Ye anna gudgude nad gudgude
Dishkiyaaon Diskhiyaaon Dishkiyaaon
I have no idea what that means, but this is how we used to start most of our days. That’s how the journey had been. So much happens on board the 15 days, that we found the time short to understand the 450 people. And honestly, I could not even introduce myself to the entire lot.
Had heard about the Jagriti Yatra way back in 2012 but was too lazy to apply then and missed the deadline. In 2013, I applied and was selected in mid-year itself. Had completed most of my formalities early on and was excited to be on board that my life took a small tragic turn. I decided to give the Yatra a miss.
And this time around, a few days before the Yatra, I was in two minds – had loads of work at hand in office and I would be off for a good 2 weeks with limited or no net connectivity. But somehow I decided to be on board the Yatra; work could wait. I would have regretted it big time had I skipped it this year as well – still absorbing the hangover with numerous photo uploads and status updates on FB as if my newsfeed has nothing else in store.
Probably I was destined to be on board in 2014 – after all I am a strong believer of ‘Jo bhi hota hai, ache ke liye hota hai’.
I have never been on any short or long trips where I did not have my family and friends along. Days before the trip a bit of curiosity and anxiety began setting in. I was not sure of what to expect from the Yatra – an exclusive train rolling across India. I did not want to go on board with a baggage full of expectations. As they say, the cup needs to be empty to pour in something.
But yes, I was definitely excited and looking forward to it; it was kind of an adventure to be knocked off my super long bucket list. I have always lived in an urban metro, be it Dubai or Mumbai; apart from the short occasional trips to meet my grandparents in the distant rural India. This was an opportunity to meet 450 people from across the world, transcending both national and state boundaries; people from urban and rural areas being under a common roof (other than the sky) for a period of 15 days did excite me.
It was about listening to 450 stories. Everybody has a story, just that all are not spoken about. I was not sure if I had a story to tell; probably my life has always been a closed book. I wanted to go just to make some new friends across the country, listen to them and probably lend a helping hand in the daily chores.
The stories began on the first day itself when we would informally introduce ourselves; thanks to facebook and whatsapp we already knew many of them by name. We did not want to find common ground or areas of interest. We wanted to find ourselves on the other side of the Yatra. And relgion, state, caste, colour, creed, gender, nothing came in between our introductions or conversations.
We knew each other by their face and work and not where they belonged to. This was one of the best examples of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’; none of us did. Since, we did not know anyone before hand; none of us were actually judgmental or had a preconceived notion – a welcome break from our daily metro hustle. We did not have to break any prejudice; we could start afresh.
I am not so keen to talk about the role models – though all of them inspired us in some or the other way, for me the real journey was with the Yatri’s – that’s how we fondly called ourselves.
There was someone whose brother was murdered a month back and she was demanding some answers from the people, a young lad left the US to fulfill his dad’s dream to work for the development of Indian villages, someone who travels the length and breadth of the country with a backpack, someone who rebelled against the society village to sell handicrafts, a 20 something cycling 1000kms to be on the yatra, about protesting against government policies; coming face to face with naxals etc. The stories were endless, the inspiration was infinite.
The Yatri’s were a mix batch of students and entrepreneurs, a great urban and rural mix; the only common thread being the zest to do something. Several introverts decided to board the Yatra to give their life a new meaning and my respect for such people grew manifold.
The Yatra definitely forced all of us out of our comfort zone. Sharing your living space with complete strangers over the course of the Yatra was a bit jittery initially. But then the train was our home on the move for 15 days. Eating, sleeping, bathing, gossiping and discussing on board for 8000 kms is definitely an exhilarating experience. My cohort and bogie mates became my immediate family members.
The personal boundaries just faded past as the time on the train began to elapse. Discussions moved from where are you, what you do to who was their first crush or when did they share the first kiss. People spoke about their heart breaks and low points in their life with such ease as if we knew each other from 15 years instead. We even did gossip about the on board flings ;).
We cared for each other when the other fell sick on board, ensured that all of them boarded the train on time, took care of each other’s belongings – it had been really long that we had treated everyone around us with the healing human touch.
Time flew by but we know for a fact that we made some friends for a lifetime. Sometimes you need a lifetime to know the other person but in our case just the two weeks were enough. There were people with whom we spoke for hours and built a bond and had lots more to speak about and then there were people with whom we had just a conversation and struck a chord.
We spoke about those days in life when we were bogged down by personal issues and the low points in the last 2 decades of our existence and also on the other side about moments that meant a lot to us – the high points. Most of us slept for less than 6 hours a day but we were still excited for the ‘garam hai garam hai’ breakfast served to us right from the pantry.
Many of us did not even bath more than couple of times on the Yatra but lived out of a deo. Sleeping bags and inflatable pillows were our beds on the journey. We were devoid of all comfort and yet the peace within us was inexpressible. #FreeHugs were available in abundance whenever we felt homesick on the Yatra.
On certain occasions when we interacted with school kids from the rural India, we learnt to live life all over again. Playing dodge ball, Frisbee, volleyball, langdi, badminton made all of us go back to our childhood days. We danced to the tunes of rains with them.
I consciously tried my best to stay away from whatsapp, emails and calls and it did work like a charm. I successfully stayed away from FB for the entire journey and not for a minute did I have withdrawal symptoms. The kids did not need a cell phone or an internet connection to be happy. They did not let the ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ of the world to tell them that they have had a great time. We run behind superficial happiness, these kids taught us what happiness in life actually means. It brought out the kid in us. Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.
Personally, I am a very insecured person. But after meeting the Yatri’s and the kids, I realized that I have nothing to lose then what the hell am I so insecure in life about?
I know for a fact that I may not literally stay in touch with more than a handful of people over the next few years; but am I going to sit there and cry over it or just live the moment? The kids in the school had a gala time when we were around and their smiles made me forget everything else in life. My friends have been a major support system is the past several years, specially the fact that I stay away from my family – the base just added a whole new bunch of awesome folks.
The Yatra got me out of the thinking zone rather over thinking zone and take things in their practical context and not in a hypothetical ‘what if’ situation.
We lived life like there is no tomorrow. We partied on board the train on 31st night and brought in 2015 in great style. We sang songs around bonfire on a cold night in a village with all our sore throats. The Yatra made us all realize to do things that keep us happy and it doesn’t matter if you are a bathroom singer or a crappy writer. You do not need others approval to do what gives you the requisite satisfaction.
We were inspired by the villages, industry and NGO visits with an equal awe. We travelled across India with halts at 12 cities with different offerings. We braved the heat, the rains and the cold, we loved the solar lit village at Kalkeri and we equally loved the awakening we had on a cold Delhi evening by the Goonj man, we were moved by one man’s mission to change the Tilonia village to another man’s mission to build one of the biggest IT companies in the world. We realized that Agriculture, Technology, Education are the sectors to look out for and entrepreneurship is the trending buzzword.
We battled changing weather conditions and 50 shades of shit; we fought, we laughed, we spoke, we built, we cried, we presented, we inspired, we cared, and we LIVED during the 15 day Yatra. And as they say, the journey is more important than the destination, the fact that I am not on a moving bed and I’ll not see the Yatri’s for ages is yet to sink in. I know it’s a little difficult to move on, but as they say, ‘chalti ka naam gaadi’ or in the language that we Yatri’s understand – ‘Keep Moving’.
The Jagriti Geet bound all of us Yatri’s in a very peculiar way. All of us would be super enthusiastic and could dance to the tunes of the Geet anywhere in the world no matter how exhausted we would be. It was an invisible chain that tied all of us through the Yatra.
To quote a friend, ‘the Yatra changed us in more ways than one’. We all discovered a side of ourselves we never knew existed. We did not undergo a major transformation, but small small changes in bits during the Yatra made the overall difference.
After the Yatra, when I met some of my non-Yatri friends, they were shocked to see all the extra energy and enthusiasm in me. They had not seen me this way in ages and thought probably I needed a psychiatrist. It’s difficult to express in words, the magic the yatra has had on us.
Just like the never ending conversations on board the Yatra, I can still keep writing; but would end with these lines from Udaan:
Kahani khatam hai ya shuruwaat hone ke hai
Subha nayi hai yeh ya phir raat hone ko hai
Aane wala waqt dega panaahe
Ya phir se milenge do-raahe
Khabar kya, kya pataa
Would the Yatra be a lifetime experience had I not met Ayush, Hetansh, Mansi and Vidita?;
Would the debates be so political had it not been with Ruben, Arjun, Aditya, Neel?;
Would I have so many memories if I had not been part of the BSY Gang (Shailendra, Akash, Pooja, Pooja & Pooja, Shrihari, Ajinkya, Amit, Darshil, Saloni, Sakshi)?;
Would I have been so enriched with the rural India if Zubin, Anchal, Pooja, Mukesh had not been around?;
Would the journey be complete had I not made friends like Richa, Archana, Harinder, Lakshmi, Lohit, Nandu?;
Would the sleepless nights have been so so awesome, if I did not have those insane talks and gossip conversations with Gaurav Nemade, Gaurav Gattani, Dipankar, Prachi, Amruta, Spriha?
Much has been said about the 12 cities, 8000 kms and 15 days, 15 role models. But i would say the 450 people on board make the Yatra what it is.
Missed many names but not forgotten.
All photos courtesy Mansi Shrivastava.