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Travel
August 23, 2017

Voyagr And 360Plus Take Students On A Conscientious Adventure

Text by Sharmi Ghosh Dastidar

A group of youngsters are on a month-long journey of discovering the planet and the ill-effects of global warming

Sakshi Patel’s excitement is palpable as she talks about her forthcoming trip to Ladakh. Visions from the film 3 Idiots that have stayed with her over the years will probably come to life. “I’ve heard so much about the place. I can’t wait to set foot on it,” chirps the teenager who has been brought up in an NGO based in Jaipur since she was a year old. Her animated face lights up once again as you quiz her about her experiences in Agra and Delhi, the two cities reputed for their history, art, and architecture. “Interestingly, this was my third visit to the Taj Mahal. So, when I witnessed the awe in my co-travellers faces I thought, ‘Yes, see and be amazed. I’ve been through this before… twice!'”

Patel is one of the five students (two are from Andhra Pradesh and two from Manipur) selected to be part of a Leadership Collective this year, organised by the virtual organisation 360Plus, expedition experts Voyagr and a non-profit outfit, Junoon, to enrich the lives of students through the magic of travel. This year the collective includes 20 students from the US and five Indian students who do not have the where-with-all to embark on such trips. This motley group of eager youngsters began their journey with heritage walks in Agra and Delhi. The programme will culminate in the barren but gobsmacking terrain of Ladakh.

With climate change and its repercussions as its core topic this year, the project aims at instilling the ramifications of this serious global crisis in the minds of these children. It’s interesting how each one co-related the topic to their countries, cultures, and backgrounds. Says Patel, “When we were taken to the Agra Fort, we were narrated stories of how the emperors and queens lived. There was a mechanism of natural air-conditioning that obviously wouldn’t work today because the world has heated up tremendously. But you can relate to the tales.”

New York-based high school student Farhan Mashud seemed to be impressed by how the base of the Taj Mahal included a stepwell. But what really piqued his interest was how climates affected the cultures of different places. “The habits and occupations are directly influenced by the climate. So is the art and architecture of the buildings. While the base of the Taj Mahal holds a stepwell, the markings in the different places in the Fort were done with pink slabs of stone that have, with time, changed their gradient and colour. It is indicative of the age of different quarters of the Fort,” observed Mashud, adding, “The heritage monuments in Agra are strikingly different from the ones in Delhi as we noticed at Agrasen ki Baoli, the Gurudwara at Bangla Sahib and the Fatehpuri Masjid. Even the handicrafts at Dilli Haat tell some story about the places where the products are from. I would love to come back to India with my family.”

Says Sridar Iyengar of 360Plus, “Three years ago a network of people from the US and India with first-hand experience of working jointly at the grassroots level in India, decided to level the playing field and provide ‘learning through travel’ opportunities to teenagers from low-resource communities. This thought evolved into the Leadership Collective, a travel program designed to offer experiences to students outside academics. We stick to this age group because we feel that it is at this time that travel will enrich their mind and the trajectory of growth will be more dynamic. Earlier we conducted this project with only foreign students. This year we chose Indian students because an exchange and interaction would facilitate a broader knowledge pool. Next year we want to add onto more participation from India. Most of these kids have never left their cities, never travelled in an aeroplane. Everything is new and hence thrilling for them. And at the base of it all is the learning and experience that they take back with them, convinced that they are capable of so much more.”

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