Jagriti Yatra 2011 : Life on rails.

Disclaimer : The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jagriti Sewa Sansthan (a not-for-profit organisation).As its name suggests, Jagriti Yatra or “awakening journey”, seeks to facilitate an awakening among the youth of India by exposing them to exceptional models of social and business enterprise. The operative word is facilitation. For those of you who wanna know more about Jagriti Yatra, plis to click here or HERE (#shamlessblogplug Open-mouthed smile ).

This post may not do full justice to the enthrallment experienced as I’m penning this down, after nearly 4 months of the trip. I shall intersperse this documentation of mine with tweets and pictures to make it less boring, hopefully. Smile 

Somebody asked me on the yatra , “What’s your reason for coming on this trip?” There are many… #1 being, getting to visit parts of India I’ve never been to. yeah the wanderlust.. #2 Getting to meet and interact with diverse people from various parts of the country and the world. #3 Maybe I wanna startup at some point of time in my life and I need inspiration. #4 People say its a “life-changing”  experience. I wanna see if that’s true.

Prior to the yatradventure  I got a lot of this : “So you’re going on an yatra. When did u get so religious?” If you’re one of those that asked me this, or post the trip asked me what the concept of JY is, this post is dedicated to you. The Jagriti Yatra is not a joy ride. It is an adventure for which one needs to be mentally and physically prepared. Weeks before the journey we got this email from the team asking us to be physically and mentally fit. That did scare me a little, I admit. “The schedule is busy, the journey will be physically and intellectually challenging and we want you to be in top form to make the most of it. So for the next few weeks, please exercise regularly, eat properly, sleep well and spend some time in thinking about what you want to get out of this journey.”

The adventure of 9000 kms, 400 bright Yatris, 40 experienced facilitators, 20 inspiring role models, 15 days, 13 cities and 1 Train in a country called India was all set to begin on Christmas Eve.

Dec 22 / 21:00 hours / Chennai Domestic Airport

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After finishing a few of my term exams , I rushed to the Chennai airport to fly to Mumbai, the starting point of the journey. I take out my travel journal and send a tweet to @jagritiyatra to be pleasantly surprised to receive a reply. *warm feeling*I like them already. Smile My first air trip was not hassle-free. After a delayed flight, I arrived late at Mumbai and  received a warm welcome from my childhood best friend, Kanya, way past bedtime. I also met Deepti Bhat, my first yatri pal at the airport and together we headed to Thane to Kanya’s place and crashed straight into bed. 

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Dec 23 / 23:30 / Twinkle Apartments, Thane: (Day 0)

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The three of us toured the city and went to a whole lotta places : Jehangir Art Gallery, CSMVS museum, Gateway of India (It was somewhere near this place, that I had the BEST cheese sandwich of my life. *drool*) , Colaba, Juhu beach, Marine drive, fed the overfed pigeons , had authentic street food , vada pav and all that. Yumm!

 Red heart Mumbai – Instant Liking! Thumbs up

 

 

Dec 24/ 23:00 + / Kurla Station : (Day 1)

A move to new home for 15 days!Arrived at IIT Bombay 9.30 ish and registered and went through the formalities like medical checkup, receiving JY kits etc. The networking has begun already. I took an instant liking to almost all of them (of course we were all in our best behaviors that day), notable few being Debariti Rakshit , Pallavi and  Karishma Kotwani, who’s also my facilitator. We had an amazing induction where we we given a headsup about what’s in store for all of us. There were also celebrities like the TZP famous lyricist Prasoon Joshi and Tufi who did a brilliant imitation of the train wheels on his instrument – what was that called, again?

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Great food, great people, great fun & its not even started yet! At Kurla station waiting for the train to come (little did I foresee that this was gonna be such a logistical marvel) donning my Santa cap. PrincessAs x’masy as can be! *missing x’mas @ home a little*

 

Dec 25/ 23:00 + / AC Chair Car : (Day 2)

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Making a home out of a train’s boogie is whats happening here.#jagritiyatrs dec 25

My first Christmas without family, the traditional dinner and caroling at church. #2011 Merry christmas guys 🙂 #fb

This one’s ripped straight off my travel journal (no editing here) : “ We had an awesome ‘Lifeline’ compartment exercise that’s gotten me thinking way back into the past. Many li’l regrets there. So in Red heart with the facilitator. I guess I’m an easily impressionable person..so at the end of the yatra you’ll probably see a very confused me or a totally nirvana’d me! Only time will tell Open-mouthed smile

We sung Christmas carols and Boy was that fun! Food here’s really awesome. Had some sweet ‘poora’, chawal, dal, salads and stuff and an apple. Hope I don’t get fatter than before. (Alas , I did! :/ )

Met most of the tweeters, bloggers on board. Learnt to spell my name in Korean from Amy. Regret not taking proper Hindi classes in school. I, however, am able to follow most conversations! (surprisingly! yay)

Day 2 of #Jagritiyatra. Perspectives’ enriched! Meeting soooooooooooo many different people! Big day tomo, first role model visit! Nighty night.

 

Dec 26/ 23:00 + / AC Chair Car : (Day 3 SELCO, Hubli)

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image At Dharwar, near Hubli. Forced out of bed at 5.30 AM. Crow bath. At university of agricultural sciences for listening to the SELCO executives.

SELCO has lit peoples’ lives by making electricity more stable. It is a profit-oriented model with a social objective. SELCO set up small stand-alone solar panels across rural Karnataka, while providing training and financing options. They aim at being a Business Model that can be replicated. A lot of street vendors and students have benefitted from this. It opened doors for ecological, social and profitable sustainability; all possible, after all.

Chandragiri village visit. Tamil yatri meet! Open-mouthed smile Kolaveri song breakout. Blogging dreams crushed. Overcrowded AC chair cars Sad smile 

 

I’ve always wanted to lead life in a trailer like the wild thornberrys. This experience is quite close. #jagritiyatra

Dec 27/ 23:00 + / AC Chair Car : (Day 4 Infosys, Bengaluru):

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As I sit there in the beautiful Infosys campus, I’m amazed by everything around me :the discipline, the energy , and also the stationary WCs and what a few days on a moving habitation could do to you. Overheard , as we entered the banquet hall: “Are we in heaven?”  Verily I say unto you, that yatri was not exaggerating one bit. (well maybe a little.but that’s all.)   The humble and modest attitude of Mr. Narayana Murthy was what inspired me the most, this day.

Dec 28/ 22:30 + / Coupe 15/7 , On the way to AP : (Day 5 Aravind Eye Care System, Madurai)

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At Madurai today!! No roaming charges! Party smileCall me A few lovey-doveys seen flitting around. *bleagh*

imageAravind Eye Hospital, an institution I had not bothered to get to know before, now swept me off , after the screening of the ‘Infinite Vision’ documentary.

Dr.V. had 1 dream – To eradicate Needless Blindness. He started Aravind in 1976 when he was 58, an age when most people retire from work life. Set up by Dr. Venkataswamy post-retirement, this effort exposed us to the fact that, at all ages, passion can remain the same. “It is ourselves we help, ourselves we heal”, he said and he is one who has stepped across boundaries and disabilities to have created this. Organizational ethics plays a vital role in keeping this hospital as divine as the Meenakshi Temple.

 

Intelligence and capability are not enough. There must also be the joy of doing something beautiful.- Dr. venkatsamy #jagritiyatra

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More waiting for the train. Madurai platform ‘s overpowered by the yatris!Ninja

Dozed off during the AC chair car presentation ,later on.  If I were any more T.I.R.E.D, I’d die of it I guess.

 

Dec 29/ 22:30 + / Coupe 15/7 , On the way to AP : (Day 6  Chennai – Kacheepuram)

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Course of the train altered, because of that cyclone Irene. No Dakshin Chitra for us. Sad smile 

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Met Gouthami of Travel Another India ,who gave many new insights into the tourism sector — a place with high demand and high supply, but coordinating both is the issue. As final advice, she stated, “Having tie ups does not mean that you give in to competition, rather it advertises that your organisation can collaborate in this selfish big bad world!” Next, a Panel Discussion about ‘Enabling rural and agro enterprises’

I joined Team Disha , the crowd management team that gave direction to the rest of us.Ooh red ribbon and a whistle.

Turns out I’m not this person I thought I was,maybe because  I’m pitted against the best of the best from across the nation and the world. Maybe not. This is a not a journey of India. Its one of discovering myself, who I really am.

 

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Dec 30/ 22:30 + / Vizag railway station: (Day 7 Naandi, Visakhapatnam)

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As a public-private partnership, this organisation has provided the midday meals for a million school-goers. Bureaucratic ways were debated and the final conclusion was, “When we serve with a good heart, a lot more such people come to hold our hands”. We took time off that evening to understand the psyche of the navy force; our visit to the Navy Dockyard added the patriotic flavour that we needed. Boy was that amazing!! *Jai Ho*

 

 

 

JY Geet - Vizag's naval dockyard

Just so you know I’m in a really lousy mood today. Surrounded by soo many people, yet a lonely night. That ebb Gauri predicted on Day 1 is finally here! By and large , I somehow think that the purpose of the trip is defeated looking at a few things that are happening around me – kitty parties, romances, gossips galore. They’re only human. *Add more fuel to flame* More ebbing.

Dec 31/ 22:00  / Coupe 15/7 : (Day 8 Gram Vikas, Bhubaneshwar)

Today is cohort M & N’s big day. We were assigned to study Gram Vikas in depth, which we did while having loads of fun dancing to tribal tunes with the children of Gram Vikas, situated in the deep woods. Joe Madiath has done a phenomenal job and his talk which could be titled ‘From Bullshit to Fullshit’ left me feeling a lot less worthy as a human being.

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Alrighty then, New year’s in a few minutes. Crazy party ahead!

At the strike of 12, my PMP played ‘Amazing Grace’. I rest in peace, while the train is dancing away the night. Sleeping half-moon

 

 

Jan 1/ 22:30 / Coupe 15/7,Plains of WB : (Day 9 )

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Finally caught back on all the lost sleep last night. To, fresh beginnings *filter kaapi toast* Good news: South India breakfast today. I’m a happy person!

I spend the rest of the day reading, showering (now that I know it’ll get colder as we go north and baths would be a rarity) , making my NY resolutions and updating the bucket list (prominent additions concern learning new languages, travelling more, doing volunteer work more). We also had the Biz Gyaan Tree Exercise. I was in the Technology and communications group. New faces.. yay!

 

 

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Jan 2/ 22:30 / Patna : (Day 10 Nidan, Patna )

 

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Nidan has done a lot to ensure that the slum-dwellers lived with more human rights. The biggest nuance of social work emphasised was the fact that work had to be done at the grassroots.

 

 

 

Jan 3/ 22:30+ / Deoria, UP : (Day 11  Barpar village)

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Verrrrrrrrrrrrrry cold place. More Biz Gyaan happened. We went to one of the many villages to conduct market research for our enterprise plan. This was the day when we could prove our worth at creating business plans with a social edge. By staying for more than 24 hours at this site, we had a feel of the other India. Funny how one doesn’t need much to lead a life here in India. Forced to believe that the INR 32 -  BOP was true, after all. Broken into groups, we interacted with the villagers (while not giving them false hopes about our potential project), used our knowledge to improvise the drafted enterprise plans to solve the crisis that Indian villages face today. These creative models were presented under the Banyan tree. Selected ones would be incubated by JY  and they would be returning to Deoria to implement the same. Fingers crossed

 

 

 

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Jan 4/ 22:30+ / Enroute to Delhi: (Day 12)

image Presenting our study on Gram Vikas in the AC chair car session, post lunch. We pulled off a GREAT show! High five

Creativity session and the Nidan session – other events for the day.

 

 

Jan 5/ 22:30+ / Delhi: (Day 12 Goonj, Delhi)

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Dressing for dignity. Most below poverty-line people find it difficult to make ends meet; and one of the biggest worries is the lack of clothing. Also, by providing this, one can see a change in their confidence and self-esteem. Goonj has done the same with a lot more initiatives; they provide clothing in return for labour at cleaning sites and development projects. The visible change in the villages they have touched us all. We shopped at the Goonj fair. I bought a few novels. We marveled at the creative streak of the workers who used trivial items (like cassette tapes, ropes, etc)  to create gorgeous utilities  like handbags, wallets, pouches and so many other stuff. *splurge*

 

 

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Jan 6/ 22:30+ / Tilonia: (Day 13 Tilonia, Rajasthan)

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My most favorite part of the entire yatra. I was moved to tears by the welcome given to us by the kids at Barefoot college. They formed a human chain to ‘namaste’ us with a smile. Crying face

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Goonj was started by Anshu Gupta in 1998 to address a vital yet much ignored issue of clothing. Barefoot college was founded by Bunker Roy in 1972. It is a solar-powered school that teaches illiterate men and women from impoverished villages to become doctors, solar engineers, architects, and other such professions. The school is located at Tilonia village, Rajasthan, India. It serves a population of over 125,000 people

 

 

 

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I Red heart Rajasthan.

Other notable events:

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Jan 7/ 22:30+ / Ahmedabad: (Day 14 SEWA, Ahmedabad)

imageSabarmati Ashram – A perfect end to the yatra ! As we solemnly sat on the banks of the Sabarmati river chanting prayers, we only realised too well that the stage for the  second freedom struggle has been set – against social injustice and the like. 

Later that day we proceeded to the auditorium for the final role model study & panel discussion. Looking at the many women from the unorganised handicraft and self-employment industries who took that extra step forward to show the world their potential, we were very motivated. Listening to their encouraging stories and understanding the model behind SEWA as share-holder organisation helped us contemplate on the best possible business plan that they could use in their start up. And with some very passionate finale speeches, emotions filled the room – the Valedictory event had the right mixture of excitement, enjoyment and reflections. We left the stage, envisaging the future, singing the yatri geet for one last time! A private graduation party followed, in coupe 15/7&8.

 

JY 668

 

Jan 8/ 12:00 / Mumbai:

The circle has been completed.

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Family picked me up at Chembur. Bode farewell to the relations I made for life – Cohort M and many others. In a way, I’m also glad its over. Time for a loooooong shower and nap.

Mighty Ms

I’m a changed human, truly thankful for everything in life. JY has made even simple joys of life seem like exuberant luxuries, something I will never forget. As I softly hum this Dido tune, the curtain falls on the awesome adventure trip around truly Incredible India. Rainbow

Two weeks away feels like the whole world should have changed,
But I’m home now, and things still look the same.
I think I’ll leave it ’til tomorrow to unpack,
Try to forget for one night that I’m back in my flat.
On the road where the cars never stop going through the night,
To a life where I can’t watch the sun set.
I don’t have time.
I don’t have time.
I’ve still got sand in my shoes,
And I can’t shake the thought in my head….
 

Registrations for the 2012 Yatra has already begun. Check their website for more information: www.jagritiyatra.com

J(ourne)Y

Just a few days left (2 to be precise) to flag off the train that will take me on a journey around Incredible India – the really incredible India , rather. Yes! I am all set to go on the Jagriti Yatra which is an ambitious train journey of discovery and transformation that takes hundreds of India’s highly motivated youth (read ‘Gracy’ Open-mouthed smile ) on an 15 day national odyssey. The aim is to awaken the spirit of entrepreneurship.The vision of Jagriti is to inspire young Indians living in the middle of the Indian demographic diamond (Rs 40 – Rs 120 per day) to lead development by taking to enterprise. The message of the Yatra is expressed through Jagriti Geet – ‘Yaaron Chalo, Badalne Ki Rut hai’ a message is of a positive change through enterprise. Instead of bemoaning what is wrong with the country, our participants and the Jagriti fraternity takes action by enterprise led development to make India better. Whether I will become one , only time will tell.. but for now here’s a little heads-up from my end Winking smile : “ I am meeting my Pardner for a venture I shall soon start, at the JY , after those many months of ideations and development via Google’s IM client. (Yeah! Google is the platinum sponsor of JY 2011.) Smile 

As clichéd as it may sound, It only seems like yesterday when I was jumping in joy on my selection for the (then) Tata Jagriti Yatra, executing those acts of persuasion to let the family allow me to embark on what some call a “life changing journey. Imma go to places I’ve never been before, meet an awesome bunch of people who are most likely to  shape future India , learn the learning of a lifetime. That said, I am asked to come with an open mind and zero expectations, which I think I will try and do. It *is* a little difficult to do that when you’ve been interacting with ex-yatris on FB groups, readings blogs of those who had been on the JY before and speaking to these guys! 

A few snippets from what I was talking about:  
"The yatra was like a blank canvas on which we could paint afresh. There was a lot of creative energy and openness amongst the yatris which contributed to lively and animated discussions. The diversity amongst the 400 odd yatris was overwhelming and the friendships forged will be everlasting." Sidhartha Jatar, Yatri 2009

"Yatra: adherence & friction, varieties & commonness, urban to rural…one common goal! this is exactly how I want my generation to be like…my India to be in our hands. Inspiration, perspiration & fun. Yatra gave me the vision how my nation is going to be." Manu Gupta, Yatri

Web

1 Train | 12 Destinations | 15 Role Models
15 Days | 450 Youths | 9000 kms

A Journey of discovery and transformation…

The feeling, now? Nervous excitement!  With less than 4 hours to my Mumbai flight, I think I’m having the jitters!  Confused smile  “Where will my feet take me today Nobody knows for sure! One step at a time who could suppose what together we’ll find?” –> #SongStuckInMyHead Used to sing this during the times I was a regular Nickelodeon’!

I shall meet my first yatri friend, Deepti Bhat at the airport and I’m meeting my best friend from school after nearly a decade ( I guess)– PK who’ll take us on a one-day trip of Mumbai on the 23rd. And on the 24th – induction at IIT B,  where I shall meet you all ,my fellow yatris!!

Let’s have the time of our lives now , shall we? Smile 

 

ps: Rest of my good friends, I shall blog my experience on a daily basis (hopefully) from the train’s blogging facility. Tweeting will also happen ( @g33f)

Stay tuned.

Peace