Pritvik loves being surrounded by his stuffed dinos. Image Credit: Dennis B Mallari/GNM

He doesn't even stop to think when posed three questions: What's the largest herbivore which had large leaf-shaped plates sticking out of its back? What's the largest carnivore that walked the earth? What's one of the biggest prehistoric predators? The seven-year-old school boy and self-taught palaeontologist Pritvik Sinhadc, rattles off the answers: stegosaurus, spinosaurus and gigantosaurus, respectively. But beware, once you get him started on dinos he's difficult to stop.

A Year 4 student at the Dubai British School, Pritvik might love his noodles and his crisps like any other boy his age, but when it comes to dinosaurs, he can pit his knowledge against the world's leading palaeontologists.

"I am fascinated by the creatures. I simply cannot stop reading and learning more about them,'' he says. And that probably explains why he decided to write a book When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth, which is being released later this month.

Surrounded by over 200 toy dinosaurs in his bedroom, Pritvik rattles off trivia about the creatures as though they were his pet animals, spelling out their names, listing their special features and the periods they lived in. "That one,'' he says, pointing to a toy dino. "That's a stegosaurus. You can tell it by the large armour-like plates on its back. And don't be fooled by its size; it's a herbivore,'' he adds with a smile.

A gifted child, Pritvik boasts an IQ of 165. According to experts, those with an IQ between 145 and 164 are considered genius and those with a score between 165-179 are considered high genius. Albert Einstein was reported to have had an IQ of 160, Charles Darwin 165, Barack Obama 137 and Madonna, 140.

"As far as I can recollect, I've always been in love with these fantastic, absolutely mind-blowing creatures… The fact that they once might have roamed in our back yards gives me a thrill that I simply can't express," says Pritvik.

His mother Indira, 39, a businesswoman who moved from India to Dubai in 2008 with her husband, Bhaskar, and Pritvik, recalls how their only son started speaking clearly at the age of just six months. 

A growing passion

"By nine months, he had started badgering his grandfather to tell him all about how the earth was in ancient times," she says. "He was absolutely obsessed with prehistoric creatures - he made us read him books on the subject. There were times when I was seriously concerned about his love for prehistory."

His parents initially did not to take his increasing passion for the prehistoric world seriously. "We thought he would get over it,'' says Indira. But if anything, his passion for the beasts only kept increasing. Once they realised it wasn't just a passing fancy, Pritvik's parents began to actively encourage him and bought him books on the subject.

"Even before he was a year old, he started questioning us about the origin of species, from where exactly life on earth began. This compelled me and my husband to get him books on palaeontology from libraries and bookshops and read to him," recalls Indira. "By the time Pritvik was one-and-a-half years old, he had turned into a voracious reader, breezing through books on palaeontology and the prehistoric era, which were meant for children who were six years and above." She says he was constantly asking questions about the earth, how it must have been during prehistoric times and the animals that roamed the earth during that time. 

A turning point

Bhaskar, 40, Indira and Pritvik moved to Dubai after Bhaskar got a job as a director of the environment division at Dugas. That proved to be a crucial time for Pritvik, as he found several mentors in his teachers at the Dubai British School, where he started when he was three.

Pritvik's parents have a passion for the sciences and business - his father likes chemistry and mother likes business. His grandfather holds a degree in physics.

"His interest in palaeontology went to extreme lengths when he started questioning and enlightening his parents, teachers and students at school about prehistoric creatures in the Precambrian, Cambrian, Silurian, Ordovician, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods,'' Indira says. "He was just three years old at the time. It was astonishing.''

It was then that his teachers discovered that Pritvik appeared bored in class. "We were told that he was often sleeping during lessons,'' says Indira. Puzzled as to why a boy who was so bright appeared so disinterested, the teachers referred him to a counsellor who, after assessing him, found that he had an IQ of 165. "He was way ahead of the class, which was why he was bored and kept nodding off during class time,'' Indira says. Pritvik nods. "I remember being bored because I pretty much knew all that was being taught and wanted the teacher to go faster,'' he explains. When he was five, his teacher was surprised by his knowledge of the prehistoric era. "We were called to the school and made to understand that he was extremely gifted in the science of palaeontology,'' says Indira.

Pritvik was even asked to teach Year 3 students about dinosaurs, which he loved. He also gave a presentation to Year 5 students on the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

Hannah Turner, his Year 3 teacher was amazed at the Pritvik's knowledge of the subject. "I have never encountered such enthusiasm for such a complex area of study from a child so young,'' she says.

"Pritvik's interest and understanding of prehistoric creatures is quite staggering... I feel very fortunate to have had the school palaeontologist in class who can pronounce dinosaurs' names correctly, comment on their eating and behavioural patterns, body systems and periods of existence without the aid of the internet or information book!''

In his room, Pritvik holds up another toy. "I absolutely enjoy talking about dinosaurs,'' he says. "My favourites? I actually have three. The spinosuarus, because it is very fast and brainy; the suchomimus because it's very tall - about the size of an adult giraffe and, best of all, the allosaurus because it can hunt down a prey 50 times its size. Now isn't that amazing?" 

Accolades galore

Pritvik is also excellent in math and science. He received the Megastar Science CREST Award - a project-based awards programme for science, technology, engineering and maths from the British Science Association in 2010.

He also recently became the Young Science Ambassador from the British Science Association. As a Young Science Ambassador he will be expected to communicate his enthusiasm for science, encourage others to think about and engage in scientific activities and promote interest in science at home, school and in the community.

Academically, Pritvik is a very bright student and has topped the primary section of his school on the World Maths Day and has won the Golden Calculator Award from the World Maths Day organisers for his proficiency in the subject. That said, he likes science over maths, says Indira. But it's his recent book that he cannot stop talking about.

"It was my teachers Ainslie Teale, Ms Williams, Hannah Turner, Paula Gardner, Lucy Barr and Peter Moore who encouraged me to put down all that I know on the subject into a book,'' he says.

It took him a year to complete the book, doing intense research and spending hours verifying facts and information. Written in a simple, informative and entertaining style it is sure to get children and adults alike interested in those prehistoric creatures.

But becoming an author and publishing one book is not enough for the ambitious boy. Before the first book has even been released, he is working on his sequel. "It is on rare dinosaurs,'' he says. "There will be special emphasis on a fish and meat eater called suchomimus and other fish-eating carnivores. I've also plans for a third book on mutant monsters.''

When he is not busy researching or reading up on prehistoric creatures, Pritvik loves to paint. "Picasso is my favourite,'' he says. His home has several of his brightly coloured, vibrant paintings, of course, many clearly inspired by the prehistoric period. He is also an accomplished musician who enjoys playing the piano and the guitar. "My favourite song is actually the popular Do-Re-Mi", he says.

On the weekend, he is out playing cricket with his friends and practising karate. "I've got a brown belt,'' he says, striking a karate pose. "I also love eating burgers and noodles, and playing pranks with my best friend Neal Kannan."

A voracious reader of non-fiction scientific books, he also looks forward to going on fossil dig trips in the desert during his vacations.

"I also love watching movies on history,'' he says. "And oh yes, I've watched Jurassic Park several times,'' he says.

"My dream is to become a palaeontologist when I grow up,'' says Pritvik. "I would like to go on fossil digs around the world and know more about these fascinating creatures.''

Who knows, he might just find the next major dinosaur fossil in the future. 

What Pritvik's teachers have to say:

Peter Moore, Head of Primary School: "To have such a keen interest in dinosaurs and to have pursued this passion so enthusiastically from such an early age is admirable. I have every confidence that we will see his name amongst the experts in palaeontology in the future and those of us who have known Pritvik at DBS will remember this early start to his career." 

Ainslie Teale, Year four Teacher: "I first met Pritvik as a five-year-old when he presented an amazing PowerPoint presentation he had made, all about dinosaurs! He presented it to a Year three class and they were a very captive and totally amazed audience. I have no doubt Pritvik will become the youngest famous Palaeontologist ever!"

Paula Gardner, Year three Teacher: "For one so young, so focused and so driven I remain in awe. " 

Lucy Barr, Year three Teacher: "There are very few children who demonstrate such a keen interest and desire to learn more about historical science. His ability to recall facts and information relating to prehistoric life is remarkable. I am sure he has an amazing future ahead of him as a palaeontologist, hopefully leading him to some incredible discoveries."