Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lets talk about the Yatra!

Hello guys, today is the last day for replying to Rochester with my decision. I wonder an email can makes so much difference. Earlier, I was at the receiving end of the decisions by business schools and now I have to respond with my decision. Anyways, Let’s go back to yesterday’s post. I was telling you about my dilemmas about myself during the journey. Before continuing about that I want to let you know, the yatra itself has made a lasting impact on my decision making process so its important that I talk about it as well.

TATA JAGRITI YATRA is about people. I shall tell you few stories. On first day, we had an induction program when we had polished English speaking speakers – few smart Indian women. - introducing norms and guidelines about the Yatra to us. Suddenly, a guy called Swapnil, introduced to us as the Operation Head, walks on the stage. His first statement was this Yatra is all about ambiguity.

We were given a train diagram earlier that depicted the purspose of each coach of the train. Swapnil when came to that slide said – “Your train doesn’t look like this at all”. For the yatra, we were traveling to chilliest parts of India in later days. Swapnil’s response was “Hot water might not  be available!”. He said “If you are found smoking or taking alcohol, you will be detrained right away!”. The dialogues aren’t important. More important is that out of polished speakers and Swapnil’s Hindi, I remember distinctly what Swapnil said. Shall I tell you why? His way of speaking had a conviction. He knew what he was talking about! Damn! He was running the entire show. He wasn’t a thinker. He was executing! Throwing an open challenge that this is the best we can be provided in the current situations! And if you think there are better ways, come over and he will make sure that he incorporates. His role required that everything remains intact and functional. Ever wondered how on a continuous 18 days journey, fresh food was served to us and that too wherever we follow – on the platform, on the moving train, in a village? Everytime! Right Time! Ever wondered how for different parts of India cooperation was seeked from different Railways departments to help ensure that train is always on schedule? Obviously this was not a one man’s job. It can never be. The motivation of people who were ensuring our smooth journey was commendable but Swapnil stood out for all of us. He is an IITian who left his job, apparently on 1/3rd salary of his market value and motivated enough to run this train every year to awaken the spirits of Indian Youths! A great leader not by textbooks or case studies but by execution!

Let me tell you about one more guy, Gijs, currently an Ashoka fellow and founder of Zameen Organics. Gosh! What a guy he is! He is an agricultural engineer from Netherlands, came to India because he thinks in his field he can get better employment opportunities in India than in Europe, one thing us Indians clearly ignores! He believes in organic farming, a social entrepreneur by profession and prefers speaking in Hindi than English. Man! It has been a long time since I heard the words “Sansthan” and “Vikas”, let alone from a foreigner. Remember the character Sue from Rang De Basanti? Double it! That’s what this guy is. It made me insanely happy to listen to his Hindi. Somebody asked him why he doesn’t work on a solution to a particular social problem in agriculture. His response was “Aap Social Entrepreneur hain na? Aap kyun nahi karte” (you are social entrepreneur? Why don’t you do it?)

There are many more inspiring individuals I can talk about, Lets do that tomorrow!