Dr Ritika Sambyal
As renowed writer Elisha Cooper once said “The Train is a Small World Moving through a Larger World”
I being the part of J&K Gyanodaya Express experience this saying. In a unique and inspiring initiative, the University of Jammu in collaboration with Higher Education Council Government of Jammu and Kashmir (UT) has launched the “College on Wheels: J&K Gyanodaya Express” which was a pioneering educational endeavour and the first of its kind in Jammu and Kashmir. This unique and extraordinary initiative aimed to redefine education, effectively dissolving boundaries and reshaping the world into a boundless University. Based on the projects submitted, 700 girl students shortlisted to undertake a 2 week train journey which was started on 19th November 2023 (from Katra) and culminated on 2nd December 2023. Total 102 projects were shortlisted from 7 different Higher Education Institutions of J&K (UT). One of those projects was based on the theme of “Barter of Tradition” where the objective was to unravel the multifaceted dynamics of culinary cultural exchange, exploring how the shared journey aboard the J&K Gyanodaya Express fosters a vibrant interchange of traditional culinary practices, flavors, and cultural expressions (Kimb, Gulra, Timbru, Kachalu, Kaladi, Alle Ki Badi, Saglas, Daan etc). The objective was to promote one’s own traditional food recipes in exchange of their traditional food recipes. Since the extraordinary journey of this kind not only aims to promote education but also serves as a platform for cultural exchange, particularly through the rich tapestry of culinary diversity found in cities like Delhi, Gujarat, Mumbai, Goa, Bengaluru, and Nagpur. Also, by delving into the intricate tapestry of interactions among passengers, food vendors, and the train’s culinary infrastructure, the project aimed to provide an understanding of how culinary practices act as conduit for cultural exchange. Moreover, one-of-a-kind Journey, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s profound views on education, is making strides in empowering women while fostering a deeper appreciation for India’s diverse cultural heritage.
The Gyanodaya Express was not just a train; actually it was a moving classroom, a cultural exchange hub, and a gastronomic adventure rolled into one. The goal was to expose students to the vast cultural diversity that makes India unique. As the J&K Gyanodaya Express chugs through the heartland of India, it becomes a conduit for the exchange of traditional delights. Each city it passed through that is from the bustling streets of Delhi with its spicy chaats to the coastal flavors of Mumbai’s street food, Vada Pao, Sev Puri, Jawar Ki Roti, Purn Poli, etc, the spicy delight of Gujarat (Dhokla, Khandavi etc), the vibrant and exotic dishes of Goa (Pista Wadi, Choclates etc.), the tech-savvy Bengaluru modern cuisines (Mysore Pak), to the delectable sweets of Nagpur (Orange Burfi, Jawari Ki bahakhar, Mirchi Ki Chutney etc) – offers a feast for the senses. The students got a chance to interact with Local vendors, local residents etc. which enabled them to not only taste their traditional dishes but also learn about the intricate art of regional cooking.
At the core of this initiative is a commitment to women’s empowerment. Based on the Ganghi Ji’s saying that “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate an entire family” the J&K Gyanodaya Express prioritizes the inclusion and education of women, recognising that empowerment begins with knowledge. The train hosted special training workshops, interactions, presentation, etc. focused on women’s issues, career opportunities, and leadership skills. By fostering an environment where women can actively participate in their educational journey, the J&K Gyanodaya Express has contributed towards breaking down barriers and stereotypes. Also, Mahatma Gandhi believed that true education goes beyond textbooks; it encompasses holistic development and an understanding of one’s cultural roots. The College on Wheels: J&K Gyanodaya Express embodies this vision by combining academic pursuits with cultural exploration and culinary experiences. The train not only imparted knowledge but also instilled a sense of pride in India’s diverse heritage, creating well-rounded individuals with a deep appreciation for their roots.
Therefore, the “College on Wheels: J&K Gyanodaya Express” was not merely a train journey it was more than a means of reaching destination, it was and is still an odyssey of discovery, a moving meditation and a visual feast that blends education, cultural exchange, and culinary exploration. By weaving together the rich tapestry of Delhi, Gujarat, Mumbai, Goa, Bengaluru, and Nagpur, this initiative was fostering a new generation of informed, empowered, and culturally aware individuals. The J&K Gyanodaya Express is not only promoting education but also sowing the seeds of unity and understanding through the shared joy of culinary exploration.
(The author is Faculty, Udhampur Campus, University of Jammu)
Dr Ritika Sambyal