The character called ‘Phungsuk Wangdu’ in the movie 3 Idiots got it’s inspiration from a genius yet humble man, Sonam Wangchuk from the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh. Wangchuk is the second only Indian to win the Rolex award for Enterprise on 15th November 2016. Due to his efforts in putting an end to the water scarcity problem in cold desert areas, he was bestowed with this prestigious award. Born and brought up in a small village which was cut off from all proper educational amenities, Wangchuk proved that the thirst for education can make you do wonders.
Till the age of 9, he wasn’t enrolled in a school and was taught all basic stuff by his mother. Later due to his father’s transfer to Srinagar, he was enrolled in a school there but was unable to cope up with the other students in the same age group as him. According to Wangchuk these years were the worst years of his life due to the tormenting and bullying by the other students. His further education was done in Delhi and then he got his Bachelors Degree from the National Institute of Technology.
Being from a hilly region, he was completely aware of the educational conditions in those areas and was adamant to bring the reformation in the educational system. With the help of the Srinagar government, he changed the textbooks and ways of learning for the kids who were not able to match with the outer world. In 1988, he founded the Students Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) with the help of other college students who had to undergo the same problem. He built a school for the students who had failed and rekindled the spirit of learning through a practical approach.
According to statistics, 95% of the students failed in their HSC exams but after implementing this new wave of educational change the failure percentage got reduced to 25%. The Campus is solar powered and solar heated, students learn ancient Ladakhi songs, dance, and history alongside modern academic knowledge. The school is run by the students itself. As they have exposure to practical lessons more than the theory-based lessons, they tend to learn the subjects with more enthusiasm and interest. 02
As Ladakh is a cold desert area with water scarcity problem. Many engineers have tried solving the problem faced by the farmers regarding irrigation issues but couldn’t make the plans efficient enough. Sonam Wangchuk built Ice Stupas to facilitate irrigation in the desert areas of the western Himalayas. These brilliant pieces of engineering are conical ice mounds that act like mini-glaciers and slowly release the water for agriculture.
The conical shape avoids melting of ice and stores more amount of water. These glaciers are made to avoid the dearth of water. He was awarded for this very cause. Despite facing all the hardships, Sonam Wangchuk never turned his back to the soil he was born on. In a recent interview, he said, “I’m not doing anything revolutionary. It is ninth-standard science put to use. We mountain people have to find new ways to work with nature, not against it.”