Friday, February 27, 2009

TATA Jagriti Yatra 2008

I came to know about the Yatra from an official communication mail from the Corporate and I was impressed by the idea as soon as I saw the details on their website. The idea was to take 350 guys (and girls, ofcourse) in the age-bracket of 18-25 years from all over India to 18 role models spread over 12 cities across the length and breadth of the country on a train in 18 days. It seemed nothing short of a Herculean task to me because the things that can go wrong outnumbered the optimistic opinions by huge margins. But then again, it was a challenge that I was ready to accept. I knew that this is the best chance that God has given me to go around the country and to have more fun on the way, he gave me the option of choosing my company from among 349 other people- girls, boys, Marathi, Bangla, Tamils, Telugu, Punjabis, Delhites, Gujjus, scientists, journalists, entrepreneurs, Radio Jockeys, Teachers, engineers- all kinds of people. And my intuition was right, this Yatra proved to be life-changing in more than one ways. We started off from Mumbai, went to Trivandrum, then Kanyakumari, Pudduchery, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Bhubneshwar, Jamshedpur, Lucknow, Delhi, Tilonia, Anand and back to Mumbai. Meetings with several role models, interacting with the organizing team, talking to the other yatris and discussing the issues of national importance changed the perspective of looking at life. For the first time, I realized how important is the Bottom of the Pyramid talked about by CK Prahlad (in Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid). People are fighting through their lives to provide cloth to the poor, to create business models for the needed, to create self-reliant economies, to preserve water, to preserve wild-life and greenery, to kill the dependence of rural India on urban India. There was a lot to see and a lot to learn.
A journey that began as an experiment and that finished with an imprint in the pages of history, was the journey of a lifetime for the yatris. From Kanyakumari in the south to New Delhi in the north and from Jamshedpur in the east to Tilonia in the west, the TATA Jagriti Yatra sent the message across India that Youth is the power of today and tomorrow. Not only did it bring like-minded people from as diverse backgrounds as scientists to radio jockeys, from politicians to automotive engineers, from cardiologists to social entrepreneurship students and from businessmen to social workers, together, it also enthused our morales to an unprecedented high. During the course of the Yatra, we knew that we were being changed as human beings, changed as citizens and changed as entrepreneurs. On one side where we saw R Elango from Kuttumbhakam village in Chennai working day in and day out to develop a localized self-reliant economy of villages, Anshu Gupta on the other side, was witnessed struggling hard to reach out through his organization Goonj.. to the poorest of the poor to cover their naked shivering bodies with clothes deemed to be useless. Even Dr. V from Arvind Eye Hospital at Puducherry never retires to inspire the spirit of watching India from the eyes of all Indians and Bunker Roy never pauses to provide the poor with the skill to earn food in the deserts of Rajasthan by means of his Barefoot College at Tilonia. Yatris found the story of Tata Steel and JUSCO to be as intriguing as the enthusiasm of Joe Madiath working in the tribes of Orissa. Apart from learning the key themes of self-reliance, perseverance, focused approach and economic viability, Yatra also gave me an opportunity to know the people of India from so close. We lived in the train, ate at the platforms, bathed in the washrooms, danced in the chair-cars and enjoyed every bit of it. TATA Jagriti Yatra has given me the opportunity to shed my inhibitions towards the social entrepreneurship and has given a direction and focus to my life. At 09:40 am on 11th Jan 2009 at Mumbai Central, when the train receded to its yard for the one last time, not to be seen again with the Yatra, tears trickled down the eyes of the Yatris. Wet eyes bid a final see-off to the Yatra with a promise to be the Yatris forever, to be the learners forever and to be the agents of change. For ever.

(For you guys, I’d strongly suggest you to be a part of the Yatra next time. And guess what! I have been nominated to the Communications team and given the charge for Punjab and J&K for the NGO’s activities. The NGO is Jagriti. Go to for more information.)

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