Wednesday, July 26, 2017

“Wish To Set Up A Research Institute Like Perimeter In India Someday,” Says Sonali Mahapatra

Even as the debate on literature and science has been going hand in hand for ages, Odia girl Sonali Mahapatra is changing the way the two different subjects are looked upon. A recipient of the prestigious Chancellor’s International Research Fellowship at the University of Sussex, she has also proved her mettle as a poet, singer and a personality trainer.


At 25, Sonali has achieved more than what people wish to do in a lifetime. A top student in the University, she has featured on a CBC radio show, Canada along with Dr. S James Gates, member of the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to outgoing USA President Barack Obama. To add to the achievements, her debut poetry book ‘Leaking Ink’ was launched recently in Bhubaneswar by Padmashree Ilena Citaristi and Padmabhusan Dr Bindeshwar Pathak.


An ardent debater in her school days, Sonali’s tryst with literature began when she chanced upon an old tattered copy of Enid Blyton’s ‘The Mystery of Spiggy Holes’ in her house.

“I first read Enid Blyton’s book but failed to understand it. Somehow, my parents played a crucial role in inculcating a reading habit in me. I remember, there is a children’s section in the State Library and my mother used to leave me in the afternoon hours and go out for work. My first Harry Potter book was gifted by my uncle when I was 10 years old and it was a turning point.”


“My parents always encouraged me to read. My father used to take me and my sister to the book fair every year and we used to scout for second hand books and bargain for the cheapest prices, in order to make sure we get the maximum number of books possible. More than food or clothes, we spent more on books those days,” reminisces Sonali, who takes inspiration from Wordsworth, Shelley, Robert Frost and Samuel Tayloridge.


A quiet child that she was, Sonali took to poems to express herself, when she was barely four years old. As she started penning down poems and articles, her love for science and physics snowballed simultaneously. The mysteries of Universe interested her and she would maintain a file (which she still has) with articles on black holes and other related topics.


“I have always been attracted to science fiction and as a kid would pretend to research on black holes and other secrets of the universe,” says Sonali, who is currently living her childhood dream and working on a PhD thesis on “Blackholes and Quantum Gravity.”


After completing her intermediate from BJEM school in Bhubaneswar, she pursued her higher studies in IISER and later graduated as the Valedictorian of the world’s top most research institute in Physics, Perimeter Institute, Canada after being selected as one of the 30 students for the very coveted PSI (Perimeter Scholars International) Fellowship.


“IISER has been a building block for a strong academic base, but Perimeter is undoubtedly the best and I wish to set up a research institute of similar stature in India someday,” she hopes.

Adorning several hats at a time, Sonali is also a singer and composer and has performed with International Band “Eccodek” while she was in Canada. She is the co-founder of international digital literary magazine called “Carved Voices,” which gives young poets and authors a platform, and deals with controversial and social subjects such as feminism, child labor, identity issues and nationalism.


Her debut book “Leaking Ink,” published by “Events Publication” of Bhubaneswar, was formally launched recently and is available at several leading stores in India and abroad. It covers topics such as love, friendship, existential crisis, religion, social issues such as terrorism and feminism, memories and war written over a period of 12 years. Sonali’s poetic genius has been well recognised and appreciated in Brighton, UK, where she regularly gets invited to perform her poetry in various festivals. Besides, she also gets invited to speak on issues such as Women in Physics and Stem and Higher Education in and around the world.


Sonali is currently working on her second book which she has tentatively titled “Revelling in Insomnia,” which will cover more poetry on social issues.