It is said that travelling is an integral part of coming of age process for anyone. Jagriti Yatra is one such journey where 450 ignited minds of the country get to hop on a train together and travel across various not-so-popular tourist destinations in India to get a first-hand experience of what a social change looks like when implemented in rural parts of the country.
Team Youthopia got an opportunity to interact with travelers from the train- Jagriti Yatra 2013, namely, Sneha, Niranjani and Sunil. Sneha, 22, is an engineering student in North Eastern University, Niranjani, 25, works as an IT consultant in New York and Sunil, 25, runs a family pharmaceutical business in Chennai. There is a common conclusion that can be drawn after talking to them. Jagriti Yatra exposed them to the huge unharnessed potential of rural India. It wasn’t a surprise that all of them told us they didn’t want this journey to end and they were not missing their homes at all!
Following are the excerpts of interview:-
Why did you decide to go for Jagriti Yatra travel?
Sneha: – Oh I love travelling! I wanted to know more about rural India, and wanted to explore the opportunities for social entrepreneurship.
Niranjani: – I work full time in New York. I had heard a lot about Jagriti Yatra from my friends and wanted to give it a shot. I am planning coming back to India and work on my own grass root initiative. I wanted to find opportunities for social entrepreneurship, and couldn’t have found a better chance for my ground work, than Jagriti Yatra! Luckily this year everything fell into place, my vacation plans, Jagriti Yatra dates… everything.
Sunil: – Being a businessman I wanted to explore the socio-economic opportunities in rural India. I wanted to form a strong network with dynamic young men and women from diverse background and same age group in India. I also wanted to travel to the heart of the country. And Jagriti Yatra fits the bill!
Since Jagriti Yatra is 15 days on a train, what did you think about living in a train with so many others for this duration and what has been your experience so far?
Sneha: – Oh I get so exhausted in a two day train journey, and to think of living in a train for 15 days terrifying! But none of my fears stood a chance in this wonderful journey. The train so clean all the time, there is regular water supply, and food is simply awesome!
Niranjani: – I was a bit skeptical about the train concept initially. But then I prepared myself for any element of surprise and hopped in. Things have been great so far. There have been one or two instances where the train ran out of water, or food was not served on time. But I think company of so many inspiring and intellectual young minds compensates for whatever little inconvenience we face! I had a huge mental block about the train stay, but trust me going forward I don’t think I will ever think twice before a train journey. Because the journey is more about destinations, and companions, and less about the train!
Sunil: – Except for a couple of instances where we were delayed for a little more than usual time durations, the train travel experience has been wonderful! Living with 400 handpicked other Jagriti Yatris is an electrifying and an exciting experience!
Do you miss home?
Sneha: – Noooooo!!! I don’t want this Yatra to end!!
Niranjana: – No, not really. You don’t have much time during the Yatra to miss or brood.
Sunil: – He…He… No way!
Which has been your favorite destination and who has been you favorite role model so far?
Sneha: – I was inspired by every role model we met. And my favorite destination is Deoria, the one where we are at today. We received such a warm welcome, that I felt like I was attending some grand Indian wedding!
Niranjana:- So far I have like two destinations and role models the most. For some personal reasons, one of my favorite destinations has been Ulunthai village in Tamil Nadu, and my favorite role model has been Mr Madhavan. Earlier I had this notion that people who could not receive good education usually opted for farming. But here I learnt about agricultural practices being followed by Mr Madhavan, and realized that even educated people take up farming as their full-time occupation in India thereby generating employment. My perspective has changed. Let me share a very personal thought with you. My mother owns a piece of agricultural land, and she was planning to put it on sale. But after meeting Mr Madhavan, I have managed to convince her not to sell that land, and practice organic faming on it.
The other favorite destination has been Gram Vikas and role model Mr Joe Matiath. He is originally from Kerala and now permanently resides in Orissa. He is doing a lot as an enabler for tribals. He ensures that government funds reach people who actually need them. Changes made by him were very palpable and tangible. I felt a deep sense of calm at Gram Vikas. We also did something called Shram-daan and it was very fulfilling.
Sunil: – My favorite destination has been Madurai, and my favorite role model has been Dr.V from Aravind Eyecare. He told us that it was important not to sit on any idea, but to get started. He also told that aspirations are more important that resources.
Tell us a bit about fellow travelers
Sneha: – Well, approximately ninety percent of travelers are outgoing and around ten percent are introverts. Few of them have formed their own groups. But I stick to no group. I hop around chanting with everybody. There was session where all 450 Yatris shared their own story, and I felt that I was traveling with 450 role models. The train is full of quality people, and I have formed a very good social network.
Niranjana: – Everybody is very admirable in some way or the other. There are people from completely urban to completely rural background. All have a unique perspective. We discuss on several topics ranging from globalization, movies to astronomy! Several yatris have their own entrepreneurial ventures, so there is a lot to learn from them. Jagriti Yatra administration team has very carefully formed batches wherein each batch has a good mix of entrepreneurs , students and working class people.
Sunil: – There are several interesting fellow Yatris, but I feel that team-building within the train has not really been upto the mark. It could also be because everybody is from such diverse backgrounds that it takes a while to gel well with everyone else.
What was your perception about entrepreneurship opportunities in rural India and has it changed or evolved during the course of Yatra? If yes, then how? Also what do you think about social entrepreneurship opportunities in India?
Sneha:- I hail from rural India, and am already associated with a social entrepreneurship initiative in rural India, so it was not a surprise for me to find that rural India has a huge unutilized resource pool. Each and every nook and corner of country is full of talent. Prior to yatra, my experience was more of local, but now I have learnt a lot about several other unique initiatives across India. I plan to implement a couple of them back home. For example, The Biz Gyaan tree project, I think I can implement it in my North eastern village.
Niranjana:- I feel I have become culturally aware and socially conscious. Also I have learnt about India other than from my CBSE textbooks! As an aspiring entrepreneur I have learnt about challenges that one can face on grass-root level. There is something new that I learnt, and that was it was not that important for your entrepreneurial idea to be unique, but it was more important how you implemented it, what value you added through it and what kind of people you worked with in it.
Sunil: – Earlier I thought about entrepreneurship in a big way. But I have realized that you can also start with a small idea and the team you work with is more important than the idea itself.
What do you think would be your take-away from this Yatra?
Sneha: – I want to thank everyone, and will be glad about the huge social network I made during the Yatra
Niranjana: – Yatra has expanded my horizons. For example, I had no idea that social entrepreneurship sector or agriculture sector could be so organized. Also I am glad that I met so many good people during the Yatra.
Sunil: – My take-aways would be lessons from successful entrepreneurs, the big network that I formed here. And one fact I am sure of is that there is a huge potential in rural India.
Team Youthopia wishes best to all Jagriti Yatris!