1. Success Story

An English Faculty and The Plant World


 “An English faculty and the plant world! It really was an interesting combination. I was there to teach communications, and little did my colleagues and students know, how curious I was to learn from them!” says Dr Alka Jain.  

Dr Jain has a Doctorate in English (PhD) and is currently a teaching faculty in a University, a poet, and a free-lance journalist. Born on 28th of October, 1974, in a Marwari family in Kolkata, she received her initial schooling in the city and went on to graduate from Loreto College, Kolkata. Encouraged by her parents, particularly her father, a lawyer, she followed her literary pursuits and wrote several poems and short stories as a child. She now lives in Jhansi (Uttar Pradesh) with her family. Owing to her husband’s continuous encouragement and belief in her capabilities, she did her M. A. in English Literature and then pursued her PhD successfully.  Dr Jain continues to write articles, essays, and poems on human situation, youth issues, and feminist concerns. Her works portray realism in its barest form.  

Alka Jain writes in three languages - English, Hindi, and Marwari (Rajasthani), and her first collection of poems is ready to be out in the form of a book. She chooses inanimate objects as subjects and renders them with human qualities. Her literary works have also been published in the Free Press Journal, Mumbai, and international online magazines like Bharat Darshan. She has contributed articles to Dainik Jagran and several journals like The TajMahal ReviewGatimaan, and Agrimaan, to name a few. In her book, Feminine Concerns in the Plays of Mahesh Dattani and Girish Karnad, Dr Jain attempts to give ‘Feminism’ an Indian definition.  

After her marriage, Dr Jain settled in Jhansi. The agrarian and rural surroundings of Jhansi were a sharp contrast to the metropolitan environment of Kolkata and deeply affected her sensitivities, bringing about a dynamic change in her perspective towards life. A keen observer of human nature and society, she captures the emotions and lives of ordinary farmers, labourers, men, and women in vivid and raw descriptions. The metaphors she uses are refreshingly new and striking.  

Dr  Jain was presented with a wonderful opportunity of teaching in Rani LakshmiBai Central Agricultural University, Jhansi, to teach Communication Skills and Personality Development, to first semester undergraduate students. She soon realised that apart from teaching her regular subject, she as a poet and writer also had the golden opportunity to sensitise the students on the need to have love for the world of Agriculture. She wanted them to develop empathy and affinity for agriculture, a feeling of oneness if they desired to give their optimum in the field. 

Agriculture is lifeless without passion and agri- research is a passive field if it is practised without the involvement of all the faculties of the heart and mind. The senses and sensibilities needed to be sharpened making value- enrichment the essential element in fulfilling the goal of pursuing ‘responsible agriculture’. To develop the personality of students, curriculum was not enough. A sound moral and ethical environment combined with a constructive thought process was the need of the hour. Dr Jain was most excited by the prospect of developing in the students, a love for farming and agriculture, something that would give them a holistic and fulfilling approach to their careers. In her own words in Agri-Life, a magazine started by RLBCAU: 

“Two years at this University have changed the way I see my countryside and the surroundings around me. No longer can I afford to go past a farm or a field, with just a few poetic reflections on nature’s abundance, or, the lush green panorama. From being a girl born and brought up in a metro with cement structures and roads all over, to one settled in Jhansi, I suddenly found rejoice in the beautiful mustard fields, fodder laden bullock carts and that innocent jute charpoy laid out in a corner of a field, under a shady tree. It was beautiful and poetic! A few years slipped by easily, amidst nature’s bounty..... 

......And then, my experience at Rani Laxmi Bai Agricultural University changed the way I looked at farming. It revived a part of my heart and mind that was hitherto asleep. Agriculture and plantations, I realised are more than just creative writing topics. They are real and tangible concerns dealing with serious policies, vision, reality, and dreams on a day-to-day basis. It had never occurred to me earlier, that the yellow mustard crop dancing under the sun can be of an improved variety, or that a particular tree can be affected by a deadly virus. With my limited knowledge and exposure, courtesy a non- scientific background,  all that I knew was that cutting them down and infestation by termites are perhaps the only way trees can be harmed”. 

  Already experimenting with audio- visual poetry recitation on You-Tube and other social mediums, Dr Jain decided to use her poetry and video presentations to influence the imagination and feelings of the students in a positive way. She was well aware that if students are to be touched upon, the medium or channel should be something they call their own. Computers and technology had to be bought in the picture! Internet and You-Tube videos were the best means, as the youth connects instantly to audio- visual means. Plus, they would love a teacher who had an online presence, followers and likes! You have to be one among the youth if you want them to follow you. Once the path became clear, she decided to use her poetic skills to unravel the human side of the youth. The you-tube channel was a brilliant way of interacting with the youth, as it provides opportunity for an open dialogue- and is an unconvential style of conversation. Dr Jain’s poems (her own) and picture content and music (pictures/music are taken from net, courtesy the others) are designed with the belief that within each individual, lies a poet, a sensitive human being. The challenge was to find a way to that poet and then have a comfortable chat.  

On Agricultural Education Day, this year she presented a video to reflect upon the pride of farming and the need to revive the lost glory of farmers and agriculture. The poem glorifies farmers, researchers, and agricultural institutions as creators of a modern and developed India.  Video link to Desh Hai Kisanon Ka (देश है किसानों काhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Tz7XMkGQJw 

The video was played by the University on the Agricultural Education Day Eve. It was seen that the audio- visual presentation of this idealistic thought left a deep impact on the students, making them delve deep into their consciousness to recognise and accept agriculture as the pulse of the nation and the entire world. It also creates awareness amongst the public about the pressures and travails of the farmers and their duties as responsible citizens.  

Another of her You- Tube video “ Dhan Ko Kachra Na Samjho” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkD1Jcfz-Y8 deals with the importance of bio- composting and becoming a zero- waste nation. Yet another topic she deals with is water conservation. Naaliyon mein behta hoon! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFXWNmUfgHk\ 

The video on Bio- composting was again played on World Soil Day, by the University. The idea of these videos is to present the topics in a dramatic way, so as to involve the students psychologically, morally, and emotionally in the most important sector of our economy and life. Dr Jain believes that passion must lead profession and inspires the students to see themselves at the center of this whole process of food- growing, carving out a niche by playing an idealistic role in their career. Is that not what holistic education is all about?  

Dr. Jain wants to convince the students that they have a valuable purpose- to help the farmers grow excellent quality food grains so that all the mouths in the world can be fed. Which other activity can be more important? Her videos have become a novel way of teaching students, the ethics of agriculture and research. Her subscribers are increasing and a majority are students from the University. Putting her soul and life in the videos and the poems, Dr Jain wants to tell the students that a commoner like her looks up to all the research scientists, teaching fraternity, farmers, students, and institutions that are committed to feeding the hungry. Nothing can be nobler than the profession of farming. 

By Dr. Alka Jain 
PhD. English 
Guest Faculty, 
Rani Laxhmi Bai Central Agricultural University, 
Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, India 

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