In a distant Kokernag village, there are twin brothers, sons of a labourer, who have more than 40 innovations to their credit. In the middle of engineering studies, which they are pursuing with a bank loan, they want handholding to mass produce some of their patented products, reports Samreena Nazir
At 24 years age, Refaz and Ishfaq, are an exact copy of each other. Each other’s mirror image, they dress alike and, given their interests, even think alike. They are the twins but rarely are the twins sharing their same appearance, style and thought process.
A macadamised road with beautifully landscaped slopes winds towards a tiny village with a hard to pronounce the name, Wandewelgam. Born and raised in this inaccessible hamlet in Kokernag belt, almost 85 km south of Srinagar, they wear the health resort’s beauty on their faces. Clear as the water they take in their thinking, the ‘creative twins are real good innovators.
A narrow cemented lane, packed with old mud houses on both sides in the village introduction. The houses fenced with vertical wooden sticks seem to be flowing with the ambience of a stream flowing alongside the lane. On the banks of this stream, is the house of young innovators. It is a traditional house with a temporary gate made of uneven wooden beams. The cracked doorstep welcomes in the dark corridor of the house where the mud brick stairs with curvy steps lead to the ‘Twin Brothers innovation Club’. A small room made of square-cut logs and tin sheets. The room is sealed with gift wraps from all sides making it opaque. A white sheet is glued on the door with the inscription ‘this is my world’ in bold letters. Every inch of the room is filled with trophies and certificates, preserving their innovations and appreciating their accomplishments. They have turned a dedicated room into a place to admire them.
When their classmates were busy enjoying childhood, the twins were lost in their ideas on the roof of their cowshed. There, they experimented with imaginations and would come out with creative innovations to surprise everyone. The inquisitive brothers, rich in ideas were awarded at Rashtrapati Bhawan in 2013. Pratibha Patil, the then President of India, and Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, R A Mashelkar, awarded them after they competed in the 3-day 7th National Bi-annual competition.
The interesting twist in the story is that the twins are sons of a labourer, Ghulam Rasool Wani. For most of the time, he works as a labourer outside Kashmir and rarely visits home.
Once on Eid when he was at home, Ishfaq and Refaz sought toys to play with. Wani had not enough money to fulfil their wishes. But he did not let his sons feel disappointed. He started creating a variety of toys for his twins using mud. Sometime later, the mud toys broke and their father was not around to create new ones. This urged the twins to attempt making mud toys by themselves. They started making toys and sculptures of animals, birds – all from mud. This made them an instant sensation in the village. They were famous among their peers.
When they were in the fourth standard, they saw an earth removing vehicle (usually referred as JCB locally, after the company that manufactures it) in their village. It was a fascinating experience.
Observing the machine working for 15 minutes, they went home and decided to make a similar model at home. It took the boys 12 days to create a mini model out of clay and wood. They also inserted some springs in it. It had five gears and worked on the force. As they moved their ‘wonder’ out of their home, the 10-year olds surprised everyone. Their model was projected at their school and people from other villages too visited to see this innovation. It gave a boost to their imagination, hard work as everybody encouraged them.
Interestingly, the twin brothers had no friends. They never felt a need to befriend their classmates ever. They remained contented with each other and spent all their time in concreting their imagination. A few years later when they were lost in their own ideas, they had a chance meeting with Sabzar Ahmed Wani, an official working with the University of Kashmir’s GIAN cell. Impressed by their work, he took them along with him.
The Cell managers appreciated their ideas and work. There, they were also paid for their early innovations, with a promise of paying for their every innovation. The Cell managers guided them well. Later, they were invited to attend 15 days workshop organised by the University of Kashmir at Banihal. In the workshop, they came to know that the Cell is sending their innovations to the National Innovation Foundation. These included their Spade cum Hoe, Geometrical Pen, Easy Meat Cutter in addition to their other 12 innovations.
Soon, they got a surprise: National Innovation Foundation invited them to an All India Ignite Competition being held at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmadabad.
There, they were awarded for their innovations by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. It was there they got their name: ‘creative twins’. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam called them with this name while presenting an award to them.
Out of the total 20221 entries received from across India, NIF shortlisted 32 entries, and finally, 23 innovations were awarded. NIF had received 160 entries from Jammu and Kashmir, and only the twin innovators Refaz and Ishfaq won the award from the state. They stood second at the all-India level in the High School category.
Later, the ‘creative twins’ were also awarded by Vigyan Prasar Department of Science and Technology in 2012. The brothers also set up Twin Brothers Innovation Club under the registration of Vigyan Prasar in 2015. This club was later declared as a member of Vigyan Prasar Network of Science clubs.
The brothers wanted to develop their Science Innovation Club into a learning centre for other children who are interested in innovations. “We wanted to encourage other students who are interested in practical sciences and innovative ideas but the government did not provide us with any funds”, rues Refaz.
Despite poverty, undeterred brothers never restricted or restrained their ideas. Even if they could not implement their every idea due to the unavailability of material that required funds, they would note down the ideas on paper. This would help them keep pace with their imagination and prevent a frustration from setting in.
Presently the brothers have encroached upon a store of the roof in their 2-level home and converted it into a small science laboratory. “We cannot ask our father for money because he had already spent a lot of resources on us out of his less earning,” says Ishfaq. “We somehow manage ourselves.”
Currently, they are pursuing B Tech in Automation Robotics and Automobile Engineering respectively at Punjab Technical University. But it is very difficult for them to pay even the huge tuition fees. “Since we are not in a position to afford the tuition fees, we took an education loan from the government to continue our studies”, Ishfaq said.
The two brothers have a patent for one of their innovations, Spade cum Hoe. It is easy to operate and has a handle to which both spade and hoe can be attached. NIF has filed a patent for this device (3171/Del/2011).
The innovator duo recently created space writing pen, which works on magnetic force. The pen costs Rs 80. Many of their ideas stand accepted and registered at the NIF, Ahmadabad. Presently the twins have 36 registered innovations.
One of the many innovations includes a foldable water bottle. The beauty of the ideas is that the size of the water bottle can be reduced by folding it based on how much water is left in the bottle.
The eager minds always keep looking around for possible solutions to things, which lead them to create new innovations. The idea of making an Apple catcher and clipper came to their minds once. They saw people struggling to bring down apples from distant branches. So they worked on the solution. Their solution consists of a rod, a cutter on its farther end, a clutch on its closer end to operate the cutter and a net below the cutter to catch the clipped fruit. When the clutch is pressed, it cuts an apple with help of scissors and the apple is collected in net.
Their other innovations include a drain cleaner, an injection breaker to safely get rid of small pieces, an egg breaker and a geometric pen also fitted with a clock, torch, pencil and compass, lighting shoes, strainer, digging machine, fruit ladder, portable gas cylinder, cylinder carrier, hand spade, board duster, apple catcher clip, generation of electricity by walking, potato trans-planting machine, saffron cultivation machine , tea leaves plucking device, double cooler system ,wind operated car fan, apple cutter with bulb arrangement, easy food serving vessel, duster cum water cleaner, beans cover removing device, Easy meat cutter, lighting pen, brick making machine, furrows making machine, modified trowel, bread clip, beans thresher machine, a handicraft device and an adjustable ink marker pen.
The twins give the credit of their hankering minds to their grandfather, whom they consider an intellectual of his time. “Whenever there used to be any problem or any issue, he would come up with a solution,” Ishfaq said. “Although he worked as a labourer people called him the Engineer then.”
The creativity didn’t restrict to Refaz and Ishfaq but was attained by their only sister, Runcy also. Getting tired of washing dishes, she too came up with an innovative dishwasher. This innovation demands less effort and provided better results.
The twins have more than 500 ideas, written in their Book of Ideas. These ideas could reduce human effort and prove beneficial for everyone, saving money and time.
The twins, however, are upset with the state government. “We did not get any support or an appreciation award from the state government so far,” Refaz said. “The state government did not even acknowledge our efforts.” They believe a lot of schemes being talked about are for the society’s creamy layer.
“We do not ask for government jobs but we want the government to provide us financial assistance so that we can give shape to our unshared ideas and also can provide employment for others,” Rafaz added.