IIT Gandhinagar students backpacked to explore India in 42 days

Gandhinagar: All the 27 teams comprising total 84 students who undertook the Explorer Fellowship of the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) this summer, recently presented their journey experiences and learnings with the community through short video documentaries, on September 21, 2019.

Explorer Fellowship is one of the flagship summer programs of IITGN which aims to encourage students to explore and absorb different aspects of life in order to increase their societal connection. The institute supports its students to travel for six weeks across the length and breadth of the country during their summer break so as to get them introduced to diverse cultures, lifestyles, people, and places of India. As a part of this adventurous fellowship, students must travel to at least six states and cover at least one state in the Northern, North-Eastern and Southern parts of the country on a given budget. The entire trip is to be planned frugally, the students have to travel by sleeper class on trains or by state government buses, and stay at low-cost accommodations such as youth hostels, homestays, and dharamshalas. Each team also decides a theme for their exploration trip.

During the summer of 2019, student teams travelled around the themes such as Modern Art v/s Ancient Art, Tourist Attractions, Cuisines of India, Dams and Water Resources, Handicrafts and Visual Arts, Fishing Communities, Geographical Indication (G.I.) Tagged Products, Rivers Nurturing India, and so on.

The students covered various states and remotest places of India including Agra, Varanasi, Mirzapur, Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh; Jaipur, Alwar, Makrana in Rajasthan; Delhi; Mcleodganj in Himachal Pradesh; Datiam, Indore in Madhya Pradesh; Jalgaon, Ajanta-Ellora caves, Khed Shivapur in Maharashtra; Kolkata, Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, Malda, Sundarbans in West Bengal; Konark, Puri in Orissa; Guwahati, Majuli island, Sualkuchi in Assam; Cherrapunji in Meghalaya; Gangtok in Sikkim; Kohima, Khonoma in Nagaland; Gaya, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur in Bihar; Borra caves in Andhra Pradesh; Hyderabad in Telangana; Mysore, Hampi in Karnataka; Thiruvananthapuram, Idukki, Kottayam, Kumarakom in Kerala; Aliyar, Coimbatore, Kanyakumari, Thoothukudi, Rameshwaram, Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu; Puducherry; among others.

Team Members of ‘Befikre Backpackers’, who travelled on the theme “Various Cuisines in India”, described their journey as an eye-opener and said, “While travelling, we came across a diverse variety of cultures, people, food, clothing, transportation, weather; and we realised that India is indeed unity in diversity. The variety of food that we ate was just overwhelming and the type of food almost matched the culture and climate of the place.”

‘Team Catamaran’ took up the theme of “Fishing Communities across India” and embarked on a journey to get acquainted with indigenous fishing techniques, beliefs and rituals. Recalling their experience, the team members said, “We covered six states of varying social relevance, their indigenous techniques, their origin myths, their experiences and the waters that they lived on. Though they all differed from each other in all these aspects, they came together in their implied sorrow. We noted their plight against climate change induced regulations, their sadness over their invisibility and their pathos on the struggles of everyday life. In hindsight, this expedition changed the way we looked at the waters that surround us. We have learnt intricacies of living next to the waters, we have understood fishing as a craft and the perils that destroy their lives even in the absence of a storm.”

‘The Triumvirate’ team, who travelled across 13 states and 20 cities in India, to explore their theme “Geographical Indication (G.I.) Tagged Products”, gathered knowledge on 15 of such products from grassroots workers and production units. Describing their journey experience, the team said, “We would like to thank IIT Gandhinagar for giving us this wonderful opportunity whose memories will always be cherished by us. Through the Explorer Fellowship, we learnt about the rich and vibrant heritage of India. This journey also taught us time management, people skills, ground research, contacting officials, etc. We can now be sure that wherever we are in the future, no matter how far, we can survive ourselves, and the credit goes to IITGN Explorer Fellowship.”

The Explorer Fellowship was first introduced in 2015 and a total of 259 students of the institute had travelled across the country under the support of this fellowship till 2018. In addition to this, another 84 students have availed this fellowship in the current year.