A Dream That’s Lost Forever

I returned home after a usual working day. The moment I unlocked my phone, most of my WhatsApp groups were filled with news about your demise, I didn’t believe it  at once, I wished it was yet another rumour, but all the news channel confirmed the same with flash news. I felt sad with in, the air around me felt dense for a moment. I want to grieve for your depart, I searched for my childhood collection of your paper clippings, tough missed many while shifting home, lucky to find few intact. Like anyone who mourn or grieve, I wanted to cry looking at your pics, Instead I smiled. You are youthful and such a charm, aren’t you, You are like one nuclear reactor, full of energy and spreading the same.

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Remaining of my Paper Clippings Collection of Dr Kalam

I got to know you during my school days, that’s even before you became president, thanks to my school library, librarian and my reading habit. Then you became president of India and more news started flowing about you. Your life, your actions to motivate students and your visions towards development of India inspired me as it did to many. You are bit different, aren’t you. While many leaders were busy extravagantly spending govt money in their personal, political and religious agendas, you went all extends and put all your efforts in reaching people with your ideas and plans to develop the country. While most of our leaders lost hope on indian youth and least cared about them, you motivated them and held them responsible for India’s future. Your humbleness, simplicity, hard work and honesty had made millions of Indians adore your irrespective of their differences and I am no exception. You might not know and you will never know (unless there is a heaven and it got internet connection) that I am your fan boy since my schooldays and you are my huge Inspiration. I always wanted to meet you, click a picture with you and get your autograph, but I never achieved much for that to happen. So, It’s A Dream That’s Lost Forever.

Not all get to do what they love, a few do. Not all get to die while doing what they love to, a very few blessed ones get to. Your death is one such, like a soldier who died fighting for this country, you fought ignorance, fought illiteracy, fought hatred, fought what not that stops the development of the country. You are such a selfless leader, we owe you, the country, it’s youth, the science community and everyone. The only way to pay you back will be by working towards the betterment of this nation together, by working towards your vision of developed India. A few are immortal, it’s just their body that disappears not their ideologies. Media might forget you once they get another sensational news, but never the youths and students of this country.  You will be remembered forever.

You have worked ceaselessly all these years, now it’s time to rest, Rest In Peace Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. This nation will  truly miss you Sir.

Jagriti Yatra | D +16 , D +17 & D +18

Day 17 (09.01.2015) Unlike me, most in our group woke up late as we all slept late last night. We got a whole day to spend at Mumbai before packing our bags back to Chennai. Our search for having something different for the breakfast failed, thus ending up with dosa in a nearby eatout. Actually, I wanted to roam around trying different food, but ladies in our group opted for some shopping first (should have been cautioned by then) so, we headed up to the Fashion Street. While others spend time shopping and bargaining their best prices, I was simply wandering back and forth the street having roadside chats and drinking lemon sodas. The only thing I got there was a customized keychain with my name on it. Time runs really fast in Mumbai, or at least it seems to be, It was already afternoon by then and I started to feel hungry again.

Customized Keychain, a Mumbai souvenir

Customized Keychain, a Mumbai souvenir

Then, we all headed to Bandra Linking Road as they had decided to continue their shopathon. Our friend Akash joined us on the way and we all had our lunch in an eat out near Bandra. We were also joined by our CEO Archana akka’s friend Sharmila at the Linking Road and their shopping went on for a while. As admin and Akash decided to part apart to meet their friends at marine drive and the rest of us decided to go to the nearby Carter Road Beach. This beach was nothing like the beach in Chennai, no sand at all, even the dark sea was bit away from the shore line and what we could see is all rocks. One thing that comforted us was that the place was silent unlike others and the breeze too. Thanks to Sharmila who pointed me to a place where I had my best Shawarma ever, and to some good parathas nearby. It was already time, so we took a taxi back to our room and admin joined us later. Me and admin relaxingly enjoyed our Breezers which we got earlier that day, while our friends kept on reminding us that it’s getting late.

When we checked out of the hotel, we realized that the hotel guy had messed up with our cab booking. The cab arrived late and we were rushed to the railway station. With just couple of minutes for the train to start we hired a porter to move our heavy luggage and boarded the train in the very last minute. Both the cab drivers and the porter took advantage of our situation and demanded more, with no other go we end up paying them their extra. Even boarding train felt like an adventure, what a pulsating experience it was. After all those happened that night, we had no energy left on our body, so no option other than hit out berth straight and sleep.

Day 18 (10.01.2015) The whole day was spent in the train chitchatting, singing, eating, sleeping and nothing else. One thing I couldn’t forget is, our admin kept on saying “Food for Thoughts” pointing to set of books he got.

Day 19 (11.01.2015) Early morning, we reached Chennai back. After bidding farewell to my awesome Chennai gang, I took a local TRAIN back home. As they say, it’s nothing like home. And, my mom’s food cured my homesickness in no time.

Every Time I think of yatra, I just feels like a dream. It was an awesome amazing journey and It will be one of my best memories cherished forever.

The End.

Jagriti Yatra | D +15

Day 16 (08.01.2015) It was really hard to wake up with a feel that, this journey is coming to an end. Having only a few hours to spend in the train which was our home for last 15 days, A feeling of emptiness creeped in. After spending some time packing my stuffs, I went around to bid farewell to my friends on board and click some pics with them. One best thing about yatra is, you get introduced to Yatris even on the last day of the journey, 15 days are not enough at least to meet those 450 on the board. While roaming in the train, I noticed Mr. Kishore Mandhyan who spoke to us yesterday at Ahmedabad, talking to few fellow Yatris on board, Again a good opportunity to listen and interact with an enlightened person like him.

Our train being a low priority train, it halted several times and ran slow as we near  the busy lines of Mumbai. When train halted in a suburban station for a long time, our Chennai gang decided to get down in the midway and reach our boarding place by taxi. While I was waiting for their final confirmation, the train started moving and later realized that everyone got down except me. Again our train halted for a long time somewhere near Ghatkopar station, As it would take a long time for the train to train to reach LTT (Lokmanya Tilak Terminus), few yatris including me decided to jump down the train with our luggage. Reaching the main road was bit painful with heavy luggages and few metres of walk, Then I hired a taxi to Dongri, our boarding place.

Got down the train and walking with  heavy luggage and heavy heart,

Got down the train and walking with heavy luggage and heavy heart,

The 1st thing I did after reaching the room was to take a hot water bath, one thing I missed lot while on board. After getting freshen up, the gang decided to roam around. As it has ever been, our top priority was to find a better place to eat. We were craving for some non-veg food, as it’s been veg food for last 15 days on board. After a swift search, we narrowed it to nearby Shalimar Hotel which is famous for its Biryani. After having a sumptuous meal there, we decided to visit the famous Juhu beach. It wasn’t as good as I imagined, the water was brackish and the sand was  dark. Will those stop us from having fun, definitely not. We had Panipuris and Gola Ice, I had Kalakatta flavor, which made my mouth look like a blood sucking vampire. Then, some time passed blowing bubbles and clicking all our footmarks on the sand, It turned out to be a fun evening. It was already midnight by then and the cops nearby requested us to kindly vacate the beach. On our way back we went via Worli Sea Link Road and stopped by Antilia, Mukesh Ambani’s home ( $1 Billion worth World’s most expensive residential property). By the time we reached our room, I was sleepy and tired to death, this time I slept on a bed, not on a train berth and it felt very strange.

To Be Continued…

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 …