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   Nikita Agarwal


Five-year-old Ajay needs to sit on a pillow just to reach his keyboard. But once his fingers get clicking, you realise he's no ordinary kid. His online exploits have earned him meetings with leaders, dignitaries and Bollywood stars, as well as a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

And he has several other Indian kids for company. What makes these wunderkinds tick? What makes them want to (and be able to) discover software, create Web sites, bag international certifications, attend technical summits, and achieve success way beyond their tender years? In the first of a two-part series, Rediff Guide to the Net speaks to four pre-teen wonders.

-- Ajay Puri
-- Thahzeeb Zubair
-- Sruthilakshmi Pai
-- Priyanshu Roy

Age: Five

Claim to fame: The youngest 'Software Kid'/ Web designer in the world, at age three, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, and the Limca Book of Records.

Ajay, who lives in Thailand, adeptly creates full-featured sites with hyperlinks, thumbnails, background music, frames, DHTML and forms. He started using the computer when he was a year old. At eighteen months, he surprised his parents by sending his grandfather email. Since then, he's mastered a range of Microsoft Office products and can also scan pictures, voice chat and record video mail.

After the September 11 tragedy, Ajay created a Flash version of the scene of planes crashing into the twin towers. Sorting data lists, creating sub-totals, PowerPoint presentations with animations and sound, are some of his other talents. He's also familiar with routine computer maintenance.

Ajay already met the likes of Prime Minister AB Vajpayee, Sonia Gandhi, KR Narayanan, Ratan Tata, Rahul Bajaj, Chandrababu Naidu and Bobby Deol, to name a few. And while most kids his age are attending birthday parties, he attends tech summits the world over.

He's been granted free Web hosting by Loxinfo Thailand. IBM Thailand has gifted him a laptop computer, which he loves as it allows him to design sites even in bed.

But what thrills him the most is: "I met Mr Clinton before my grandfather met him!"

Career goal: To be the future Bill Gates.

Proudest moment: "When I recently cleared my MOUS (Microsoft Office User Specialist) exam. My parents and grandfather had worked hard to teach me and when I passed it, I loved seeing the smiles on their faces. Earlier, it was when I had launched my own site microsoftkid.com."

Other special moments: When Bill Clinton said "He appears to be the future Bill Gates of India".

Also, when he received a book, Business at the Speed of Thought, from Bill Gates, with this message on it.

What's more, he's even snoozed in Chelsea Clinton's lap!

Inspiration: "When I was very small my papa told me that if I work hard, I can get whatever I want. I learnt what he taught me and got whatever I wanted. Working hard became my habit."

Ajay's sense of gratification: "I love to see my grandparents feel proud of me."

Why computers?: "The computer was in my bedroom and I started playing with it. My parents then taught me to make good use of it."

Role model: Bill Gates, Amitabh Bachchan and recently, Bhagat Singh (after seeing three movies on him).

Career goals: "I'm too young to think about it now. I want to enjoy my time with my family and friends and help the poor and disabled people in whatever way I can."

Web sites developed: Microsoft Kid

Message to readers: "The computer is not a difficult tool. I use it everyday. Why can't you? Age is not a factor.

Believe in God and have confidence in yourself. Nothing is impossible if your hard work is backed by blessings and good wishes."


Age: Eight

Claim to fame: Developed a site, cyberharddisk.com, without any formal training at age eight. Claimed a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the 'Youngest Web master' in the world.

"Since I was five I'd watch my dad working on the PC. Whenever he was not engaged, I'd try out something on FrontPage, PhotoImpact, Dreamweaver and Macromedia Flash," says the boy who hails from Kerala, but is presently based in Abu-Dhabi.

"When I developed a Web page, my dad didn't believe me until he actually saw it. Then he told me to develop a site according to the theme he gave me." This resulted in the making of cyberharddisk.com.

However, devoting so much time online hasn't stopped him from watching cartoons, playing games (not PC games) and doing his homework.

From the Indian government he gets "Nothing special so far except for a letter of appreciation from the IT & Industries minister of Kerala".

Thahzeeb thinks portals like Rediff.com, Ciol.com and Sify.com are increasing Internet awareness in India.

Inspiration: "My father. His constant encouragement and guidance gave me inspiration."

Career goal: "I want to be a software engineer. Now I'm learning Visual Basic leading to MCP+I. I'm planning to go for MCDBA too. I don't attend any computer-training centre. My dad bought VB's training CD just last week. As an early starter, I feel confident that I can contribute considerably to future development of the Internet revolution."

Why computers?: "I find computer software interesting and I chose this field because of my dad's encouragement."

Proudest moments: "When TV crews interview me and I see myself on the news."

Role model: "The ultimate computer genius Bill Gates who has brought computer acceptability this far."

Websites developed: cyberharddisk.com and Chinku's Web site. Thahzeeb and his younger brother are jointly developing another site, letmousewalk.com.

Message to readers: "Hard work and personal goal setting will lead you to success. Walking on the moon and climbing Mt Everest were considered impossible. I believe anything is possible."



Age: 10

Claim to fame: Youngest girl in India (at age nine) to create her own site sruthipai.net. It was conceived and designed in just three months, without any assistance: "Dad said I had to do everything without external help. I bought server space with the pocket money (Rs 1500) I'd saved in the past five years!"

Her site uses Microsoft Front Page and contains personal details, stories, jokes, puzzles, quizzes and games.

"I'm getting encouraging letters from Indians outside India but not many from within the country. I want to learn more and more about developing sites, but there are no sponsors from India. And I'm very sad that NIIT has not even given me my course certificate," says Sruthi.

"But I've got hundreds of letters from parents, housewives and kids stating that my story has been inspiring them to work on Internet. The Net is gaining acceptance in the family circles, they said. I think this is my big achievement."

Inspiration: Her dad, who gifted her his old computer when she was four.

Career goal: To be a journalist. "My dad's a journalist. That's why."

Why computers?: "The computer is my favourite tool and enhances my creativity and knowledge. I only spend time on computers when I'm totally free. I prefer edutainment and don't waste time on silly games. After starting to learn computers myself at age four, I slowly wanted to have my own site and so joined NIIT for a basic course." She was the youngest student at NIIT, Ravipuram.

Proudest moment: "When I saw my site, my creation, online. Also, when newspapers and TV programmes call me a role model for tech-savvy kids."

Also when, as she puts it, "My grandpa, a retired village school teacher who knows nothing about computers and IT, who never saw my site (and won't understand it) gave me a present - a bunch of bananas, cultivated himself, when some of his Net-savvy old students told him about my achievement."

Role model: "My appa (dad) and amma (mom). They work hard and never compel me to do anything."

Web sites developed: www.sruthipai.net

Message to readers: "I want them to advise and support me. I'm just 10 and not a big person to tell you big things."



Age: 11

Claim to fame: The youngest Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) in the world; a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and the youngest classical guitarist in the world (according to the Limca Book of Records).

His anthology of poems, Hamari Teraha Kavitayen, was released by Prime Minister Vajpayee on January 1, 2000. An exceptional student, Priyanshu bagged a double promotion in his sixth standard.

Apart from working on his website cuite-commerce.com, he's also rallying for a relaxation of the CBSE age bar, which would enable him to enroll for class X and utilise the time saved for research and development in the field of computers.

Inspiration: The dreams in his heart, plans in his head, and a conviction in himself.

Career goal: To continue pursuing advanced courses in computers, such as the Cisco Certified Internet Engineer and the Cisco Certified Network Programmer, and join the IT bandwagon in Silicon Valley. Also, to become Bill Gates II.

Why computers?: A scholarship at New Technology Group (NTG) inspired him to complete the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) course on March 31; the MCSE on June 29, 2000; and immediately after, the CCNA.

Proudest moment: Being the youngest to achieve the MCSE title.

Role models: His parents.

Web sites developed: cuite-commerce.com

Message to readers: "Life should be enjoyed fully, and fun lies in learning new things."

Live by this rule: "I can do it."

Part II: Three Indian teenagers make their mark online



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