I had read once that you can listen to countless preachings or buy a dozen inspirational books, they are not as ‘life changing’ as a single travel can do. I never ever realized the true meaning of it until I took a road trip that changed my life dramatically and imprinted an everlasting graffiti on my mind. After spending almost five years in Canada and USA, when we finally moved back to India, I had been asked two clichéd questions almost by everyone I met: ‘why did you come back?’ and ‘it must be a difficult decision?’ I think taking a decision in life is not difficult but knowing and understanding what we really want in our life is difficult. When I was doing my PhD, as a part of my research work, I had to collect blood samples of various populations of India. I travelled many parts of India, most of which were villages and tribal areas. I generally enjoyed those trips, meeting people in most idyllic settings and moreover I got to know more about ‘the village’ India. Once I went to some tribal villages of Odisha, and this was ‘The Trip’ I was talking about. The one thing that moved me or changed me was the sheer resilience of a human being while going through adversities that still allows him to smile. That one feeling was enough to change my perception about life and that very moment, I knew what I want in my life. So, years later when we moved back to India to follow our passion for science, it never seemed to us a difficult decision at all.
Every other day, I read news of Indian government encouraging students and researchers to come up with innovations and new ideas and to retain the talent in India. It is quite exciting to know the various government initiatives directed to shape up raw talent and providing excellent careers. The Department of Biotechnology has instituted “Ramalingaswami Re-entry Fellowship” for Indian Nationals who are working overseas in various fields of biotechnology and life sciences and are interested in taking up scientific research positions in India. Ramalingaswami Re-entry fellows can do their research work in any scientific institutions/universities across India and are eligible for regular research grant through extramural and other research schemes. The Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, launched in 2008, is a £160 million initiative funded equally by The Wellcome Trust, UK and Department of Biotechnology, India. The broad aim of this Alliance is to build excellence in the Indian biomedical scientific community by supporting future leaders in the field. They have various funding programs which can be availed at various levels of careers. The Early fellowship is for postdoctoral scientists to undertake high-quality research and establish themselves as independent researchers in India. Likewise there are Intermediate and Senior Fellowships which are meant for established Indian researchers. Moreover, getting a research grant in India is not as difficult as it is in West.
I took a sabbatical of almost two years to be a fulltime mom and it was not difficult for me to re-enter into the mainstream science after the long break. The “Women Scientists Scheme” has been evolved in this context, by the Department of Science and Technology for providing opportunities to women scientists and technologists who desire to return to work as bench-level scientists. It provided me an excellent launch pad to continue my passion for science in a national laboratories like NIPER (National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education & Research). The experience I gathered all these years, I want to disseminate it in India in educating few best minds of the country and I think NIPER has provided an excellent template to showcase my scientific ideas and implement them through intelligent work force. With numerous grant schemes and a considerable amount of capital money flow, researchers like us could now work on projects that try to bring cutting-edge research ideas to mainstream practice and pursue their scientific dreams.
It has been a little bumpy ride since I moved back and I know that there is a tough road ahead but isn’t it true with every aspect of life? These challenges act as catalyst in your desire to succeed and celebrate your achievements. I knew I cannot bring about any change what I saw in Odisha but being there gave me enough sense to know where I actually belong. I can travel the globe to its end but I know where my roots are buried deep inside. So, when I was on the plane back home, I had an assorted baggage of scientific expertise, a dream of becoming an independent researcher and above all a sense of gratitude and love for my country. I never ever regretted or revisited my decision of moving back. Being an independent researcher and surrounded by young and curious minds makes me the person I am and always wanted to be. It simply gives me a sense of pleasure when some young student walks in with his research queries and doubts and I get a chance to share what I have learnt all these years. Looking at the satisfaction in his eyes after an exhaustive discussion is what I define as contentment in my chosen career path and firms my decision when I took the call of moving back to India years back.