A Journey to Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Research Fellowship of European Union

An Inspirational Story from Kedar Valley in India

Gursharn Singh Randhawa

     Before I begin this story, I would like to tell you a little about how I discovered it. It so happened that Gurmukh Singh Johal, an old friend of mine from college days, had come to his alma mater Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) Ludhiana as a visiting professor in 2011. Gurmukh, affectionately called Guri, is presently a professor at Purdue University, USA. I made up my mind to attend at least one of his lectures and so planned a visit to PAU for the 2nd of February, 2011. I had two concerns for this journey: I had to return the same day due to some important engagements the next day and I was risking pain due to a chronic back problem which usually aggravates with travel. Hence, this visit involving 10 hours road journey and one hour sitting during the lecture was going to be an arduous task. Just after finalizing the arrangements for my visit, I announced to the master's students in my class that one student could accompany me to attend the lecture of a US professor in Ludhiana. Immediately a student raised his hand and I promised to pick him up the next morning. I thought he would sit on the front seat and I would take the back seat so that in case of back pain, I would be able to lie down.

     I came back to my office after the class. A little later a student entered my office room and said, "Sir, I would also like to attend tomorrow's lecture at PAU". I wanted to refuse but looking at the excitement on the face of the young man could not do so. I thought this lecture might prove to be a turning point in the life of this student. I did not want him to know about my reluctance and hence immediately said, "You are welcome to join." This decision meant that in case of a possible back pain I would not be able to lie down during the long journey. I told myself that I have sacrificed my comfort for a good cause. A little later another student stepped in and made the same request. I agreed to take him too as the decision about my sitting during the journey had already been made. I was happy to realize that I was going to do something good for these young students.

     At 6:00 AM the next day we started our journey for Ludhiana from my residence at IIT Roorkee. One student took the front seat and the other two sat to my right on the backseat. We talked on various topics and the five hours' journey just went by. But throughout the journey I struggled to call the students by their correct names. It was not my fault - their names were very similar- Rakesh, Naresh and Dinesh (all -esh ending!). Rakesh was the one who raised his hand in the class. The second student who came to my office was Naresh and the third one was Dinesh. We reached PAU just at the start of the lecture. As expected Guri's lecture was informative and inspiring. After the lecture Guri wanted us to have lunch with him. We agreed but had to take lunch in a hurry as we had to start our journey back. Then Rakesh informed us that he would not accompany us to Roorkee as he wanted to go to his native place in Rajasthan. Dinesh and me thanked Guri, said our goodbyes and started our journey. Again, as in the forenoon, chatting on various matters we reached Saharanpur in about four hours. As we crossed this city, Dinesh said, "Sir, do you know Naresh's story?" I replied, "I just know that he comes from a very remote area in Himalayas. I do not know more about him." Then looking to Naresh, he said, "Please tell sir your story." After a little reluctance, Naresh started narrating the following story of his life and soon I got totally absorbed in it:

     Agastyamuni, a small town, is located on the Rishikesh-Kedarnath road in the Kedar valley of Uttarakhand state of India. To the south of Agastyamuni, Rudrapryag city is about 20 km and to its north Gaurikund town is about 58 km. From Gaurikund one has to walk for about 14 km to reach the famous Kedarnath temple. From Agastyamuni, as one goes up the mountains towards the east, one finds on the left after covering a distance of about 1.5 km a small village called Nakot,. On 12th March, 1987 I was born in a small house in this village. My father, Mr. Kishori Lal Agarwal, was then a daily wage labourer working on construction sites and agricultural fields. When he was very young, his parents died and hence I could not get the love and care of my dada and dadi (paternal grandparents). I have also not seen my nana and nani (maternal grandparents). After the death of his parents, the life of my father became a constant struggle. In education he could not go beyond primary school. My mother, Mrs. Uma Devi, had never been to school and was a housewife. I was the youngest among the three children in the family. My brother, Ganesh, was three years older to me. My sister Deepa, 13 years older to me, was unfortunately born with only 30-40% vision.

      When I was three years old, I was enrolled in the nearby Government Primary School which was at a distance of about one km from our home. My parents were able to afford my study expenses easily as my school fee was Rs. one per month only. After some time my parents shifted me to another school, Saraswati Shishuavam Vidya Mandir where I got education up to class 8th. Here I received education from two excellent teachers - Mrs. Krishna Bhatt and Mrs. Kanti Bhandari. They taught me what alphabets are, how to write and how to be a good human being. They cared for me like a mother. Like my primary school, this school was also at a distance of one km from our home. The school fee was Rs. 80 per month. My parents somehow managed the expenses of my education. In the year 1995 my sister Deepa was married to a young man, Mr. Veer Singh Butola, who had a problem of reduced sensation in one hand. He belonged to a financially poor family. My sister's in-laws place was in Kanda village which was about 9 km from our home. In 1998, my mother developed a spinal cord problem. She started losing sensation in the lower part of her body. It was sort of a paralytic attack. Treatment from the local government hospital was given to her. Two years later her condition deteriorated but due to financial constraints we were not able to take her to a better hospital. Often she was in lot of pain but every time we could only manage to take her to the local hospital. The doctors there were not able to treat her. My brother and I started helping mother in the house work of cooking, washing and taking care of cattle. Passing through difficult periods I completed 8th standard in the year 2002.

      In June 2002, I took admission in the nearby Government Inter College in Agastyamuni. The college was about 1.5 km from our home and its fee was Rs. 30 per month. My brother and I continued to study despite many difficulties at home. In 2003, my father opened a small teashop on the main road to Kedarnath Temple. I started helping my father in the teashop work after college hours. Due to the burden of daily house work I was not able to focus on my studies and often got distracted with useless thoughts. I was very weak in mathematics and used to think that I would not be able to pass my high school examination which is believed to be a key milestone of Indian education system. But contrary to my fears I cleared my high school exam, though with just pass marks in mathematics. After completing my high school education I became happy to realize that now in further studies I can drop science to get rid of maths for ever. I started thinking about joining arts stream in the intermediates. But my teachers insisted that I should go for science. They suggested to me that I can avoid maths by opting for biology stream. I respected my teachers so much that I could not go against their advice and joined the biology stream.

      Amongst my teachers in the college, Mr. Narendra Datt Semwal played a key role in shaping my life. He was a very humble and honest teacher. In the beginning of 11th standard I was extremely scared of science, especially physics and chemistry. Sitting in the science classes gave me a terrible feeling. I used to sit in the back row and try to hide myself to avoid eye contact with teachers and save myself from their difficult questions. Our chemistry teacher in the past had met with an accident and was paralyzed. But he was a very enthusiastic and dedicated teacher. Despite so many physical disabilities he used to come regularly and teach us sincerely. But because of his illness his voice would not reach the back row and he became aware of it. One day he instructed the backbenchers to bring their chairs to the front row. Unfortunately, I was one of those backbenchers and it was a frightening experience for me to sit in the front row. After the chemistry class I again brought my chair back to the last row disregarding the instructions of the teacher. When the next day the chemistry teacher did not find me in the front row, he was enraged and scolded me. I became emotional and felt bad as I realized that if he was well he would never ask me to sit in the front. Somehow I developed courage to be in the front row. I told myself that it was good for me to be near the teacher. Soon I started to feel the good influence of meritorious students who were sitting in the front row.

      I completed my 11th standard and on 15th June, 2005 took admission to 12th standard. The 12th standard year is considered to be a very crucial time in the life of an Indian student but for me this year also proved to be full of difficulties which hampered my studies. Just after about a month of my admission to 12th standard, a cloudburst occurred in our village on 21st July, 2005. On this day I was supposed to fill my intermediate examination form. The cloudburst was followed by a flood which resulted in the death of six persons. When my mother was being taken to a safer place, her foot was badly injured. We took her to the local government hospital but her condition did not improve. We had no money and hence could not take her to a better hospital. With each passing day her condition was deteriorating and a month later she died. This was a big loss to our family. We often wept. My brother and I had to do all the house work including cooking food, washing clothes and taking care of cattle. When our father was away for daily wage labour work, I would manage the teashop after coming back from college. Despite these hardships, I continued working hard on my studies and in the final examination of 12th standard in 2006 got a first division scoring 79% marks. My brother completed his B. Sc. with second division and moved to Srinagar Garhwal for M. Sc. In Srinagar he gave tuitions to students to support his studies.

      I had a strong desire to be a medical doctor. Hence, after completing 12th I appeared in several medical exams but could not qualify any of these. I realized that my subject knowledge was not good enough to crack the Indian medical exams. Therefore I wanted to go to Srinagar Garhwal or Dehradun to attend coaching classes for medical entrance tests but could not do so because there was no money to support my coaching. So I had to give up my goal to be a doctor. My next option was joining B. Sc. in a prestigious college. Even others around me said, "You got good marks; you should join B. Sc. somewhere else, not in the local college". But I could not go anywhere for lack of money. I took admission in B. Sc. with zoology, botany and chemistry subjects in the local Government P. G. College at Agastyamuni. This college was at a distance of about 3 km from my home and was the only degree college in the entire Kedar valley. Like my brother, I also gave tuitions to 11th and 12th students for 4-5 hours daily to support my education. Giving tuitions proved to be beneficial to me in many ways. Apart from getting money to support my studies, I was appreciated for my efforts by many. This also helped me in making a good social network. These tuitions enhanced my knowledge in the subjects and I got clarity in several concepts. Some kind persons including my teachers specially chemistry teacher Dr. M. S. Panwar even helped me to pay my college fees. Dr. Panwar also supported me morally.

      My journey during bachelors was full of struggle. I took admission in B. Sc. in July, 2006. Hardly three months had passed, my sister was diagnosed with a large abdominal tumour. Her husband and in-laws were not in a position to get her operated. The financial condition of my sister's family was not good. Her husband, because of health problems, was not able to work to support the family financially. Hence we were regularly sending her money. But now we did not have enough money for her operation. Somehow we convinced our relatives and borrowed Rs. 60, 000 from some of them. With this money we could get sister operated at the Government Hospital, Srinagar Garhwal. The doctors removed a 2.5 kg tumour from her abdomen. Fortunately the tumor was found to be non-malignant. Later, after many years, we were able to return this money to our relatives.

      As my sister recovered, I tried to focus on my studies though I was getting very little time for it. After coming back from college I had to sit at the teashop for a few hours and then give 4-5 hours to tuitions. Cooking, washing and other house work also took a lot of my time. Life continued like this for 3-4 months. Then came February of the year 2007 and just two weeks before my B. Sc. first year examinations, I had to face a much bigger examination of my life. A tragedy of great magnitude struck for which I was not at all prepared. My father suffered a paralytic attack which led to multiple organ failure. It was a big jolt to my brother and me. We were already feeling devastated because of the death of our mother. Whatever money we had was spent on the sister's operation. Rather we were already under debt. My brother, cousin Keshav, my uncle ("chacha"), who retired as army subedar, and I took father to the local Government Hospital at Agastyamuni where the doctors immediately referred him to the Government Hospital in Srinagar Garhwal stating that his condition was very serious. We rushed father to the Srinagar hospital and there too the doctors referred him to Dehradun. We reached Dehradun and went to almost all the major hospitals including the Himalayan Institute Hospital at Jolly Grant but everywhere met with refusal. It was said that the condition was too serious to treat. All doctors were of the view that my father would not recover. But my uncle did not lose hope and insisted that his brother would recover if the doctors made an effort. Then, in desperation, we took him to the Combined Medical Institute (CMI) hospital which is a private and a very expensive hospital. We thought they would admit him. But here too, the doctors refused giving the same reason. Rather they advised us to take the patient back home than searching for any other hospital. It appeared that the end of my father was very near but we kept on trying.

      On a few occasions my father had met a local politician of whom he talked about in good terms. I thought this politician might be able to help us but none of us had the contact number of this person. I had the mobile number of a local press reporter and from him I could get the contact number of this politician. On the phone, I spoke about our desperate situation to the politician whose response was encouraging. I was assured that the best efforts would be made. Fortunately for us, the politician happened to be in Dehradun at the time and within a few minutes came to the CMI hospital and requested the doctors to admit my father. The doctors agreed. My father was immediately shifted to the ICU and the treatment was started. This hospital was very expensive. The charges for the ICU were Rs. 5,000 per day. My uncle who was accompanying us helped us financially. My father was kept in the ICU for several days and during this period along with my brother and me, one or two relatives were also spending all the time just outside the ICU. We were always hungry, barely surviving on tea, buns and biscuits as we had no money. We could not get full meals for many days. At night we all were sleeping on the floor. All this time the doctors repeatedly said that nothing better would happen to my father. But we did not lose hope.

      The final examinations of my B. Sc. first year class were to start on March 20. Due to the illness of my father I had not been able to study at all for the examinations. Till March 19, 2007, sitting outside the ICU, I had been daily telling myself that I would not be able to appear in the examinations this year. Moreover, considering the condition of father, my brother and I had to be near the ICU round the clock. The doctors and the other hospital staff members used to instruct us to bring some medicines; sometimes this happened at very odd hours. On 19th March 2007, I got two phone calls, one from Mrs. Rita Sachan, my botany teacher and the other from Mrs. Bhawna Bisht, my zoology teacher. They advised and encouraged me to appear in the examinations. Both of them said, "You are a brilliant student, you will get good marks even without any preparation for the examinations". On the persuasion of my teachers I agreed to appear in the examinations, however there I felt that I would not be able to write anything. I was physically and mentally drained. My chacha and my brother assured me that in my absence they would be able to take care of father. Next day on March 20, early in the morning I left for college by bus and reached there in about 5 hours. I took the examination and started my journey back to Dehradun immediately. Like this I shuttled between Dehradun and my college for nine papers on nine different days. On each of these days it was a tense and tiring journey. When my exams were over, the condition of my father slightly improved. So far the expenses on his treatment in the hospital had been about one lakh rupees. We were not left with any money to keep him in the hospital for more time. Hence we got him relieved from the hospital and brought him back home.

      My father was not able to walk. I used to carry him on my back to the courtyard when he wanted to sit in the sunshine. Similarly I used to carry him to the toilet as and when he wanted. My brother also did the same. My father was not able to sit properly and while lying on bed, he was not able to take a turn. Hence when he was tired by lying on one side, somebody had to help him to change the side. Many times it appeared that he was on the verge of death. He used to say, "Why are you spending so much money on my treatment? I feel ashamed that you have to take me to the toilet and clean me. Leave me alone and let me die." Listening to these words from him, we used to feel disheartened.

      The result of my B. Sc. first year examinations was declared and I passed securing 77% marks. I joined the B. Sc. second year class. Every day I would go to college, work at teashop, give tuitions, wash my clothes, cook food and take care of father. As a result I would get very little time for my studies. During this time my uncle's son Sandeep used to stay at our house. Sometimes he would carry father to the toilet or courtyard. He would often give me moral support. The condition of our father was miserable but my brother and I were helpless as we had no money for his treatment. My days in second year of B. Sc. were passing like this, daily looking at the painful condition of father. His joints, both legs and hands were blocked because of lack of proper treatment and nourishment. He was advised to have only juice and forbidden to take cereals and pulses. Because of this, his health was deteriorating. I used to cry and yell on God for putting us through these torturous times. This difficult phase of life was appearing endless. I would think if somebody gives Rs. 15, 000 or so, we could take father to a hospital in Dehradun. I could not see him suffering at home. One day, with a heavy heart I shared this with my close friends and told them the need of about 10, 000 Rupees. The next day I was surprised when one of my friends, Anil, brought Rs. 15,000. I felt very much obliged to him and immediately booked a taxi for Dehradun. One of my close friends, Daulat Singh, volunteered to accompany me and promised his help in this challenging time. It was his great kindness. We brought father to Dehradun and admitted him to Himalayan Institute Hospital at Jolly Grant. Soon the treatment was started. My father responded well and showed improvement. He remained in the hospital for four months and then we brought him back home. The hospital expenses for this period were about 1.5 lakh Rupees. Again my chacha helped us financially.

      During B. Sc. second year I came across a Hindi magazine - Vigyan Pragati. I liked it so much that I became its regular reader. In one of the issues of this magazine I saw an advertisement of a coaching academy for entrance examinations of IITs and JNU. I thought if I get an opportunity I would take coaching to get admission in one of the premier institutions. But there was no hope of any opportunity for me. We had no money and I had to be home to take care of my father who was not able to walk. During this time I met Dr. Kiran Tripathi, a very kind and supportive geography teacher. She encouraged me a lot to go for what I wanted. I cleared B. Sc. second year examinations with good marks. In B. Sc. third year my routine remained the same - going to college, sitting at our teashop, giving tuitions, washing clothes, cooking food, taking care of father and in the little remaining time I would study. The entire academic year passed with a lot of struggle and at the end of it I appeared in the final examinations though I was not well prepared. I succeeded in passing B. Sc. with a first division, getting 76% marks. This result was much below my potential but was an excellent achievement considering the difficulties I faced. After completing B. Sc., I wanted to go for coaching for entrance examinations of premier institutions but my circumstances forced me to continue with the teashop work.

      After completing my graduation I started spending most of my time at the teashop. A few weeks passed like this. One day while working at the teashop, I thought of registering for M. A. (English) as a non-regular student since my college did not have any masters programmes in science. So I went to the college to get the application form. There in the college I met Dr. Ishaan Purohit, a scientist from Tata Energy and Resource Institute, now called The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), New Delhi. I was introduced to this wonderful human being by his friend Dr. Kiran Tripathi. Dr. Purohit, a native of Rudraprayag, studied at IIT Delhi and was living in New Delhi. He wanted to go to Madmaheshwar temple. I volunteered to accompany him. He planned to reach Madmaheshwar temple, Ukhimut by covering a distance of about 21 km by trekking. During this journey Dr. Purohit came to know about my story and my desire to get coaching for admission to higher studies. He offered to support me financially so that I could realize my dreams. On coming back from trekking, he asked me to convince my brother to stay at home and take care of our father. I told my brother about Dr. Purohit's plans to help me in my studies. My brother and my father initially did not believe that such a person could exist. But soon they were convinced that Dr. Purohit was really a kind man. My brother agreed to Dr. Purohit's proposal and decided to stay at home to take care of father. This decision was not easy for him as he had to sacrifice his career. My father became very emotional when he realized that his son would be able to go for higher studies. Dr. Purohit took me along and we left for New Delhi. The moments of separation from my family, my hills and my past were very painful. I cried during most of the journey. I realized that the difficult examination of my life was now going to start. We reached New Delhi on 21st July, 2009. Dr. Ishaan rented a room for me in the Jia Sarai locality. The monthly rent of the room was Rs. 5, 000. I joined the same coaching academy the advertisement of which I saw two years ago in the science magazine - Vigyan Pragati. The expenses on food were about Rs. 3000 per month. Dr. Purohit paid all my expenses for a year. This one year was very stressful for me. I used to think if I failed to perform well in the competitive examinations, I would be too ashamed to face anyone back home. It was my roommate Naveen who encouraged me a lot and often relieved my stress by singing and joking. I appeared in several entrance examinations in the year 2010 and succeeded in clearing 14 of those including IITs, BHU, University of Hyderabad, JNU and ICAR. All these results were declared during May and June, 2010. Because of my concern for my father's health I wanted to study at a place nearer to my home. Hence on 27th July, 2010, I joined M. Sc. (Biotechnology) programme at IIT Roorkee from where reaching home just required about 8 hours bus journey. Dr. Purohit paid my admission fee and the hostel expenses for the first semester.

      In M. Sc. I found the going to be very tough. I faced a language problem in my studies. It was a sudden change for me from Hindi to English medium. I could understand very little in the classrooms. In every class I was hoping that the teacher would explain in Hindi as well. The worry over family's condition continued to trouble me day and night. On some occasions I would think of discontinuing my M. Sc. programme and going back home to work in the teashop. But the thought that Dr. Purohit would feel bad did not let me do this. Somehow I continued and the first semester of M. Sc. was completed. I failed in the computer course and my overall rank was 24th in the class of 29 students. I got depressed and lost my confidence as I assumed that my performance in the first semester had destroyed my desire to go abroad for further studies. By any means it was a very mediocre performance. I went home disheartened. After a few days I got the news that Dr. Purohit's father was suffering from heart and liver problems and was admitted to All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. I was to pay fee for the second semester but could not muster courage to ask Dr. Purohit for it, considering he was also in a serious problem. I tried to arrange the money from several sources but did not succeed. Finally, one of my teachers of M. Sc. came to know about my condition. He gave me money so that I could pay my semester fee. That is how I could start my second semester. Many challenges have come my way but I have been able to face them boldly because of the support of many well wishers. I believe that the major support to me was provided by my sister Deepa who saw to it that I never became weak in difficult circumstances. And like this, my journey of life is continuing.

     After listening to Naresh's story of poverty, pain and struggle, I became speechless. I felt as though I had been in a dream. "What will be your financial support for the remaining period of your M. Sc. studies", I asked. "I do not have any", was his prompt reply. I could see helplessness in his eyes. "Naresh, just focus on your studies - don't worry about the financial aspect - I will take care of that" I said. In those moments I felt as though some greater power was guiding me. Naresh did not give any response to what I said. Probably he did not believe me.

     Soon we reached Roorkee. Naresh and Dinesh left for their hostels but thoughts of Naresh were not leaving me. I said to myself, "It is the beginning of February now and towards the end of July Naresh has to pay the next fee. It seems that he is not sure that I would pay his fee. For almost six months he would be tense which would not be good for his studies. I should do something to assure him." The next day, I asked him to accompany me to the market. There I bought a laptop computer and gave it to him. I thought the computer will be useful to him for his studies and moreover this gesture of mine will assure him that I would pay his fee for the remaining period of his M. Sc.

     A few days later my friend Kulvinder Singh Gill, who is a Chair Professor at Washington State University, Pullman, USA, came to visit me. I introduced Naresh to him and told his story. Later in the evening Kulvinder gave some money to me and said, "Please take this as my contribution for paying Naresh's fee in the coming semester." I tried to refuse but he forced me to accept the money saying that he too wanted to do some good for this intelligent and brave student.

     My idea for assuring Naresh that his fee would be paid without any problem in the 3rd semester worked very well. He could focus on his studies without any worry and achieved 4th rank in the class in the second semester examinations. This was a big jump for him, from 24th rank to 4th rank. His confidence level improved considerably with this achievement. Just four months back he was contemplating discontinuing his studies and now he was realizing that he was considered among brilliant students. During the second semester Naresh applied for summer training at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, a premier research institute of India, and got selected. This was no mean feat as hundreds of students from all over India apply for summer training at prestigious institutions. One has to face a tough competition for selection. I was not in Roorkee when he left for Bangalore and hence I could not discuss the financial aspect of his summer training with him. A few days later I happened to visit him at Bangalore. I asked him as to who was funding his training. He said, "Nobody." I gave him money to support his stay there. His supervisor, a very kind lady, said that he was doing excellent work.

     Naresh came back after summer training. His confidence level was further raised now. I kept my promise with him and helped him financially in the 3rd and 4th semesters. In the fourth semester he joined his master's research project under the guidance of Dr. Shailly Tomar, a young, kind and brilliant scientist. She gave him excellent training in research and took care of him very well. I was happy that he was in good hands. Naresh did well in the 3rd and 4th semester examinations. He completed M. Sc. Biotechnology with excellent grades and on the basis of his performance in the examinations was ranked among the top three students in the class. This was a tremendous improvement over his first semester performance. Then he started applying for Ph. D. admission in foreign universities and requested me for reference letters. I happily gave him excellent recommendations.

     One day soon after, Ramesh, a student from Tamil Nadu, was visiting me for some guidance. He was reading in the drawing room at my house. I told him, "If a visitor comes, please request him or her to sit in the drawing room and call me." I went to my room and started watching television. A little later Naresh entered my room without knocking at the door. He fell on his face to the ground and prostrated himself. Holding my feet with his hands, he started weeping loudly. I thought a tragedy had occurred in his family. His condition looked miserable. While weeping he said, "Please give me a slap on the face... I would like to know whether I am dreaming or not". I said, "Please tell me, what has happened." He continued crying and said, "I have been awarded a research fellowship to do Ph.D. in Sweden. The award has been made by the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) programme of the European Commision." I immediately started laughing and said, "It is not a matter of crying, you should be very happy." He slowly stopped weeping. He said that an expert committee of Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS), a partner institute of European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) had reviewed 110 applications from all over the world. The candidates were interviewed telephonically and only two, including him, were selected. He said, "This is one of the most prestigious fellowships of Europe. Besides getting Euros 2500 - 3,000 per month, he would get an opportunity to work under the guidance of eminent scientists of the world." He told me that he was not able to believe that this has happened to him.

     A few weeks later Naresh informed me that the MIMS administration has sent him an air ticket for Sweden. On the day of his departure I wanted to accompany him to the New Delhi airport but could not do so because of an important assignment. Naresh said that his brother would accompany him. His brother saw him off at the airport and came back. Naresh had no experience of air travel and unknowingly created a problem for himself at the airport itself. The weight of his luggage was more than that was allowed. He thought he had no extra money to pay for carrying extra luggage. If he was to decide not to carry extra luggage with him, he did not know where to leave it. Suddenly he remembered that his M. Sc. project teacher Dr. Shailly Tomar had given him some Euros as a gift. The Euros happened to be just enough to pay for the extra luggage.

     After a few days Naresh informed me through an email that he had reached Sweden and started doing research under the supervision of Dr. Niklas Arnberg, a renowned adenovirologist. He mentioned that the aim of his research is antiviral drug development and receptor identification for human adenovirus. Through regular emails Naresh kept me updated about the progress of his work. A few months later he joined the University of Zurich for training in specialized research. The University of Zurich is a partner institute of MSCA Consortium. Soon Naresh started to make significant contributions to his research field. The recognition of his work came in the form of a travel grant award from the International Society for Antiviral Research (ISAR), USA to present his research work at an International Conference held in San Francisco, California, USA. Subsequently he was given opportunities to present his research findings in the University of Oslo, Norway. He has also presented his research work in different meetings and conferences held in France, Finland and Denmark. Recently he has also undergone an industrial training at Crucell - a global biopharmaceutical company with its headquarters at Leiden, Netherlands. It is obvious that Naresh is making a good progress in his scientific career.

     I feel great happiness and pride when I think on Naresh's journey. As a teacher, but also almost as one who feels like a parent, I hope he achieves even more. In the scientific field, he will have to prove himself more, but his journey so far is an inspiring story.

      (*The author is a Professor in the Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee - 247667, Uttarakhand, INDIA; SHARNFBS@IITR.AC.IN)