Jagriti Yatra, Travel

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


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. 


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


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?


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)

Jy 174 (5)

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)

Jy 174 (42)

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):

JY 209 (11)

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)

JY 213 (6)

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

JY 213 (22)

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)

JY 244 (4)

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


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.



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

JY 246 (13)



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.

JY 332




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 )

JY 344 (1)


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 )




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)



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





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)

image(plis to overlook the irony of the tweet)

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*





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

JY 507

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



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:


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.


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

everyday, Travel

of buses and fusses !

Being the bubble wrapped daughter of my parents I was never used to the typical Indian mode of commuting – The Great Indian Buses….until o’course I joined college…And buses are the best ways to make a trip to that pal’s place or to that neighbor town where you can catch a movie with ur buddies and get the ‘despicable person’ tag around your neck after the insti figures out what you’ve been doing! Well lets not get into that,for the moment! 😛

So where were we.. Yeah.. Since I was never used to this mode of transport,I was excited when I got to travel by bus as a regular.As days moved I got hit by the harsh realities of a typical bus commuter’s life aboard the bus…Conductors brushing past the people for issuing ticket (when I experience this sick issue system I truly feel India is underdeveloped 😦 ) Have you ever been shouted @ by a bus driver for no reason at all?Did it ever happen to you to have only a 100 INR note and the driver refused to let you get on because he “had no change”?Have you had enough of this? I have !


A truly overrated picture that I found at a Yankee’s blog.I couldn’t  help fuming over the post.Here’s a excerpt –

” Child: What bus? All I see is a big pile of Indians!

Man: That’s what Indian buses look like. Indians are too cheap to pay for a seat, so they sit on the roof instead. Come on inside, we have the whole bus to ourselves!

Child: This ride is so bumpy! Aren’t there any roads in India?

Man: There’s only one, and it isn’t any better than this.You can’t drive fast on it because around every corner there’s a herd of holy cows.

Child:Wow – this place is horrible. And to think that an Indian movie just won all those Oscars!

Man: They must have had a quota or something. Indians movies are boring – no car chases, not even any kissing. And they’re mostly cheap knock-offs of western entertainment. For example, notice how all their music is ripped off from the Beatles. *** set of youtube links follow ***

:O I know that most parts of the conversation is true..but to hear from another national is truly an embarrassment !!! Trivia : London bus drivers are rated the worst in the world!

Last week I was at Madurai city,and was taking the local bus to my friend’s home 15 minutes away.As I hopped onto the bus,I luckily got a seat near a lady(Note to international readers :; : In India people don’t sit near a person of the opposite sex,cos that is considered saucy and not right.*beats me!*),the conductor of the bus(BC) made his way up front to issue my ticket..As i was running a little short of money..I was counting my coins and gave him some change which happened to be exact..and the BC’s reaction completely left me amazed – This guy actually said ‘Thank You’,which was something I’ve never encountered before from a BC & therefore swung back and asked ‘huh??’ BC said ‘Thank you for giving the exact change *smile* ‘ Wow-Change does makes people other than obama happy! 😀 Grinning at the BC, i thought – things are getting better!And the world would be a better place only if everybody was courteous! BC ‘s are not the only persons who should learn what that means.. Fellow commuters who shove each other for getting aboard,getting a place to sit,ignoring the 3 legged people that travel along with us – everyone shud learn. Change begins in thy heart,as charity begins at home.

In a lame attempt to make a haiku that actually rhymes 😛 :buss

Buses don’t derange

Buses are cool

Unless you carry change

you are deemed a fool !!

Feel free to write what you think about the Indian Bus system in the comment section!Even though I’m pretty certain this isn’t going anywhere…atleast I’l get to know varied opinions 😛

microsoft, Travel

Hyderabad – MSP BootCamp

I had the opportunity to witness the largest Boot camp in India and possibly the largest in the world!! Bootcamp – Hyderabad was everything but boring – What i meant to say was fun with a wonderful sense of fulfillment ! Buzz was that we’d get to witness some real core technology and sessions on the most happening stuff from Microsoft… True enough that was exactly what we got – plus getting to know a lotta people from allover India and Microsoft employees who spent their private weekend time with us..

Day 0 : March 5


Day 1 : March 6

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The journey with the madurai MSP’s (Microsoft Student Partners) was fun filled.We reached our destination on time and made our first taste of Hyderabad : Hottt !*watever that was* hottt hott !!!.Wiping off those lachrymal secretions,we made our hotel Check in, on March 6th – 3 pm (right on time)! Ella Suites was one heck of  a place!We were alloted suites, and our roomies were people from parts of the country other than where we were from.Mine was a local Hyderabad girl,Bhavana – a seemingly placid but a chatterbox nonetheless 😛 ..She was good company and was our GPS (with a little help from other Hyd msps) and helped us make sight seeing plans around town.After the check in everybody had a quick wash (except for me o’course – late as always,left behind by fellow madurai user group people => me boarding the next shuttle,meeting other interesting people) and scurried into the Microsoft Shuttle to make a dash to the Microsoft IDC (developer center) a few kms away.btw, That part of town was called Gachibowli(weird name huh)There was an internship exam for prefinal year people, while the rest of us engaged in an activity – Madads.Our team came up with a totally whacky,funky,weird,cool – u name it – that was how our ad for ‘Cloud computing’ was..and what was more – We got Best new idea Award.Whooho! 😛 After a really sumptuous buffet dinner,we were dropped in the Hotel.

Day 2 : March 7

 hh3 Desktop2

We had an early day – so that the academic team could squish in many of the tech sessions,without compromising on the time.There was the keynote by Pratima Amonkar(Director Academia,MS),then a not very interesting SQL Server 2008 session by the MSIT,BI-COE team(It helped me gain an insight that helped me a bit with my project – for the report generation module)After a short break,(whence we raided the MS Cafeteria for free drinks and beverages of some 15 + kinds) we had the MOST amazing session of them all – “Windows Mobile App Development” by Abhinav Gujjar (MGSI) – Man, is this guy cool…. He definitely knows how to handle a young crowd…In less then 10 minutes,he showed us how to develop a twitter app for Windows Mobile.The audience loved him!After a quick photoshoot,we had Lunch(as good as it can be) and then 2 final tech sessions – app security and cloud computing – both by the best in the field.Break again and we had Mark D’Souza ,Reza,Sid handle a cool session called “Win7,IE8,9 lives of students – The three musketeers” 🙂 Then was a feedback session and as promised earlier that day : sight seeing / some kind of fun was in stack.It turned out to be a Disco – Geeks and nerdies @ Disco – funny huh (even i thought so) – In reality was quite okay – geeks or not they are student community too.. 😛 Hyd norms allowed partying till 11.30. We had a poolside dinner and boy was it grand! We returned to our suites and then had a private party too 🙂

Day 3 : March 8

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Packed up our bags and left them so that we could pick ’em l8r..checked out and left for the IDC once again.Post breakfast we had an interaction session with the MS academic team and MSPs.After those sessions,We got out baggage and the shuttle dropped us at Koti (if I remember right) and we went sight seeing – I only wish we had more time to do that – however we manged to make the most of the time left and saw a few places – Charminar ,Hamid Sagar and also managed a lil shopping.All in all this was one memorable trip – the first time I had been to AP- and I had many firsts : first disco,first running train jump with a 3 inch stiletto(thank goodness I wasn’t sucked into the track),the rest of the firsts is n’t worth pinning up in public!The travel was glorious,owing to the excellent weather!

My very last bootcamp 😦 In that way – we felt a bit sad.But this had been the best ever.Thanks to everybody involved !! Special Thanks to the academic team !