india and child prodigies

India has always had a fascination with child prodigies. Child prodigies are “discovered” in India with surprising regularity. Yet, our country is still languishing in the shallow end of the innovation pool. Every time a child prodigy is “found”, the news is spattered all over the media, people rush to recognize and honour him/her, and a week later, life is back to where it always was. Matters have become so bad, that we have some taking advantage of this (the Tathagat Avtar Tulsi – DST affair, though his recent appointment as IIT professor confuses me).

Child prodigies are typically noted for achieving in their childhood, that which others take longer to achieve (we often hear of child prodigies becoming doctors, research fellows, animators, etc.). Everyone rushes to congratulate them, shower them with awards and possibly grants, and then, they are forgotten except by their social circle (or bloggers researching them to write such articles). Why are they not nurtured into true geniuses who can help forge a better tomorrow? Is India incapable of such support? If it is, where are the successful scientists and mathematicians who were discovered as child prodigies?

A quick scan on the net showed ONE child prodigy who has grown up into an adult prodigy, and that too, in the last century. Of course, I am talking about Srinivasa Ramanujan, a child prodigy who had gone beyond what many adults had achieved (discovering theorems when he was still 12) and who went on to contribute significant advancements to mathematics. From what the media proclaims, India has never had a dearth of geniuses. Then, why are we no longer competitive with the rest of the world? Where are the geniuses?