The ADA Ambassador program was my first experience with a Bootcamp. Obviously, I was very excited and I was looking forward to meeting fellow hobbyists. What was great about the program was that it was very hands on – right from day 1, when we made a DOOA terrarium. This was my first terrarium and it was an interesting exercise. It was also my first experience working with a team on an aquarium project – presenting our ideas for the terrarium and brainstorming over the best way to do it was inspiring. We put our all into the terrarium; in fact, we were all curious about how it was doing even after Bootcamp got over.
And it got even better. The very next day, we started off with tank and gallery maintenance which is a morning ritual at ADA. I really liked how the office followed the Japanese etiquette of having employees clean the whole place with people taking turns to do the task, regardless of their position in the company. This was something unique and showed respect and dedication to the gallery and demonstrated how much effort goes into maintaining the beautiful looking display tanks. I had never collected water from local water bodies – especially for water testing. Going around Bangalore carrying bottles of cloudy water would have felt silly in any other context. The test results showed us how delicate our core natural resource, freshwater, is. Oh, and we still had fun: right from having meals at places like MTR to trespassing closed off areas for the task. Visiting the government-run aquarium and watching all the depressed fish in poorly maintained tanks was a harsh reality check of what mainstream understanding of the hobby.
I didn’t know people like Shimamura-san existed, especially in India, until I met him. I got to see what a high ranking IAPLC tank would be like. To be honest, we went in there with very high expectations since he was Japanese and was so engaged in the hobby, but looking at his house full of equipment and tanks of all sizes and his main tank towards the end of his life, it hit me that even someone as experienced as him faces the same issues I am trying to combat – long term sustainability of the hobby and maintenance. It was work with a lot of physical labour. That day gave me a better understanding of the fact that aquascaping is a team job. Regardless, it was fun exchanging a few phrases with him in Japanese.
The program was full of fun activities, right from creating an interesting Facebook post with Gagan to a session on sales with Harshal and to a session on verbal communication with Roger. I took home many things from all of these interactions for eg., I learned a very important mistake I used to make when speaking publicly and that is I would plan my entire agenda in a linear, bulletpoint fashion. But public speaking is also a conversation and it is more effective if you talk to a group of people as you would talk to one person. That was the most hard-hitting learning for me that day. I liked how all of these were essentially soft-skill training sessions disguised as activities without making us feel schooled or bored.
Coorg is a new level of adventure. Interestingly, I had visited Coorg just a few months earlier but the parts of Coorg that we explored during the Bootcamp were a world apart. Unlike my previous experience, which was at a resort with manicured gardens and trimmed trees, the experience at Coorg during the Bootcamp was with pristine, untouched nature. The experience wouldn’t, however, have been as wholesome if we did not have Adip as a guide pointing out different types of aquatic plants and their functions and how all these plants worked together in a natural system. While Adip focused on flora, Gagan, guided our attention to the fauna in the area. We also managed to learn the difference in quality of water in natural rivers as opposed to tap water. We found and christened Microsorum Sp. Mathias and managed to see some interesting plants and fishes from the wild. Also, coming across wild elephants and deer was fantastic.
All in all, Coorg was a bonding experience for the whole team. We also got to know each other up close and personal. Adip shared a lot of personal stories about his journey with ADA and how much time and effort he took to get to where he is today, including his association with Mr. Amano and team ADA.
In addition to all that, the Bootcamp really got me moving! Walking and exploring really kicked the lethargy out of my system and I saw Namma Bangalore from a new perspective. I definitely want to thank Gagan for helping me explore my own city – including trying out popular local eateries – each with their own history.
This hobby is as much of an art as it is a science and I have a lot to learn yet. This bootcamp has accelerated my learning process and has given peers who will help me in my journey. I conclude this write up with something I reflected over and realized towards the end of our trip…