As one of our religious saying goes "Travel and you will be healthy and wealthy!"
With the motto of receiving real life experience, information, innovative knowledge and collaborative learning, around 700 female students of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir viz., Jammu University, Kashmir University, Cluster University Jammu, Cluster University Srinagar, SMVD University, Affiliated Colleges of University of Kashmir (Department of Higher Education), Affiliated Colleges of University of Jammu(Department of Higher Education), IUST, and BGSBU, alongwith their 80 teachers/mentors boarded the Gyanodaya Express at Katra on 19th November, 2023, in the presence of honourable Lieutenant Governor and senior officials of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir. They were later on joined by around 50 female students from University of Delhi on arrival in New Delhi. I was indeed privileged to be a part of this journey as one among dozens of mentors.
The students thus embarked upon the journey in their quest of realising the "College on Wheels" project-- the dream project of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir for imparting pathbreaking and innovative way of imparting knowledge to the students of Jammu and Kashmir. It was truly a milestone moment in the history of higher education in Jammu and Kashmir. It is also a testament of the policies UT Government led by the honourable LG are implementing to directly empower the female students of Jammu and Kashmir, and bring inclusion and participation in every sphere of development. College on Wheels Project is also in line with the objectives of NEP 2020 to bring our education out of the conventional confines of the classroom into the real life as envisioned by the honourable Prime Minister to make our country a developed nation.
During their travel, the students got a feel of the unique diversity, spirituality, pluralism and the rapid economic development which our country offers. The students got to visit high profile, national institutions, educational institutions, defence sites, and places of heritage across such diverse places like Katra, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Goa, Bengaluru and Wardha.
Many students were undertaking train travel for the first time in their lives. It was a unique experience for them as well as for others where they would mingle with the students and teachers from other parts of Jammu and Kashmir for one common goal--- of learning while travelling through exchange of ideas and blend of various cultures. In the process, the students of Jammu and Kashmir also acted as cultural ambassadors of their territory as they introduced a feel of its culture to the residents of the different states wherever they visited. Especially notable was a cultural programme held at a famous heritage spot called Adalaj, located just outside Ahmedabad, in which students and teachers from different regions of Jammu and Kashmir presented their cultural items including Dogri and Kashmiri folk songs and dances.
Travelling in the special train named Gyanodaya Express while reading, writing and working on their specified projects gave the students a unique and once in a lifetime experience. It was indeed a "rolling classroom", but it was also a "classroom of life" because it exposed students to some facets of real life which most of them may not have experienced before. It will definitely inculcate abilities in them to tackle the real world problems. Because engaging with previously unknown life experiences helps in the fostering of personal growth, self-confidence and ultimately decision making skills which are so crucial for leadership role building.
As the Gyanodaya Express traversed across the length and breadth of country, our students got to know firsthand about the great diversity, heritage and development of our country especially in the scientific and defence technology domains. Wherever the students visited, they were showered with love and kindness. In this journey, they lived through the time tested ideal of Unity in Diversity. It was indeed a great experience for all the students as it blended learning with real life experiences and rich cultural exchange. Acquainting oneself with varied cultural experiences is key to buliding cosmopolitan outlook in the contemporary times. College on Wheels Project has definitely opened up new horizons and vistas of thought and opportunity for our students.
During the course of the journey, the students received knowledge and information directly from the country's finest scientific minds at such illustrious institutions like ISRO and IISc. It will surely open up new possibilities and opportunities for the students in their future. Never mind the breathtaking experiences of boarding warships and submarines alongwith our frontline servicemen, the best and bravest in the world. Students got some of the proudest moments in their lives when they firsthand witnessed the supremacy our country is building in the scientific and defence domains. These experiences are inevitably going to illuminate their lives in the paths ahead of them.
As we all know, J&K is characterised by a profound amalgamation of religions, ethnicities, regions, cultures, dialects, and artistic expressions, but all bound by the dictum of co-existence and a symphony of unity in the midst of diversity. It is a reverberation which is in complete coherence with the broader spectrum of Indian identity.In other words, it is a microcosm reflecting the essence of Indian identity which is also defined by co-existence, pluralism and unity in diversity. This train journey through out the various places of our country served as a perfect template to traverse this diversity. In fact, the Gyanodaya Express itself served as a symbolic image of the essential characteristics that define our union territory and Country. The train, as a space, and its travellers served as another microcosm of the unity in diversity and living together through the ideals of pluralism, syncretism and co-existence. It will definitely forge more amity and integration in our country.
Moreover, spending time at Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad and Sewagram in Wardha and getting involved in Gandhian practices just helped the students acquire such ethos and enlightenment even more. It is worth recounting that in consonance with his efforts of attempting to understand the diverse country of ours and bring the countrymen closer to each other, Mahatma Gandhi had famously undertaken a train journey of the entire country. Hence, the importance of Gyanodaya Express to achieve all this becomes even higher.
One hopes that the project continues on in future too with much more vibrancy. Commendations to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and all other stakeholders for successfully organising the journey!
(Author is Assistant Professor, Amar Singh College, Cluster University Srinagar)