Chasing the Illusive White Train…

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On 5th July 2012, reluctantly I was being dragged to see Science Express Biodiversity Special, stationed on the 24th platform at Howrah.  I saw a white train and a long queue of people waiting to see the exhibition. Outside, the train windows were adorned with vinyl prints of photographs. These made me very happy for they showcased the wildlife of India, clicked in their habitat – Biodiversity of India in its full glory! Immediately my perspective changed and I was grateful my friend convinced me to go with him. While others grumbled about waiting in the queue, I clicked pictures. I waited for 45 minutes but I was filled with curiosity – if the train was so beautiful on the outside, I wondered what it held in store for me inside…

FB_IMG_1500202685861.jpgI entered the first coach and stood in front of a life-size model of the tiger (which I would later fondly refer to as ‘sheru’). I just stood admiring and soon the communicator in that coach asked me not to stand there. I requested to take a picture but I was promptly refused. I was still happy as I moved along and I simply loved the exhibits – amazing! The children around me seemed to be engrossed too; some happily while some bored, looking for mischief around the interactive panels.

In coach no. 9, I asked a communicator, “Why do we need biodiversity to sustain? Why are you particularly showcasing biodiversity?” I knew the answer but I was just interested in hearing what she had to say. To my astonishment, she replied, “Biodiversity is very important, especially animals. People love to see animals”.  I asked, “Is this the answer you give to students too?” Disappointed, shocked and angry with her ‘yes’, I left. I have always loved to interact with people and I felt that in her place, I could have done a better job at being a communicator.

In the next coach, I inquired about how to become a communicator on Science Express and was told to follow the official website for announcements. I started following the website after I went back and since then I kept track. Next year, I saw the advertisement, applied and even though my exams were going on, I went to Bhubaneshwar for an interview. I got selected for the 6th phase but when I asked if I would get a leave to appear for an exam back home and they refused, I decided not to join. While the year passed I felt I still wanted to be a part of the project. I applied for the 7th phase and was interviewed at Kolkata. I got selected and this time, there was no looking back!

After a few days I went to Ahmedabad for training. Life as a science communicator is like surfing on a wave; full of ups and downs. After the training, we were told on behalf of the management that the train may have to be postponed. My heart sank…

I went back home with a deep regret weighing me down, that I will not get a chance to work on this train because I denied the first time and it will elude me forever… I started looking for other employment and PhD opportunities but somewhere in the corner of my heart, the flame to work on board Science Express, burned. Inexhaustible. On a fine morning after a couple of months, I got a call that the train would run and they asked me if I was still interested in joining. My happiness knew no bounds as I said, “Yes” and repeated with joy after I hung up, “Yes! Yesss!”

I boarded Rajdhani Express from Kolkata to New Delhi with a little fear and prayers that nothing goes wrong this time. As I arrived at Delhi Safdarjung, I saw the majestic white beast, I was overjoyed. The first day I was allotted Coach no. 8 which was about Coasts and Islands and there my journey began. If I were to summarize my adventure, I would run out of words but the summary would remain incomplete… Enjoyment, learning, interactions, endless platform discussions, anger to indecent questions, from little joy to love of kids, exploring Indian cuisine, short little trips and one day field trips… I could continue forever but most importantly I made irreplaceable lovely friends – This adventure changed me from a mere Bengali boy to a responsible citizen of India.

I am now a communicator for life and I love it!

– Amalendu Maji as animatedly shared with the SECAS blog team: Reema Jaiswal, Nitin Tiwane and Guest member, Jigu : )

(Amalendu worked on Science Express Biodiversity Special, Phase III and the Science Express Climate Action Special Phase I (Science Express Phases 7 and 8). He joined Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre as a Programme Officer and contributed to training aspect in the SECAS Phase II.

Carefree Amalendu, being part of the management team is now a stickler for rules!)

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