Pankaj Kumar

I was a school student, may be 7th standard, when I started going into forests and nearby streams to see plants and during this time I collected a plant which I could identify as an orchid, Vanda, only when I started my Bachelor Degree. I come from a small town of Ranchi, where my father was an engineer at a reputed firm. He and all his colleagues wanted their kids to be either a doctor or an engineer, rest of the career options were believed not even to be tertiary. I was weakest in studies among my brother and sister but still my parents struggled a lot to “BRING ME ON TRACK”, but in some corner of my life I already had this affinity towards plant and that encouraged me to not only to do gardening but also to find out all the names of plants in around 500 pots which I had in my garden. Among one of the pots was Ficus elastica, on which my first orchid still grows.So finally, too add to the frustration of my parents I couldn’t become a medical doctor or an engineer and against the wishes of all my professors, I decided to study Botany Honors at one of the very small not so known college at Ranchi. When I started studying botany, my educational graph kind of rose above the expectations of all and my passion for plants and the hobby to know their names got revitalized. Now I was more energetic and excited but still couldn’t make it to any of the JNU university exams but could manage to get admission at the University Department of Botany. I met lot of students, mostly who were less passionate about plants but more about making their future, earn money, feed their tummy and of their dependents. Infact my parents also had lost hope, but my elder brother who is an eye surgeon by profession had always been supportive till date. At this point, I decided that I must make up my mark if I have chosen this subject. I just wanted to study more and more and more. Everyone expected that I will study Plant Taxonomy, but in my head I knew that taxonomy comes with passion and not from books, so I surprised all by taking Cytogenetics, Radiation Genetics and Plant Breeding. During this time I met retired Prof. T.K.Ghosh (a student of Prof. P. Maheshwari). He is often referred to as the walking encyclopedia of plants.He asked me to join one of his field trips and he was very impressed by my work and he encouraged me more. I finished my Masters and got 9th rank in the university which was exciting to my parents as I got the highest marks of my life, but their expectation was still to find a good job, not for them but for myself. Just before my results were out, I attended a taxonomy course organized by Prof. A.K.Pandey at Bhagalpur University (now at Delhi University). This gave me a platform and later Prof. Pandey introduced me to Prof. G.S.Rawat at Wildlife Institute of India who selected me to work on the Orchids of Jharkhand. This was a big project running throughout India with 14 students, but I realized that Jharkhand was not an orchid hotspot hence I had to make myself strong enough to stand with the other 13 students and ofcourse I wanted to write a good thesis too. During this time I identified my first collection (that was collected during the school days) of Orchid as Acampe praemorsa which was an addition to orchid flora of Jharkhand state. Under Prof. Rawat, I took almost 8 years to get my Ph.D. then I continued working there for two more years, following which I joined another project as Research Associate. Just as my project was coming to an end, I came to know about this vacancy in Hong Kong where I applied, and after a long round of online and personal interviews I was lucky enough to get selected. I am happy that I didn’t let the expectations of my parents and friends down.

I joined efloraofindia on a request mail from Garg sir while I was doing my PhD. I requested him to send me the images as it was tough for me to go through each and every mail. At first I thought he won’t send, and I would be safe. BUT HE SENT me all the images and then I realized this vast accumulation of information. I tried my best to identify as much orchids as I could and gradually involved with eflora since then. Infact I fought and left twice, but then I came back and have been here PEACEFULLY!!J.

My journey in eflora was not been smooth initially, but now it’s peaceful !! Through my eyes what makes this group so special is the fact that sitting isolated in Hong Kong, I still can know what orchids are found and what are flowering in different parts of India. It also helps me learn more and more when I want to identify or criticize an identification. In one word I would say, “GETTING FREE KNOWLEDGE SITTING AT HOME”.

What makes this group different from others is the group itself which has so many members from so many diverse background but still contributing to one cause.

I am lucky to be a part of it, because I get to learn so much. For example, I have never been to Western Ghats but I still can get information about orchids in that area.

Efi is like a family which has given me immense love and encouragements not just on professional level but also at the personal level. I joined a group of experts and made some good and caring friends, although I never met most of them.

In 10 years, I hope to see more and more members being part of it and maximum part of Indian flora being covered. I also hope to see more attendance of members at some scientific conferences and coming out with some good publications.

My memorable moment of life on eflora was the Orchidaceae week. After so much of hesitation, I finally had agreed to it and tried to give my best and learned a lot from all active members toO.

Existing members should encourage more people to come in and be a part of eflora. We need a huge force to cover all parts of India. There is not much representation from North East and Andamans. More and more experts should be brought in and make this group and website better than the eflora of China.

Learning is a never ending process and eflora helps me learn every day I open it….