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A Journey of Journeys

"I come from a small village of Chakan, near Pune. During my graduation days at Fergusson College, I’ve been a part of Gyan Setu. I was at Jnana Prabodhini’s leadership development course while preparing for competitive exams, where I got to know about Gyan Setu and its visits to new states for conducting science experiments.

I had never visited any states with the purpose of giving back something, plus I have always loved teaching. It was a win-win situation for me. But when I told my parents about the visit, they were reluctant to send me.

"Charity begins at home." So, I thought, why not conduct these experiments in the school of my own village? Seeing this, my parents were proud of me, that my heart was in the right place, and that I actually wanted to do something good. After this, they were not at all hesitant about sending me for Gyan Setu visits.

My first visit was to Sikkim. When we reached Sikkim, I knew it was going to be tough for me to say goodbye to this serene place. On the first day of the school visits, there was a different kind of nervousness; first, it was a new experience for teaching, and second, it was a completely different state. The first school I went to, everyone was able to answer whatever science-related questions we were asking. At that moment, I felt my coming here was going to be in vain. But as we moved to different schools, I realized how much of a difference in the environment there is for students. The way the students struggled to come to school, but the enthusiasm they brought with them, was really captivating.

I went on an exploratory visit to Manipur after this. There were occasions where we were told of the setbacks of the state, but when we got there, it was all worth the risks. Veena Tai, who has worked there for 3–4 years at PSVP, was coordinating this trip with us. When we reached our destination, we didn’t feel the state was welcoming us so well with the strikes and weather conditions, but when we reached Tamenglong, a few people came to us and took the bags and stuff from our hands and gave us a warm welcome. Little did we know that these people were the principal and the staff of the school we were staying at. Seeing their sobriety and warmth left us in awe. A curveball hit us when we got to know that the workshops for which we prepared in Hindi, now we’ll have to do them in English.

I have been to Assam twice, Arunachal Pradesh once, and Orissa too. On my trip to Assam, I wanted to put my education to some use. So, I aggregated a few biology-related activities with the ones of Gyan Setu. All the negativities that are spread about the north east were proved wrong when I actually saw it with my eyes. My second visit to Assam was a solo trip, which was for volunteer training. There was shyness at the start when I used to train the students, but that didn’t stay for a long time, thanks to our Gyan Setu modules. To overcome the linguistic barriers, we started a volunteer training program.

Every time I went to different schools, I learned more from them than I could teach. I have always been blessed with a diverse team. Their way of thinking, their way of questioning, was something that I inculcated in myself too.

If the locals find you to be trustworthy, they will take care of you as their own, but if you fail to make them feel safe with you, they wouldn’t even look at you. Their frankness would be evident. While I was in the north-east, I realized what kind of negative picture is being presented to the world about these places.

If you are travelling solo, the whole planning process is on your shoulders. As much as I have loved travelling alone, there were days when I felt helpless and wished I had travelled with companions. Missing trains or buses while travelling in a group were moments to laugh about, but the same things made my eyes wet when I travelled alone.

I learnt how to live independently and always think outside of the box. My time at Gyan Setu has helped me learn to multitask and manage my time. I have learnt from them how to conserve Mother Nature. Until I visited the north east, those were just names I had learned in geography classes, but they are now diametrically opposed.

Gyan Setu Katta has been getting an excellent response from viewers all across India. Making pilot visits and Katta events to other states of the country can surely broaden the horizons. My goal as Publicity and Volunteer Management is to educate as many volunteers as possible about Gyan Setu. Learning and implementing changes to the challenges faced by people in those states, which we see as volunteers, may bring a small amount of change, but that’s nothing, right? That would be one step towards national integration.

Ashutosh Bhujbal

Gyan Setu Publicity and Volunteer Management

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