Jagriti Yatra | D +11

Day 12 (04.01.2015) The cold wind woke me up, bypassing those sealed (with duct tape) windows of the compartment, thick blanket and my multilayered clothes. And, that’s how winter of the north hits you. My mouth almost became numb when I gargled after brushing my teeth, the water was that cold. Howover, I took my version of ice bucket challenge that day, actually it’s ice water bucket challenge and that’s the most refreshing bath in my whole life :P . Cups of hot tea save me that morning, thanks to pantry car anna. When the train stopped, we were at Delhi Safdarjung station, OMG the capital of INDIA. From where we moved to IIT Delhi for a series of panel discussions. And, Here comes the unusual twist in the story, me and my friends decided to cut the sessions and roam around Delhi, because Yeh Dilli Hai Mere Yaar, Bas Ishq Mohabbat Pyaar (This is Delhi, my friend, there is just love here) :P .

We chose to visit QutubMinar  as it’s near to IIT Delhi. No wonder why its an UNESCO World Heritage Site, It’s such a massive ancient structure. We enjoyed going around and clicking pictures. As usual our group’s official photographer CEO Charen clicked some awesome pics. By then, it was afternoon and we were terribly hungry. We had some dhaba style non-veg food as veg food for past 12 days bored us.

Back to IIT Delhi, we realized that Kiran Bedi is one of the panellist along with Rajendra Singh Pawar (Co-Founder, NIIT), Kishore Jayaraman (President ,Rolls-Royce India & South Asia) and Rajan Anandan (Head, Google India) in the panel discussion and we missed it . From there we reached GOONJ.

 GOONJ (means an echo) a multi award winning social enterprise focused to work on ignored basic needs like clothing, sanitary pads for village and slum India while changing the dynamics of giving & receiving with dignity. Using the city’s discard GOONJ is fueling widespread development work across village India. Over the last 14 years it has built a network of channels from urban to village India, channelising clothes & other household material to reach people in most far flung areas. Turning city’s discard into currency for rural development work, GOONJ has innovatively catalyzed what is threatening to be an environmental disaster & taken the pressure off monetary inputs for wide ranging rural development.  – http://goonj.org/

It’s said “Picture speaks more than words”, how about a Video?. The following video is a Talk by Anshu Gupta, Founder of Goonj talking about it at NASA, think it’s far better than me writing about it.

We too had a similar thought provoking talk by him. We also had stalls,where we could buy Goonj products and old books. Then, we were taken to their Processing Centres. It’s really amazing to see, the things which are considered waste and are disposed by urban population is being converted into useful products that would empower rural population. We saw old clothes being transformed into sanitary pads (MyPad), bags, purses and other articles. They also segregate old books; children books are sent to rural schools and the others are sold at a discounted price to raise fund for the organisation. Visiting Goonj really changed my perspective, I could no longer see anything as  waste, not even a piece of paper.

It was already midnight when we were back at station. Our dinner was on the platform, then we boarded back our train and the journey continues.

To Be Continued …

Jagriti Yatra | D +9 & D +10

Day 10 (02.01.2015) By the morning, we were instructed to board down the train with a set of clothes, sleeping bag and any other that would keep you out of cold. Because, It’s going to be a night out. When the train stopped, we were at Deoria Town, Uttar Pradesh. It was such a sound welcome at the station, with all those big drums and dholaks. And, few yatris like me who look up for a chance to dance would have never missed it.

From there we moved to Barpar Village by bus through all those country roads surrounded by green and fog, such a bliss. The sound welcome continued with our arrival at the village too, as instructed, we guys headed to a village school and girls  to the villagers house to park our luggage, cos that’s where we would be spending our night.

We spent the 1st half of the validating our business plan for Biz Gyan Tree exercise, for which we went around the village interviewing people. Sai of our team came up with an idea based on a mobile library for school children, so we split ourselves into teams so that we could cover the maximum possible. I had Divya to help me to bridge the huge language gap. We went around and interviewed few kids and parents, I even borrowed cycle from a little fellow and rode on the village roads. It was such an awesome experience.

Post lunch, we sat up as a team and did our brainstorming. Then, we listed out key points and prepared charts for our presentation.The JY team gave us a huge surprise to us that day, They got a stone tablet placed in the village with all yatris names inscribed on it. By late evening, we end up presenting our idea to the panel and we did it well. Rest of the evening was all fun, few yatris gave awesome performances, ranging from singing, dancing to poetry. You might have had a DJ night in a club or in a pub, how about one in middle of a typical Indian village, and that was happened next. We all danced to glory (watch the below video yourself), I danced so much that I was soaked in sweat, even in that cold climate. Every fun got wrapped up just before midnight and I spent rest of the night in the school warming myself by the campfire.

Next day, Day 11 (03.01.2015) started with a visit to 200 year old banyan tree. walking through all those awesome sugarcane fields. And, It’s the one which got symbolized in the Jagriti Yatra Logo. We had a good photo session by Charen, clicking pics by the tree and by the near by mustard field filled with beautiful yellow flowers. It was already afternoon while we are back to the village, as instructed we packed our bags, and back to our busses after the lunch. Though the bus journey was long, It was also fun with Vidya and Manikandan singing tamil songs all the way, which might have irritated others on board. After couple of hours of travel by bus, we reached Gorakhpur railway station and board our train back, and the journey continues.

One thing I learnt is,  value of the things which I take for granted. The things which are very basic for us like water, electricity, sanitation, health,education, Etc. are actually luxury for many. The things which we have in plenty are sparse and scarce for many. So,we better use it wise.

To Be Continued …

Jagriti Yatra | D +8

Day 9 (01.01.2015) Have I ever imagined, me celebrating new year’s eve by dancing with couple of steps I ever know (one of it is, just put your hands up in the air step), in a train compartment filled with awesome people. But that’s what happens when you in Jagriti Yatra. What makes it more awesome is, attending two parties in the same night.

The first one was in our AC Chair Car. Music systems were set up in both our chair cars and we yatris danced to glory, few even danced standing up on the seats. We welcomed the New Year with a conventional count-down  and cake cutting (again lucky enough to get a piece :D ).

The second one was a privileged private party thrown by my friend Aswin Yogesh. He made his section of the bogie a highly restricted zone and allowed only a very few guests. My luck, I end up being his UNINVITED guest (He doesn’t want me talk about his INVITED guest). Aswin being an incredible host, made the party super fun. He used SOS feature in mobile flashlights to create Disco Lights (Didn’t I say you, he is one intelligent fellow nu) which added an awesome feel to the party. He and Emmanuel played cool numbers and then it was all dancing, dancing and dancing. All the fun came to an end around 2 AM, when we were strictly instructed by Aswin to head straight to our berths and sleep.

It doesn’t matter how late you sleep the last night, but you wake up early and be ready to board down the train when it stops in the station. We won’t be visiting any role models today, and as well as for next couple of days too, But we will be involved in Biz Gyan Tree (BGT), which is a business plan exercise.

The objective of the Biz Gyan Tree is to provide training to the entrepreneurial youth in making enterprise plans suited to the ‘Middle India’ (smaller towns & villages).

We got down at Rajgir station and reached Nalanda Ruins, our first destination for the day by bus as usual. I felt blessed to be there, to be in the ruins of one of the oldest universities in world. I wished those walls gets life and tell us all the things that they have listened from the scholars who studied there. We also had a guide, Mr Kamala Singh who told us the history and significance of the university. We also had an awesome meditation session lead by one of our facilitators Mr Sandeep.

From there, we reached International Convention Centre for our Experts Sessions. Few topics like Customer Evaluation, Financing, Technology, etc. where discussed by resource persons on the board. We also had Dr. Gopa Sabharwal, Vice Chancellor of Nalanda University to talk about Nalanda University and its new campus which is being built. She also read, Nobel Laureate, Dr. Amartya Sen‘s letter to the yatris, who is also the current Chancellor of the university. In between all these sessions, our official photographer Pradnyesh Molak a.k.a Saaku managed to click a huge awesome group pic with all the yatris in an Open Air Theatre at the Convention Centre. That’s all for the day, again, as usual we pack and back into our train heading toward our  next destination.

That, Awesome Group Pic

That, Awesome Group Pic

To Be Continued …

Jagriti Yatra | D +7

Day 8 (31.12.2014) My morning started with searching for my lost tooth brush for quite some time, which was lost forever. By the time I got ready and just managed to gargle with fellow yatri’s mouthwash, We were informed that we were nearing our destination for the day. By the time we finished our breakfast, we were at Brahmapur,Odisha (a.k.a Berhampur) railway station.

As usual we board our busses, this time we were headed to Mohuda village, where our role model of the day is located. The climate was awesome that day, I think it just stopped raining, but it was still breezy and drizzling, just felt light moving through those country roads. Shortly, we reached Gram Vikas office.

‘Gram Vikas’ which literally means ‘village development’ is a non-governmental organization that works with rural and tribal communities in India & Africa. Gram Vikas partners with rural-communities to address their critical needs of education, health, safe drinking water, sanitation, livelihoods and alternate energy in a manner that is sustainable, socially inclusive, gender equitable and empowering. source : http://www.gramvikas.org/

We are lucky enough to have Mr Joe Madiath, Founder of Gram Vikas to address us. He is one, who spent most his life towards bringing safe water and basic sanitation to the needy. He also strongly advocate against open defecation and helped many villages to build toilet on their own through Gram Vikas. Inspiring isn’t it. His, below ted video might inspire you more.

Post lunch, we visited a nearby village, But couldn’t look around due to the weather and time constraints. Then, we headed to Gram Vikas Kerandimal M.E school, as the name implies, it’s a school run by Gram Vikas itself. After a brief introductory session about the school, the kids presented us an awesome cultural show, filled with songs and dances. While evening tea and snacks was served, few of us played with the kids on the playground and I decided to roam around the school. I randomly entered their art room and was amazed to see what those kids were into. They were painting fabulous posters and greeting cards to welcome the new year. Out of the room, I bumped into Mr Joe Madiath himself. As I was aware that he was an alumnus of Loyola College, I asked him about his life at Chennai and he surprised me with “Eppadi Irukeenga, Tamil Konjam Konjam Theriyum” (How are you, I know Tamil a bit) in his broken Tamil.

That’s for the day, back to the bus and then back to the station. I also managed to get a new replacement for my lost toothbrush few meters away from the station :p. The day isn’t over yet as you think, It’s the new year eve and we did celebrate and had lots of fun. To know how, wait for my next post.

To Be Continued…

Jagriti Yatra | D +6

Day 7 (30.12.2014) The day started relaxing, as we were informed that we would be reaching our destination only post afternoon. I spent most of time talking to the fellow yatris and in my favorite time pass, looking out of the train window. We were passing through coastal areas and the scene outside was amazing, I sighed, thinking how demographically and geographically diverse INDIA is. Around evening we reached Visakhapatnam (a.k.a Vizag) one of the prominent port cities in India.

Our Role Model of the day was The Akshaya Patra Foundation an NGO which tries to fight issues like hunger and malnutrition. By implementing the Midday Meal Scheme in the Government schools and Government aided schools, they aim not only to fight hunger but also to bring children to school. We had Mr Satya Gaura Chandra Dasa, one of the  directors of the Akshaya Patra to address us about the organization. One could be easily deceived by his spiritual look, but he speaks quality, logistics, finance, etc. like a real management person. It’s true that they have the heart of an NGO but work like a corporate. After the brief speech, a few yatris are lucky enough to visit their semi automatic kitchen which cooks food for 1000s of school children everyday and others like me couldn’t make it due to time constraints. Very Inspiring.

Our next stop was Vizag Seaport Cargo handling facility, Where we were explained about the port operation by it’s officials. What happened next was something we never expected, something that never happened in that port premises. Songs were played and we all danced, sincere thanks to one of our yatri, whose dad holds a key position in the port. After having our dinner there, we head back to our moving home, The Jagriti Express, Headed straight to our next destination.

To Be Continued…

Jagriti Yatra | D +5

Day 6 (29.12.2014) Nothing like waking up with an excitement that I am somewhere quite near to my home town, somewhere quite near to my home. Its completely a “Enga Oooru Madrasu, adhukku nanga thanae addressu” feel inside me while our train stopped at Chengalpattu station, a suburb of Chennai. Never been this excited about Chennai, like they say, you would never know the importance of a thing until you are away from it.

Our role model of the day is Royal Enfield, Riding a Royal Enfiled bullet is a dream of many, Including me. We were to visit their new factory at Oragadam, I wish it was their old factory at Thiruvottiyur, a suburb of Chennai where I grew up. Royal Enfield used to be one of the pride of my Area, before a year, that’s the only factory where the world famous Royal Enfiled Bullets were made and we were so proud of it.

When we reached the factory, we were welcomed with a nice gift (a notepad and a pen) from Royal Enfield. After a small briefing session on safety, we were divided into groups for the factory visit. It was amazing to see a bullet being assembled in a minute and sent for testing in their Assembly Line. Unfortunately, we went allowed to take any pics inside the factory. We were also taken around their automated Paint Shop and CNC Shop, which requires less human intervention in the process. After the factory visit, there was a Panel Discussion lead by the heads of departments of Royal Enfield followed by a Q&A session.

Then, we headed to a nearby engineering college, which name I forgot. After our lunch there, we had another panel discussion which was on Agriculture. As usual, we had rockstart panelists Girish Minocha of Minchys, Aruna Kappagantula of Bamboo House India and Makarand Churi of Nisag Nirman. They spoke about various aspects and challenges of Agriculture and Food Processing Induustry.

On the way back to the railway station, I got a surprise call from my parents that they were on their way to the station to see me. They were waiting there for almost an hour just to spend a few minutes with me. I was very happy to see them at the station, they even got me some sweets and a blanket. They waited till the train departed and waved me a bye with a big smile. My heart felt heavy, never missed my parents this much.

The day didn’t end there. At midnight, we celebrated my buddy Jaishree’s birthday in the train. I was very happy that my plan to wish her worked and she was very happy about my gift. Awesome of my mom to get sweets for her birthday too, so we shared that “sweet edu, kondadu” moment.

To Be Continued…

Note: Dear readers (if there are any), really sorry for delayed posts. Busy life you see :D :D

Jagriti Yatra | D +4

Day 5 (28.12.2014) we were at Madhurai, the temple city of Tamil Nadu. There are many reasons like Tamil, food, temple, etc., why I remember this city for. But I am sure that some thing significant will be added to my memory after this visit.

After being in between majority of Hindi speaking Yatris in train for a while, It felt really great to be around some Tamil speaking people. It just felt like home, I was singing myself loud “Madhura Kulunga Kulunga” song from the movie Subramaniyapuram, That excited I was.

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The role model of the day was Aravind Eye Care,  after a short bus drive, we reached the hospital. It was very interesting to learn about their self sustaining business model which not only generates profit, but also enable them to serve the needy by providing treatment free or in subsided rates. They have also innovated in telemedicine and in operating procedures to serve more people and reduce cost. It was also very inspiring to listen about Dr G.Venkataswamy a.k.a Dr V  who founded Arvind Eye Care in the year 1976 with a 11 bed facility, He himself have performed over 100,000 eye surgeries and been instrumental in developing cost effective Arvind Eye Care system.

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We were divided into small groups and took to look around the hospital. Our group had Mr Gyanasekaran, Manager HR to explain us the process and patient flow inside their hospitals.

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We weren’t aware that Jagriti Yatra team has got some surprise for us, I was wowed when they served us my fav Madhurai Jigartanda during lunch.

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After lunch we had a panel discussion by few founding members of Arvind He Care. They spoke about the business model, the values in their organization and about their inspiration Dr. V.

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Post that, We had an inspiring talk by Dr, Arvind who is Chief Medical Officer of Arvind Eye Care. He spoke about, how India will transform into a super power in near future and about the opportunities that will be availability.

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As we had some time left to board back on train, we were allowed to visit the famous Madhurai Meenakahi Amman Temple. As it was Sunday, the temple was too crowded, anyhow we managed to go through. After the exciting temple visit we were back to the station and boarded back the train.

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That night, back in train, our group present the role model case study of MindTree, though we had some setbacks, I feel we did fairly well. So kudos team.

Next destination is very special to me, my home town, Chennai. Super excited I am.