Jagriti Yatra | D +14

Day 15 (07.01.2015) I woke up with a really strange feeling and with realization that yatra is on its verge, yes, this journey officially ends today. Today will be our last role model visit and we were all asked to wear traditional dresses, and that’s one reason that actually cheered me up. My initial thought was to opt for Veshti a.k.a Dhoti, but considering the risk factors involved and my inefficiency to properly drape one, I opted to wear Kurta. I still felt strange with the Kurta too, cos that’s the 2nd time I am wearing one, and the 1st time was at the trial before buying it. When the train stopped, we were at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. While our disha team driving us towards the busses, we spent some time clicking pics, and that’s when the iconic bogie 8 pic was clicked. It was awesome to see most yatris in traditional attire.

After a short ride in our busses, we were at the entrance of a museum, a national monument, for our very last role model visit. Our role model of the day have been a role model of many prominent person in the history, he is predominantly known for leading india’s Independence Movement and for showcasing the power of nonviolent civil disobedient to the world. His absolute dedication to the ideals of truth, non-violence, self-respect, human dignity, peace, intercultural unity and secularism has led him to be recognized as the Father of Modern India. Yes it’s Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi a.k.a Mahatma Gandhi and we were at one of the most significant places in his life, The Sabarmati Ashram – Gandhi Memorial Museum. It’s not only significant places in his life but also in Indian Independence Movement, It’s where the famous Dandi March against the British Salt Law had started.

We were divided into groups and few volunteers of the ashram volunteered to show us around. Our group had Anjali Desai of Manav Sadhna who explained us various functions of the ashram and Gandhian values. Best part of the visit was, having Nimesh Patel of Empty Hands Music Singing for us at the ashram’s unique Toilet Cafe, his songs were filled with Love, Faith, Hope, Gratitude, Compassion and other heart soothing things. Do watch his inspiring TEDx talk below.

Every nook and corner of the ashram was filled with quotes and values by Gandi. It was really a great experience being there.

After our lunch, we headed to Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India for our final panel discussion and valedictory function. This PD was on “Education” and as usual it’s set of eminent panelists. We had Shaheen Mistri, CEO – Teach For IndiaVijay Barse, Founder – Slum Soccer and Chetna Gala Sinha, Founded Chairperson – Mann Deshi Mahila Sahkari Bank.

Then the Valedictory Ceremony which marks the official closure of the yatra. Yatra Team Members, ERC Members and Facilitators were felicitated in the ceremony. We also had Mr. Kishore Mandhyan, Former Director – Executive Office/ Cabinet of United Nations Secretary General to address the gathering and It was awesome listening to him. We all danced for our favourite yatra geet (yaaron chalo) for the very last time to end the Valedictory Ceremony, which was an emotional moment for us. Not too far from EDII, we reached Gandhi Nagar railway station shortly. Few yatris decided to end their yatra at Ahmedabad itself, while most of us decided to extend it till Mumbai. After bidding adieu to the departing friends with a heavy heart, I stepped back into the Jagrit Express to spend my last night in it.

To Be Continued …

Jagriti Yatra | D +13

Day 14 (06.01.2015) started pretty much the usual way. One thing that comforted me was, It wasn’t as cold as the last day.  I was super excited about this particular place, where we would be spending our day and there is a small story behind it.

Flashback time… Let the mosquito coil rotate.
Once upon a time in Chennai, I was at my office and this fellow AswinYogesh returned back from Yatra. He got me a couple of souvenirs, a handcrafted pocket diary for me and a mobile pouch for my sister. When I asked him where he got those from, he replied it’s from Tilonia, a village Rajasthan. When I asked him more about that place, he asked me to search about it myself (That lazy he is). I initially thought it’s just a village known for its art and crafts, but soon realized it’s much more than that (adhukkum mela). One can’t miss reading about Bunker Roy & Barefoot College while searching about Tilonia. After watching Bunker Roy‘s below TED talk, I got Inspired and badly want to visit Tilonia, and that’s where I decided to apply for the Yatra. So, It’s Aswin’s souvenir and Barefoot College were my key inspirations for the yatra and that’s where the short story ends.

Our Train reached Tilonia station and the famous Barefoot College was just a walk away. On entering the campus, what hit my eyes where massive Parabolic Scheffler Solar Cookers. We were welcomed with an awesome welcome song by the kids there. After a brief introduction about the campus, we were asked to go around and have a look around in groups. Our 1st stop was their Solar Training Centre where the Barefoot Women Solar Engineers are being trained. So, what comes to your mind when you hear the word “Engineers”, young guys and girls in a formal attire?, This place will change your perception for sure. What I saw there was totally different, a long table filled with electronic equipments and old women on the either sides working. Being from different parts of the world, they communicate and learn using sign language. A 60 year old grandma there will amaze you with her superior skills, which can put your electronics 101 to shame. Our next stop was Tilonia Bazar, where I bought few souvenirs. Then, after our lunch, we also had Pushpa, a yatri from Tilonia, who is kind enough to host us in her house for a while and treat us with some sweets.

Another kilometre of walk took us to the new campus of Barefoot College. They had one more, bigger craft bazaar there, so bit of splurging there too.  My long wait was over, when Mr. Bunker Roy addressed the gathering of Yatris, Followed by his wife Mrs. Aruna Roy. She is one of the activist who was very instrumental in bringing up Right to Information Act 2005 and co-founded Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan.

After wrapping up with Barefoot College, we headed to Ajmer station to board back our train. It was super fun on our way back, and dancing with Akash and other friends in the bus is one unforgettable yatra moment for me. The fun continued even at the station until our train arrived, and the journey continues.

To Be Continued …

Jagriti Yatra | D +12

Day 13 (05.01.2015) 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 +10 & D +11

Day 11 (03.01.2015) 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 12 (04.01.2015) 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 & D +9

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. But, We weren’t going anywhere today and will be    We won’t be visiting any role models today and spend all time relaxing in the train. For next couple of days, 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).

Day 10 (02.01.2015) 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…