A train journey of 9000 kilometres around India with 450 young aspiring entrepreneurs – the idea was intriguing…
My journey to the Jagriti Yatra started on Gandhi Jayanti this year. Invited to address the Yatris at a function on 2nd Oct, at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, I was captivated by the passion and energy of the young people who filled the room. Drawn from all over India, they shared how their experience on the Yatra had transformed their perspective and in some cases their lives.
Inspiring as the stories of the journey were, what was really interesting was the theme : Building India through Enterprise. This then, was more than just a fun exercise in experiential learning – Yatris were selected both on the basis of their ideals and their dreams – of a better India driven by entrepreneurship.
The idea of the trip was to provide an immersive learning experience (live in sleeper class compartments on a train for 15 days); visiting role model institutions (from Infosys in Bangalre to the Barefoot college in Tilonia Rajasthan); using Case study methodology (intensive Group discussions within Cohorts designed to be diverse) and building a support network of like minded individuals who care deeply about building a better India.
I was hooked ! This seemed a perfect continuum of the journey I had begun in April, to the villages of India. So I signed on to be a Resource person for the 2012 Yatra that commenced on December 24.
Through my blogs over the next 15 days, I would like to share some of the vignettes of this fascinating journey.
Today is Day 3 and we have covered about 800 kms.
We started on the Eve of Christmas from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai, after a day of orientation at TISS. Christmas Day was spent on the train, getting to know each other, and adjusting to our new home.
The Yatris are an interesting bunch : 375 aspiring entrepreneurs aged 20-25, and 75 slightly older participants who form the organising and facilitating team, many of whom are ex-Yatris themselves.
This year 18000 registrations were received for the Yatra, of whom 375 participants were finally selected. 35 are international participants representing 12 countries. The Indian participants are drawn from 24 Indian states. 39% are female and 57% come from semi urban and rural backgrounds.
The chemistry between Yatris is fun to watch – adjustments as people jostle for space : physical, mental and philosophical !
Yesterday we disembarked for the first time, and journeyed from Dharwad station in Karnataka to the small village of Kalkeri. There, at a unique residential school for children from the poorest families, we witnessed a modern day Gurukul.
It was started 10 years ago by a group of young Canadian, French and Indian musicians, united by a passion for music and for bringing about social change. Today the school houses 200 children, half of whom are girls, and many of whom come from single parent families or are orphans.
The children are taught classical Hindustani music, Bharat Natyam, and Drama, in addition to the regular school curriculum of the Karnataka state syllabus. The quality of education provided to the children was immediately evident as the young girls and boys, many no older than 5 or 6, came up to the Yatris and confidently start conversing in English. When they performed on stage – singing classical hymns; playing the tabla, harmonium or sitar; the performances were so professional that it was hard to believe they were just children.
The vision, that guides the teachers, is simple but beautiful : they believe that by providing opportunity you provide hope. So they try to create opportunities for these children to realise their musical dreams…
At the Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya we met 2 role model institutions who shared their stories and their business model.
The first was SELCO, which has had unique success in carrying solar solutions to the remotest part of rural Karnataka. The second Toe Hold Artisans, a co- operative of Kolhapuri chappal manufacturers from the village of Athini in Karnataka – a wonderful example of how powerful transformational change can be driven at the grass roots.
The Yatris will discuss, critique and present these Case Studies over the next two days to the larger group. As we listen in to their discussions, their perspectives and conversations are fascinating and often unexpected !
But everywhere is a common thread – the thread of dreams that range from changing India and serving our people, to building businesses that will be global giants.
As I walk through the compartments, I feel as if I am walking in the shadow of these dreams…and as these young Yatris awake to their full potential, and start realising these dreams, India will be a better place.