Pranay Varada (above, right) became the sixth consecutive Indian-American to win the National Geographic Bee championship on Wednesday. Varada is a 14-year-old student at Dewitt Perry Middle School in Irving, Texas. He bagged a medal and $50,000 (approximately Rs 32 lakh), a family trip to the Galapagos Islands and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society.
Varada answered the tie-breaker question, “What large mountain system that stretches more than 1,200 miles separates the Taklimakan Desert from the Tibetan Plateau?” to win the 29th annual contest against his contender Thomas Wright. “I was absolutely sure I could win that challenge,” Varada told AP.
“It was extreme disappointment, to get all the way up here and not win. I was researching and trying to find ways to not make the same mistakes twice,” the 14-year-old said.
Pranay’s mother, Vasuki Kodaganti, had piqued his interest in geography at age of three when she started teaching him about world capitals and giving him puzzles of maps. His parents gifted him an atlas at the age of four which he began familiarising himself with. “I feel guilty. I was enjoying being a mother. He was my first born,” Kodaganti told AP.
“He’s very methodical and planned everything out,” his father Praveen Rao said.