik Jagran Group.
Revitalising the glorious past
Already considered on par with the acclaimed mythological fiction author Amish Tripathi, Souhardya has just finished the manuscript on the life of freedom fighter Lal Pratap Singh, who showed great gallantry during the uprising of 1857 — a novella under the Prime Minister’s YUVA Scheme. “The fellowship was instituted last year by the Prime Minister, to encourage books on India’s unsung heroes to commemorate Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav — 75 Years of Indian Independence.”
“The plot primarily revolves around Singh’s resistance shown to General Campbell, who came to recapture Lucknow during that period,” Souhardya explains. His books, Scion of Suryavansh and Chronicles of Suryavansh, are part of the Shree Ram Katha series that have been written in both English and French. His fourth book is in the process of publication by Rupa Publications. The talented writer is also a columnist of repute, with words in popular print and digital media like the Sunday Guardian, Scroll, Lokmat Times Zest, South China Morning Post, The Statesman, and Outlook Traveller.
“Winning the Bal Puraskar was a thrilling experience, more so because, as a civilian, I was able to interact so closely with the Prime Minister,” Souhardya smiles. During the virtual award ceremony, the Prime Minister named him as an example, saying that only dreaming won’t do, taking action to fulfil those dreams is what truly counts in the end, and emphasised the importance of celebrating one’s roots. This is, in fact, the young author’s aim — to spread knowledge of India’s rich history and mythology through his books and columns.
The formative years
The only child of history professor Shakti Prasad De and Jayati De, who teaches history in school, Souhardya was naturally drawn towards historical monuments. He recalls growing up in West Bengal and visiting the state’s many landmarks, only to learn later that the stories of these historical sites are still waiting to be told. He was enchanted by anecdotes of ancient times and started exploring the idea of writing down lost and forgotten tales that he thought his peers should know. Souhardya also has his own podcast.
The best way to revitalise history is to present it through the realm of popular culture, in the form of cinema, books, and podcasts – Souhardya De
The wonders of history…
His parents’ resources played a formative and vital role in shaping the young author’s understanding, but Souhardya has done more than his fair share of hard work, more so because his focus is different from theirs. “My father specialises in modern Indian studies and I study ancient history,” he explains. “At the moment, for instance, I’m researching education in the Indus Valley civilisation, to understand whether or not it had a centralised or vocational system.” He also plans to visit the site, to add greater value to his work. “I’m a primary resource researcher,” says the teenager, who has several research papers to his credit.
Always a voracious reader, Souhardya naturally turned to writing as a form of communication with the outer world. “When you read a lot, you develop an interest in writing like the literary greats,” he remarks. His love for Victorian poetry shines through in his own choice of words. “I always wanted to put something out into the world, and developed my own writing style over the years through intense reading.” As a kid, he preferred writing to doing anything else, even cutting down on his playtime to put his thoughts down on paper.
A Bengali at heart
No matter how much he accomplishes, Souhardya makes sure his standards are set even higher. He intends to return from the University of Cambridge after completing his studies and join the Indian Foreign Services, in the footsteps of Satyendra Nath Tagore, the social reformer, poet, composer, and writer from Kolkata, who became the first Indian civil service officer in 1863. Another inspiration, he says, is Satyendra Prasanna Sinha, the prominent lawyer and statesman who became the first Governor of Orissa and Bihar. Sinha was also the first Indian to become a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council and British ministry. “He happens to hail from Midnapore, like me,” Souhardya smiles. Situated on the banks of the Kangsabati river, the historical city has played a powerful role in shaping the young mind.
Souhardya has also worked in the educational sector and is currently involved as a G20 Synergies Lead with an all-India students’ organisation called Studomatrix. “We are researching the educational patterns in India and how we can improve them, working in collaboration with Finnish and Swedish educational models,” he says. He hopes to bring about change in the sector and believes that a career in the administrative services will help further his goals.
In his free time, the young author loves listening to thumris and ghazals and enjoys playing chess. A true-blue Bengali, he immerses himself in the historical and cultural flavours of his state and, of course, swears by the joys of roshogolla.