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Laxika Bisht: How green is my technology!

Laxika Bisht is a student of Himalaya Inter College (HIC), currently pursuing Intermediate education. She received first prize at the state level science fair for her twin projects- one using water streams for energy generation in rural areas and the other utilizing low carbon emission, environment friendly and cost effective mud bricks in the construction of buildings. Laxika is interested in many things- reading, writing, cycling in nature, solving problems using novel ideas and improving her Spanish language fluency. 

Himalayan Education Foundation (HEF) is working with HIC for a better education for students like Laxika, who will be the future leaders embarking on creative ventures, new initiatives and creative projects that will benefit the Himalayan communities and environment. Let’s explore her world.

Laxika Bisht, welcome to Himalayan Vaani! Congratulations on bagging the first prize at the state science fair. First, let us know about where you come from and your family.

Thank you very much. I am from Chaukori and my parents and grandparents have been teachers. My mother is currently serving as the principal at HIC.

Tell us about your award winning project. And how did you got interested in it? 

Villages in Uttarakhand organize fairs in October every year. I was lucky to visit a fair in a village called Lohathal which is about 4 km from my school.

After the long walk to the village, it felt like I had gone back in time. Everything was different here: the houses, the tools kept in the courtyard, the dresses women wore. The houses were made of mud and the roof was built of a stone called Pathar. I saw tools like “Dalni” and “Okhli”.

My classmates told me how these tools are used. I started to notice that everything the villagers used had a few things in common: they all required manual work and did not use fuel or electricity. Also, every piece of equipment was built out of locally available material.

After I came back from the fair, I shared my experience with my grandpa. He told me that just a few years from now the tools that I saw today will get lost in time too.

Then I got introduced to something called a” Gharat”. Grandpa told me that a Gharat is an indigenously designed water mill that is barely used these days.

I asked myself one question: why would I use an electrical mill rather than a watermill? How is it better?

Answering this question helped me build a new modified design that not only fulfilled the requirements of my generation -in the relentless pursuit of a faster pace of life with the least amount of manual work involved but also played an integral role in the preservation of our Kumaoni culture.

I think the state science exhibition provided me with the best platform to gain more recognition and acceptance for this endangered practice which is gradually slipping away from the rich traditional life and colourful practices of the hill culture.

And what is the response from the people around?

I am immensely grateful for the love and appreciation received. All of my friends and teachers have been quite supportive. I have been selected for the nationals. Hopefully, the humble gharat will get the recognition it rightfully deserves.

What are your favourite subjects of study? 

I am mainly interested in literature, philosophy and history. 

What career would you pursue ideally?

Architecture interests me. Although I would label it as a momentary interest. If I were answering this question yesterday, the answer would have been psychology. Who knows tomorrow it can be software engineering.I am a work in progress!

I’ve never been passionately ambitious about anything in my life and neither am I in a hurry. I think for being ambitious you need quite a lot of clarity. Since compromises are to be made, it had better be something good and soul nourishing. 

I’ve been trying to remove that haze in the horizon and would continue to do so to hopefully  enjoy the view one day. Wish me luck!

What higher studies/ skills would you like to acquire?  

I would like to study abroad after school and make friends from all around the world. 

I’ve always wanted to speak Spanish. Polyglots have always fascinated me (Marvel studios should consider being a polyglot a superpower.)

Learning a new language unravels the mysteries of a whole new world. Learning English helped me understand western society better. I get to enjoy Trevor Noah’s Tonight show laughing at the snappy remarks in English and so much more.

Apart from academics, what else do you do?

I go cycling in the early morning or late in the evening during working days with my camera. I find a place to peacefully sit and read in the lazy afternoons during holidays or Sundays.

Apart from this I also like shooting basketball which I am breathtakingly bad at but continue doing it anyway.

I also find myself spending time reading poetry, sketching and creative writing. I also participate in quiz competitions and science exhibition.I have an intermediate level proficiency in Spanish.

What do you care about? How does it matter?

I care about everything that has the potential to make the world a better place.

And it starts with what’s within us. I believe that everyone God sent on this earth is unique in every aspect. Every human has something to offer. Everyone has the potential to work together and make this world a better place. But unless you know how to work with yourself, working with a team is not possible.

Thus it all begins with having an implicit faith in one’s abilities and constantly sharpening them to start something productive and empowering for others. It all starts with me and me alone.I want to discover myself more. For me, self-love matters a lot.

I learned that unless we love and respect ourselves, we cannot expect the external world to do the same.

What are the important challenges our country/ world is facing now?

Depression. It’s because of the feeling of not being good enough in the eyes of society.

I think the thing that is setting all of us back from achieving great things and has become a big issue is that we build standards. The standard for successful life now is having loads of money made out of 7-8 years of college education funded by the hard work of our parents and then we serve the market economy in some manner.

We are all so ignorant when it comes to the truth. The truth is that the world is increasingly designed to depress us.

I quote from the book “Reasons to stay alive” by Matt Haig :

“Happiness isn’t good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How would you sell an anti-aging moisturiser? You make someone worry about aging.. How do you make them worry about everything?. How do you get them to buy a latest smartphone by making them feel like they have been left behind.”

These standards have become so mainstream that being happy with our own non-upgraded life becomes a revolutionary act.

We strain ourselves in pursuit of goals which are not even chosen by us. It is indeed like, as Shakespeare puts it, “Seeking for a bubble reputation.”

What is needed in your area that would better the lives of people staying there? 

Constructive use of technology which works hand in hand with sustainability and does not threaten the cultural practices of the hill people. Better transportation, connectivity, centers of higher education, and vocational training facilities to address the growing problem of migration to big cities, and adequate medical infrastructure. 

What do you think about developing technologies that solve problems?

I was born in 2006. I can not imagine living in a world with no connectivity, no www, no tweets, and no snaps. Technology is omnipresent  because it solves every problem under the sun and that’s what gives it a lot of value.

But I do not want it to change the mindset of people who live down-to-earth life in the villages. I do not want today’s technology to change their outlook toward development.

I do not want modernization to squeeze out the significance of their way of living.

Technology should go hand in hand with sustainability which is undoubtedly the need of the hour.

How would you see yourself in finding solutions? 

I am a persistent problem solver. I am left with a hollow feeling if I leave a problem just as it is presented to me – a problem. I am uneasy about  questions left unanswered. Therefore I am a trouble shooter  who treats a problem as something to be tackled head on rather than to be put on the back burner. 

Where do you live now?

I live in Chaukori with my maternal family.

What did you like about living in the hill country for school?

Everything. Apart from getting up early in the morning during the dark and bone-chilling, teeth-chattering cold mornings to getting ready for school, I love everything else about this heavenly place.

Tell me what you like about living in cities. 

I’ve never lived in a city. But if I ever get a chance, then I’m sure I’ll run back to my mountains after a few weeks or even days.

What do you like to do in your spare time? 

Honestly, I do end up finding myself scrolling through social media but I’m trying to grow out of that habit and read instead or just spend time with my family or my dog: Oscar.

What is your favorite book? And a movie? 

This is “the question” which I fear. I have no right answer because I have so many favourites. To make it simpler, I find the book “Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, the best. I also love reading thrillers and fantasy books.

And Dead Poet Society is my all-time favorite. So far no other movie have I watched has been able to usurp its place.

Do you listen to music? If so, who are your favorite musicians?

“One Direction” is my favorite band. However, I appreciate every genre. 

Do you travel? Let’s know the places you have been to. And what you liked there.

So far I’ve been to Nepal, Rajasthan, Goa, and Uttar Pradesh.

Rajasthan tops the chart! I loved how hospitality is ingrained into their culture. The music is heavenly, and the attire and their tone of speaking are just so vibrant and lively that it melts your heart. Honestly, I fell in love with that place. 

I am looking forward to the coming winter trip to Kerala, the southernmost state of India and God’s own country. I am excited!

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Any organizations and groups you are part of or work with? What work do they do?

I am a member of the college editorial team. There are 5 of us.  It is a true joy working with them. We write articles and click pictures for the college’s magazine.

What is your favorite memory of HIC? 

My favorite memory is with the friends I made in HIC. Here’s the context:

I studied in Nainital for 10 long years. In 2021 due to some unavoidable circumstances, I had to move in with my maternal family in Chaukori. And trust me when I say that my life underwent a paradigm shift. 

Nature walks in the evening with my three best friends tops the chart of my favorite memories at HIC. It not only emboldened me to socialize freely with the folks leading simple lives but also made me realize the importance of being deeply attached to one’s roots. 

Though our mini exploration came to an end like all good adventures eventually do, that day holds a special place in my heart as it made me realize the immense possibilities of self-development the place had to offer for a true seeker.

I once read a quote from one of my favorite actress Manisha Koirala’s account “Healed” – 

“It is only when moments turn into memories that you appreciate their true worth.” 

What advice would you give the current HIC students?

You live in paradise. Protect it, preserve it, and nurture it with all your heart and soul. Never forget your roots as that’s where you truly belong. 

Spend good quality time with your grandparents and help them whenever possible. Always appreciate the little things in life and never let anyone load you with a sense of hopeless inferiority. 

Most importantly believe in your vision, aspire high, and never shy away from claiming your rightful place. 

For real advice, read “If” by Rudyard Kipling! 

What is your dream for HIC? How do you see its role in society apart from school education? 

I wish HIC to develop better infrastructure and expand its facilities so that more students can enrol. I want it to thrive now and forever more. 

How is Himalayan Education Foundation (HEF) contributing to the hill communities?

It is helping the Himalayan people immensely in a variety of ways. Providing assistance to deserving students, infrastructure building, helping with vocational education courses, training the youth for better employment opportunities, creating awareness about nature and environment to name a few. 

Everything and everyone is interconnected, interdependent, and interrelated. We are part of a natural and social web of life that supports and sustains us.

Even by helping just one student we have helped so many others. It’s wonderful!

If nothing else HEF has surely given one thing to the hill community – hope. And that’s the greatest and most impactful gift one could ever give and receive.

Anything else that you would like to convey to our readers?

Count your blessings, continue showing your love to this newsletter and keep spreading that broad smile of yours wherever life takes you.

Laxika, we at HEF appreciate your achievements and wish you many more successes in life and may your pursuits bring self contentment and make the world a better place!

Laxika Bisht can be reached by email: laxika220@gmail.com

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