‘Earning a star’

Remember the feeling when your teacher gave you a star in the notebook at the age when you probably still owned some of your milk teeth? A science communicator from the Dentistry background, Miss Shubhra Mittal can tell you exactly how it feels because she recently relived that feeling. PicsArt_1419256432369_1419256488593She was stationed in 9th coach that holds exhibits related to Climate Change. The bright morning began with a little girl accompanied by her mother asking Shubhra to please explain. Shubhra was more than happy to do so and explained the coach content to the innocent girl in a manner that she would understand, not be overwhelmed, and still satisfy her curiosity. As the little girl was leaving the coach, she said, “Miss, I wish you were my school teacher then I’d always get full marks in my exams. I will never forget what I learnt today from you”. As we are sure, Shubhra will never forget the little girl as this feeling is no less than receiving a star, that too at an age when all your wisdom teeth have already set in.

— Shubhra Mittal, as shared with the SEBS Blog team: Nitin, Ishan and Jigu : )

PicsArt_1417765585173(Shubhra is a no-nonsense gal, beautiful inside out with a degree in Dentistry and a tangy sense of humour. She is a chatty Punjaban with elite taste buds, not to be wishy-washy when it comes to food. If you want an opinion on the best quality food around the area, she is your gal! Always great company to hang out with, making ‘the most pleasant expressions’ during prolonged exhibition hours, she can be heard in the staff coach yelling for someone to get the lights, as soon as she is in bed.)

Innocent teaching…

We were in the small village of Bajalta, where people spoke the local language and fluent Hindi. I was faced with a moment where I was finding it difficult to translate technical terminology in to Hindi. A young boy, his shirt was torn and pants faded but one who wore confidence on his sleeve, walked in with a priceless smile on his face. He helped me when I was stuck and presented me with simple words such as ‘taap’ for temperature and ‘dabaav’ for pressure. It may sound very usual or uninteresting to someone else but to me it was an invaluable lesson from a child who did not even have enough resources for buying himself clothes, let alone go to school. His want to learn, touched my heart and I felt tears of joy sting my eyes as I saw a sense of accomplishment in his eyes while he taught me and helped me translate some terminology. We tend to take for granted all the things we have ever had and even lose our curiosity along the way. Being on this train has brought so many kids along my way who have helped keep the spark of learning, stay ignited.

— Archana Guleria as narrated to SEBS Blog team: Nitin, Ishan and Jigu

IMG_9887(Archana is a mountain girl from Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, has a Master’s degree in Biodiversity with a major in Lichenology. With a sweet smile on her face and an ever-present bluetooth device to connect to her better half, Archana loves young kids and her drive to inspire them shows on her face when she talks of saving the biodiversity. An eager photographer, she can be seen sitting by the train door early in the morning, on journey days, trying to find that perfect frame.)

Ones who argue and shake their head…

The team reached a spectacular station of the journey, Udhampur in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The state, Indians adore and talk of with pride, fondly named ‘Bharat ke sar ka taj – The Crown of India’, and ‘Heaven on earth’ and the instant we stepped on to the platform, we knew exactly why. Beautiful mountains named ‘Patni top’ adorned the view, right outside the train.

IMG-20141113-WA0040Udhampur was relatively calm with respect to the number of visitors we had in Kurukshetra and Ludhiana. I was in DST 11 which houses models and panels related to ‘Fuel Conservation’. I always find this topic a little tricky, especially when there is a need to relate it to daily life. While we use non-renewable resources of energy, thoughts of their exhaustion never cross our mind. In order to make people conscious about the ever decreasing resources, I have to shed light on the fact that one day we may not have petroleum and breaking this news to people puts me in a dicey situation.

As I tried to my best to explain how and why to conserve fuel, I got in to an unfortunate argument. A man, probably in his late 30s kept arguing continuously, making it very difficult to explain. What made me realize that this man couldn’t care less about fuel was when he said, “To kya agar petrol khatma ho jayega, isse mujhe kya fark padega?” After a short discussion, he said “okay” and left. I will never know whether I had reached him or not but I am content because I tried. Working in this train trying to make more people aware, I learn something new every day and this bit of today was a test of my patience.

— S. K. Thevar, as told to SEBS Blog team: Nitin, Ishan and Jigu : )

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(S. K. Thevar or as we fondly call him, Bala is a calm and composed individual with a passion for marine creatures. Never boastful or rude, he is always kind, in the way he treats us whether it is polite words or giving us snacks after work. Trying staple food from all the places and making black coffee in the staff coach, that’s who Bala is to us! Fewer moments can ever make him impatient and his love of nature surpasses those a hundred fold.)

Laughter from the kitchen!

It was our last day at Ludhiana and I was allotted duty in the 11th Coach which is based on the theme of ‘Fuel Conservation’. I had been in this coach for four days, growing comfortable with explaining people ‘How we get fuel from crude oil’, ‘Modes of transport that help us save fuel’ and ‘What the future holds for us when fuel will run out’. Among these messages, I would encourage people to read the panel that showed ‘smart way of cooking’. It was almost closing time and I delivered my two lines that simple cleaning of the burner helps reduce the usage of LPG gas up to 20%. The day ended with chuckles as the woman right next to me nudged her husband and said, “Dekhiyega ji, ghar ja kar burner saaf kariyega, gas bachega!”, with the huge smile never leaving her face.

— Sanket Raut as told to SEBS Blog team: Nitin, Ishan, and Jigu : )

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(Sanket is an innate naturalist, trusting his passion to take him through the woods. He shares with us, his love for butterflies, our go-to person for bird identification, company to hum a pretty tune and a quick sense of humour. He has lived with tribal communities, surviving in the care of Mother Nature, observing her simple working and how her hands suffice to balance every little being on our earth.)

Coming home…

The team arrived at Ludhiana and hopes of a change in weather brimmed. Alas, as quick steps walked towards the accommodation, so did the hot and humid weather. As the team reported back to the train stationed on platform 7, a welcoming rain fell heavily and the fragrance of moist earth rushed to meet everyone.

While the rest of the team members complained about an hour not being enough for having lunch, I reveled in the magic of Ludhiana. My grandfather and my great-grandfather are from Ludhiana and the people here are ‘my people’. Whenever I come here, I feel at home. A sense of belonging fills my heart as my close family members welcomed me and no amount of gratitude can be enough for the homemade food, famous stuffed ‘golgappas’ and the world’s best ‘shahi kulfi’ that I got to eat. The day my family was planning to visit the exhibition, through a pleasant coincidence, my photograph appeared in the newspaper which made them even more curious to see the train. I showed them my work place like a little kid displaying her drawings from school. They loved it!

— Richa Hira, as narrated to the SEBS blog team: Nitin, Ishan, and Jigu

(Richa is a cheerful Punjaban who grew up in Dilwalon ki Dilli. A Biotechnology major who studied in Dehradun, amidst the Shivalik-Himalayan range, she is ever packed with energy and a mischief up her sleeve. Richa conveyed her love for nature to people across India during SEBS phase VI and boarded again to continue journey in to phase VII)

Kurukshetra, The land of Mahabharata

My first impression of Kurukshtera was that I did not like it very much; there was something about it that I couldn’t quite place. But as soon as I started interacting with the local people, I started warming up to it. In fact, today, after all these months, I am still in touch with a few of the sweet and friendly people of Kurukshetra. After exhibition hours, I visited ‘Bhrama Sarovar’ with the team members and even though I have never believed in Mahabharata, this place soaked me with peace. Given a chance, I would love to visit the land of Mahabharata once again.

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—  Amalendu Maji, as told to SEBS Blog team: Nitin, Ishan and Jigu.

(Amalendu Maji, a very generous Bong and an absolute foodie who infects people with his smile, joined this biodiversity express to inspire and inspire he does. An oceanographer by academics, his traits vary through art, travel, friendly singing of Bengali songs, patiently listening to people’s stories and telling his own with a twinkle in his eyes.)

A smile among the worries…

When I left home from Bangalore, many questions played on my mind but the moment I looked at the train, the questions vanished, quickly replaced by excitement. The first face I saw was of our Project Manager, Raghav Sir, full of worries about all the work that needed to be done. I wished him a pleasant morning and all the worrisome expressions broke into a gentle smile as he said, “a very Good Morning to you”.

With infinitesimal dreams sparkling in our eyes, we reached Kurukshetra, where the wheels took their first rest. The evening had set in and this place made me realize there are so many small towns in India I have never been to. It was the eve of Eid, the night of the moon, ‘chaand raat’ and the nostalgic feeling seeped in. As the day drew to an end, a quick phone-call to dad and some Haryana special chat with tangy ‘golgappas’ made me feel better!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

— Ishan Islam as written by the SEBS blog team: Nitin, Ishan and Jigu.

(Ishan Islam, a Bangalore gal! A bachelor’s student with a Biotechnology major, this fashion diva gives very good massages and gels with the team with her micro expression reading and beauty tips.)