Science Express is synonymous to joy – if you are seeing it for the first time, it will be a curious joy and if you have visited or worked on it before, it is the joy of returning to a family or a source of inspiration.
As the train covered almost every state connected through the railway network in India, the communicators were able to live the sheer diversity of our country! I expected the diversity but what I discovered was the small similarities in our countrymen. A visitor, like a free electron; inside a white long tunnel that is our train, sometimes defies the laws of science and wanders the almost empty coaches, orbit-less, enjoys the exhibition. At other times, the rush increases and the visitors cannot stray from walking in two lines, much like the electrons that don’t stray from a fixed orbit. Although there are many people who are outliers and cannot be fit in categories but based upon the similarities after visiting more than 70 stations, I tried to categorize some of the visitors. Here goes!
Category number one was easy – the school students. Visiting the train in huge numbers, the students typically come with their notebooks, often followed by teachers urging them to write. Few of them actually try to write up the entire content of the train as they walk! Even if many seem to be running, I would try to strike a conversation, inspire them to think and ask questions. Students from government schools as well as private schools visit the train and every so often I could tell them apart just by from the expressions on their carefree faces! Students are a delightful combination of mischief and curiosity. The teachers try strategies to make sure the kids will be disciplined – many schools even announce beforehand that students have to submit a report on the exhibition. But we have all been in school and know that students are free birds, doing what they will.
A sub-category of this is children who visit with their parents or friends. Some parents will urge the kids to ask questions and insist that we explain even the most self-explanatory models to their children. I have even seen kids asking their parents to wait while they read and learn different concepts. I believe no one wants to be left out, which is understandable.
A second category is one of visitors who are in a hurry or not very interested, maybe even looking for trouble. Those in a hurry are probably passengers waiting for another train which is coming up on the next platform in 20 minutes or something like that. Rarely, if the train does not interest someone, these are usually groups of young adults who probably don’t want to read so much right after college; they cruise through the train. I found these groups challenging as I struggled to find a way to positively engage them.
A third category comprises of the intellectuals. They read everything and ask a lot of questions. They are genuinely interested and even though I enjoy interacting with them, sometimes I do wonder if they are attention-seeking…
The fourth category of visitors is my favourite – the specially-abled children and adults. I find, on a personal level, I can push my limits at communication with them. Their eyes speak to me, they catch my actions and words very quickly and I feel a sense of content after these interactions.
Every visitor wants time and attention from the communicators and this presents us with the opportunity to converse with people of all ages and from every walk of life. There have been days when huge masses of people visited the train. In Mumbai CST, we had no choice but to extend exhibition hours as 1.25 lakh people visited in a day. During such times, visitors would have to wait in the queue outside for couple of hours and inside the train they wouldn’t get much time to see the exhibition; again, owing to the rush. It is very difficult to put yourself in someone else’s shoes; being a part of a national mobile exhibition makes me better at it every day. It also helps me understand why many visitors fail to understand my predicament. Perhaps if I had waited in a queue for an hour and was asked to move a little faster or not be allowed to click photographs, I would have been frustrated too! Few visitors did appreciate our patience and I am deeply grateful to them. As a communicator, we play a crucial role to convey the message in short and innovative ways while we also mobilise the crowd to prevent a stampede from happening.
When I try to think of a solution to crowd management, sometimes I feel maybe there is no solution… but second thoughts make me realise that perhaps it is an opportunity to make my communication more effective, as reaching maximum number of people with our message is one of the project’s primary goals. Yes, I realise that the true battle isn’t time against crowd but it is my battle to bring out the best communication against allotted time.
– By Reema Jaiswal as a member of the SECAS blog team: Reema Jaiswal, Nitin Tiwane and Guest member, Jigu : )
(Fondly known by the name of ‘amma’, Reema loves to read and has a good command over writing. A caring individual, she may look calm but is full of fiery ethics and firm ideologies. Loves Kids Zone so she can express her creativity and the enthusiasm follows her even when it comes to cooking! Read more of her words here: https://sciencexpressphase7.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/the-first-40-hours-travel/)