Express Management 101

Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory- George S. Patton

It’s not very easy to write about my journey on-board science express. My colleague, Rituja, has helped me by offering few question- “Sir, you can give your sharing on these questions, i.e. Challenges to a manager?  Challenges with communicators? Challenges with VIPs?”

Every day, with so many things happening, neither by invalidating nor proving right or wrong, and remaining a witness, feeling responsible, and feeling like I am involved in the cause in all matters on-board, is a unique experience. Where I do not know what drama or play is waiting for us to act on, to deal with an out of order situation, and having limited but powerful resources to encounter these issues, whatsoever challenges come in our ways, undoubtedly, the focus remains. The ultimate focus for me is to take every one in a single caravan to change the climate in this edition.

For me, it is important to maintain the harmony at all levels having all team members, core exhibition groups and support staff works in one loop where integrity lies in the centre which enhances their work efficiency.

In my words, I feel happy when I see communicators trying new approach and innovative ways of presenting content with appropriate stock of words, dialogues and applying sense of humor. They show presence of mind with factual detailed knowledge on topics that really creates a positive aura where not only do they enjoy but their experience reaches a new level where they cannot express their happiness by words. That can only be owned.

I understood that when the communicators urged me to stand by their side for everything, it is not only their feelings, but their indirect love and care for me.

Speaking on VIP’s part, it is something very difficult because it seems that most of the time they have been nicely conducted throughout the exhibition by the team, speaking good things about the project. It impresses me when they share their time on work done for societies’ benefits and development which creates a difference. In my view, their self expression speaks more than words.

Interestingly, I found that all my teammates wanted to see me acting above all hurdles and ups & downs. That is my real energy source. Science express drives me through with all of this which remains the secret of my survival here.

So one in all, Science Express has remained kind to me in all my avenues of learning.

Raghav Pandya- As shared with the SECAS Blog Team: Nitin, Yasha and Ritu!

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(Raghav Sir has been the backbone of the SECAS. Being a manager and an on-board member, he has kept the integrity among the team. Devouring sweets and encouraging us from time to time, he has been more of a mentor and a trainer for us than a manager. His brisk walking has proven a great challenge for many a tall people to put up with! Raghav Sir has let us cherish our hobbies and taught us to love the train by preaching what he teaches.)

For the ball is in our courts

One of the major critical impacts of plastics on environment is when animals such as cattle swallow it for food. It remains unprocessed in their rumen, leading to fatalities. I witnessed one such sight in Hapa when we were having our breakfast outside the deserted station. A cow was chewing an empty plastic bag. I was sitting with my colleague, Sagar W. and he too agreed that it was sad seeing those animals eating the polythene.

On board, in our train, we implore people to not use the thin plastic bags, the ones lesser than 20 microns. I wonder how much of what we say is really heard and done. However, this was not a time to feel dejected. It was the time to act upon all those advice we have given to people for the past seven months. We showed the poor animal to the Chaiwala Bhaiyya. I explained to him in the simplest manner what happens when a cow or any other animal swallows a plastic bag. He seemed to ponder upon on what I said. Then in despair, he asks, “Ben, then what solution do you propose? What is it that I can do to not let this happen?”

We looked at each other for some seconds and then we spoke up. We told him that if we properly dispose of the plastic garbage in dustbins instead of letting them lay in open heaps, it wouldn’t be much of an open invitation to those animals. We then went on explaining how this could also be a solution to the insanitary conditions in India.

What he did next brought tears to my eyes!

He set the kettle of tea aside from the flame, got down the dais and bent down to pick up all the littered discarded milk packets. He collected them all and dumped them in the large garbage bin. After washing and wiping his hands with a kerchief, he went on boiling and making tea.

I guess, our role in this national and global revolutions is much more than just communicating. It is reaching out towards the grass-root and connecting with them. It is stating the problem and giving simple solutions. It is being an integral part of real India and not just clapping on seeing some sentimental documentary. Because in the end it is not at all about sympathy but all about empathy.

Bhawna Jain: As shared with the SECAS Blog Team: Nitin, Yashashree and Ritu!

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(Bhawna is a bubbly girl from Delhi who has completed her Masters in Chemistry. A hard core Vegetarian, she can be seen asking at the hotel reception, “Bhaiyya, yahan non-veg toh milta hai na?” On getting a positive response, she turns on her heels with, “Toh yahan main nahi kha sakti!” She also occasionally cooks in the buffer zone, spreading aroma around the coach much to the envy of other communicators who for the time being are just some other hungry people.😉

Sporting a strong and unwavering personality, she has a streak of sticking to what she believes in and going after everything she can accomplish.)

Adventures of the Wayfarers

Not all those who wander are lost- J. R. R. Tolkein (The Fellowship of the Ring)

A strong odour hits my nose the moment I step out of our compartment. Is it a dead rat or a perpetual smell of a coastal fishing town? The platforms are deserted except for few fellow travelers at nine in the morning. As we move towards a hotel only a few meters away from the station, I wonder how Dr. Kalam must have wandered through these very lanes, thinking about arcane ideas; very much unlike me who is wondering how the lunches and dinners are going to fare without the absolute surety of a multi-cuisine hotel. The languorous day stretches on. We meet Dr. Kalam’s elder brother in the evening. His grandson had invited us to his house. The exhibition at his house and the gamut of his achievements and contributions increases my respect for the town.

The next evening we visit the renowned Ramathaswamy temple that is believed to have been worshiped by Lord Rama who came here to seek absolution of his sins, if any, after his war against Ravana. The four gates have been recently reconstructed indicating the four directions. There are a variety of eat out places near the temple premises, which took away any qualms I had about the availability of food.

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The town of Rameswaram is 14 km away from the farthest point of India, Dhanushkodi, which is a narrow stretch of land in the Bay of Bengal. We are lucky enough to get a Field Trip to explore the place. Our day starts with a bus ride in the sea towards Dhanushkodi and it’s for the first time that we are travelling in water on a four-wheeler. It’s amazing to see hundreds of flamingos enjoying the sea-food for their breakfast. The way is unique as for the first time we are visiting the town that was destroyed in the Cyclone of 1964. The old church, the school, the police-station.

After having our beach moments at the last point of India, we go to the Pamban bridge- the connecting link of the island of Rameswaram to the country counterparts. We are joined by a fellow wayfarer, Polina. In search of coconut water, we roam around the lower parts of the bridge. There I get to witness benevolence at its epitome. A fisherman, who owns some local boats, fetches us a couple of coconuts from his own house at our inquiry. He goes on to offer us his scooter to get some lunch. In the meanwhile, we are offered the tastiest cake we’ve ever had.

The highlight of the day is the bonus ride in the boat through the sea waters. We get to see the train passing over the narrow stretch of the rail road above the sea water. We are speechless on seeing the sight and out of words thanking him, the fisherman, for being so kind towards us strangers. We invite him to visit the train. It revives my faith in humanity and we return towards our hotel with big smiles plastered on our tanned faces.

Prashant Sharma, A Muthu Dhivakar, Dinesh Kumar and Rituja Patil- Reviving and reliving beautiful memories through SECAS Blog!

 

Tatemae and Honne

Yesterday, I read the news of a mother killing her newborn baby boy because she wanted a girl. Halted in a small village of Wadi, I came to know about this unfortunate incidence that happened in a village in Uttar Pradesh and mingled thoughts aroused in my mind. Did I consider this news to be the start of a good change? Thousands of little flowers were killed in the womb, before they even had a chance to come out in this world, just for the want of a male child. The voices of those poor creatures whose existence ended in the darkness of the wombs, who never got to see the light of the world, must definitely be echoing somewhere in the chaos of the Universe. Since the last few decades, girls have hoisted their abilities and have succeeded in forcing the society to change their views regarding them.

I remember the times when we couldn’t recollect the names of women athletes other than P T Usha and Kunjarani Devi and I marvel at the times now, when Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu are setting fine examples.

When stationed at Wadi Platform, a disheveled man had come with his daughter to visit the exhibition. His daughter was wearing simple but respectable clothes; he had also tied a scarf over her head to protect her from the blazing sun. Her name was Soni.

In that sweltering heat, when I had called that girl on the platform to conduct some activities, I had a shocking conversation with her father.

The girl was the youngest of the four siblings, the rest all being boys and her father was attentive and concerned for her. He had brought only the girl to see the exhibition. He was in a dilemma of choosing a proper school for her. The ACC project was going to earn him 1.5 crore rupees of which 60 lakhs he was planning to keep away for the education of his daughter. The rest of the earning he’d use for his boys. His every sentence oozed out the care and love he had for his daughter.

He went on saying that only daughters take care of their parents. He also cited his own example of how he left his parents to move on in life. His present was solely occupied with his daughter and that was very much evident.

The incident left a print on my heart because this was a new experience for me. Our country is full of people who if start thinking in the same direction this guy did will channel us towards a golden era. Of that, I am sure.

Few days ago, Mumbai High Court opened the doors of the Shinganapur Temple that had remained closed for women for the last four centuries. Now that I think of it, I feel that this decision should not have been even taken to the High Court. Society should have taken the initiative years ago. I believe that those moments are not far away when girls like Soni are waiting to spread their wings towards the golden dreams their fathers envisioned.

Sanket Raut- As thoughtfully shared with the SECAS Blog Team: Nitin, Yashashree and Ritu!

Rescuing Ridleys

It was the last night of our stay in Vizag, Andhra Pradesh. After the day’s hefty mental and physical toll, like always, we headed off towards the beach as had our normal routine become for those couple of nights we stayed in the city. Sand burials and soul singing followed relaxation on the sand and contemplating life. It was a warm night, like all the other nights in Southern Summer.

As we headed back to the Hotel, wondering if we would get an auto at ten-thirty at night, our ears caught familiar calls. Kobra, Yashashree and Pinal were huddled around a beach light, calling us with smiles spilling from their faces. When we reached towards them, along with the heavy food shopping from Spencer’s, they also revealed a couple of Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings. The hatchlings were covered with sand and were the size of a few centimeters. Kobra was handling them and Yasha briefed us on how they came to encounter them on the beach.

It was pure serendipity. We had come to the beach in search of peace and how fortunate of us to see the very beings whose extrication we preach in SECAS! Those little hatchlings maneuvered around the sands, baffled by the shore lights and in doing so made intricate patterns with their front and back flippers in the sand. The usual predators were there; dogs roaming around the beach, snooping around people, searching for food. We felt extreme pleasure and relief when we settled those hatchlings down in the tender waves, bidding goodbye to those little forms who would now make their journey towards their destiny. I could see the sparkling eyes of my fellow communicators as the little ones struggled with the waves to finally go home.

Shweta Dhiman- As shared with a dreamy smile with the SECAS Blog Team: Nitin, Yashashree and Ritu!

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(Shweta Dhiman is a bizarre combo of a Computer Engineer and a Wildlife enthusiast. If there is a dog on patrol, it is sure to be cuddled and doted upon by Shweta. Gifted with a phenomenal voice, she is the musical soul of any gathering or party. Exemplar to her name, she is a good-hearted soul who considers nature her mother and nature conservation her true religion.)

A minus shapes the plus

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle – Albert Einstein

It is a fine Monday evening and we are sitting in the JOS Lab, taking a break of five minutes before the next batch arrives when a family starts entering the Lab. I am preparing my usual polite speech to the parents requesting them to stand outside the lab while we conduct their child inside when I catch Pinal’s expression. She is signaling something with her eyes. The boy is far sighted than most of us. He is differently-abled.

All the colorful pictures around the lab, all the hands- on activities and even the certificate that we are distributing suddenly starts feeling like a big joke. Can we let this child know that Science is joyful by utilizing his imagination rather than making him see it? I am scared to say anything. With other children it is easier to keep them hooked with the displays; here I don’t want to say the wrong thing and make him feel uncomfortable. I can see he is nervous too. Pinal presses my hand firmly and whispers softly, “Come on, Saumya, our real challenge is to make Science joyful for him”

I dare myself to go near him. His parents are standing there, expecting me to take a hold of the whole situation and the burden of expectation is freaking me more. I take his hand and lead him to the ‘Your Weight – Beyond Earth’ panel. His hesitation is obvious and expected. Still I trace his hands over the different weight indicators explaining him the concept of weights and how his weight on Sun is 1870 kg. There! I see a ghost of smile on his face! As I talk with him further and explain him weightlessness and how toilets are used in space, I have got him laughing. We give him candy and a toy. The ones he can taste and feel…

It is imagination and a curiosity that every child must have, Subojit Dutta had it both. When he entered the JOS he was not ready to hold my hand and when it is time to leave he is not ready to let go. He is holding on to the source that can catalyze his vivid imagination only to comprehend reality for science is beyond theory or pragmatism. Science is rather a brainchild of fact and fantasy.

The real challenge is of unlearning to actually succeed in learning was then realized. If there is any such thing as a life changing event, this is one. It made me realize the importance of what we have been doing and gave me the satisfaction of fulfilling my duty as a Science Communicator. I can never be thankful enough to SECAS for giving me one of the best moments of my life.

Saumya Saxena – As told to the SECAS Blog Team: Nitin, Yashashree and Ritu!

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(Saumya Saxena is a happy go lucky spirit whose wonderful interactions with the visitors are a source of envy for many😉 To do or not to do is never a question for her. A Biotech Engineer by profession and a foodie by choice, she can feed you with food and wisdom when you are in depths of despair. Witty and ready with quips, she is indeed a diamond cuts diamond exemplar.)

And words are all I have…

Everyone has a different perception of perfection. In a huge country with such a diverse culture, geography and individualities, lucky are the ones who get to witness humanity, perseverance and the cruel and harsh idealities on a single platform. When I say platform, I mean it figuratively as literally too sometimes I’m (un)fortunate to get to see it. If I am told to write about a single incident that changed my life, I am not capable of citing one. In actuality, there have been instances that have inspired me and helped me mold myself so, but they have not been paradigm shifts. This process has been a gradual one. Every day I come on board and every day I get to observe the different shades of human mentality. There is much to learn when you are a quiet observant, noticing the way people talk, and read the expressions on their face when you tell them something which has made them ponder. I burgeon when a child asks questions; I get to live my childhood again through them. As one of our colleagues always stresses, everyone is gifted with something special and we can learn that ‘something’ from everybody. When we were stationed in Allahabad, I had my first interaction with specially-abled persons. As I struggled with explaining the greenhouse effect to them in sign language, I realized how hard it must be to accomplish the unfelt goals. The real challenge is many a times to tone your language, way of communicating and body language with the visitors. With children, I don’t have to modulate. I can be me and they won’t be judgmental.

In Allahabad I had another one of those experiences where I got to testimony the ingenuity of children. After explicating the occurrence of seasons to an eleven year old child, I had beatitude on beholding him explain the tilt of earth and how it happens to cause seasons to his friends from neighborhood. I felt a surge of pride when the onlookers applauded and patted him.

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I have had lively and intellectual interactions with many people and also with my fellow Science Communicators. Privileged and blessed is what I felt. The youth is India’s greatest power and we have achieved much if we let those minds ignite and set their wings on fire. For me the definition of perfection is that of thoughts, because ‘I’ originate from them. Rituja is not some person; she is not someone with flesh and bones if she is one without her thoughts. It is therefore, I say, I consider myself the luckiest because I get to choose what to think and how to be.

Rituja Patil- As voiced through the SECAS Blog Team!

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(A gleaming spectacled tweety, Rituja is the lifeline of our SECAS blog. She sweeps her magic wand on stories anecdotes shared by communicators to publish them at lightning speed. With a higher view on everything literally and figuratively she overlooks it all the ‘Sherlock’ way. She gobbles books to feed her ever popping dialog bubbles and thrives on all things sweet. Catching butterflies in a hurricane is her style of work and her geeky jargon has a major fan following.)