From Agia to Oxford

(II)

It was a cold November morning of 1998. Only a handful rays of the morning sun were able invade the thick fog covering the earth’s facade. In the remote village of Agia, located in the northeastern corner of India, four high school students were preparing for their annual examination.

“Tultul, I just need 30 marks in Science and English. You tell me the sure-shot questions only!”

I always enjoyed the extra attention given during the examination time. It was the cascading effect produced by the exam-oriented outlook of my pals that I used to get berth in class football team and partner-in-crime while stealing mangoes from the village-head’s farmhouse. Win-win propositions constantly last longer in our society.

The study session for getting 30 marks never last for more than 30 minutes; we were on time as always. But the post study discussions on girls or football rivalry were not getting initiated today.  Science and English papers couldn’t entrap my friends’ imagination – I knew it for sure.

Podum broke the silence, “we three have been thinking on doing something. In fact, we have already decided”.

“I can’t join you before examination; Deuta won’t allow”, my biggest fear factor was my father.

“No, after exam. But you must come”, an unknown fear was attached in Shamim’s pleading voice.

“Oi Senga, what these guys are mumbling? Kotha tu ki?”

“We are joining ULFA. Swadhin da already explained us everything. We will leave with him to Bangladesh just after exam”, Senga dropped the bomb.

My first reaction was wow! Probably the then existed socio-political situation of Assam had influenced the upbringing of my generation in such a way that joining the banned militant outfit was always deemed fashionable and patriotic. ULFA was on massive recruitment drive during that time – the finest football player of our village, Kabiranjan kokaideu whom I always considered a role model poet and my own cousin – all left home for a cause I could not really understand, but appreciated very much. Now, it was my turn to take a step, that too, together with my childhood pals.

My wow reaction energized Podum. He continued, “Swadhin Da had read all your revolutionary poetries and super impressed. But your father was his school teacher, so he does not want to request your parent directly. You talk to Borta or simply escape with us”.

“We have been promised food, shelter, commando training and also a monthly salary that will be more than Kalita Sir’s. Once Assam becomes a country, we will be given good post with high designation. You know Netaji Subhash Bose also did the same during India’s freedom struggle”, Shamim was much more confident this time.

Poetries- commando- netaji, each of their words were arousing my inner zing. Getting 100 marks in Mathematics was seemed too cheap a target to aim now. I am a grown up man; this is the time for bringing revolution to my community. I will do only good things and become a hero, may be one day the Prime Minister of the new country-Assam. Wow, Ma and Deuta would be so proud of me!

Deuta….ok, hmm! Will he allow? No chance. I can run away; but if he finds out, he will beat me till death. Hmm! And, what about the promise I made to him on Tuesday night? No, no- I shouldn’t leave my village. I have to take care of my sister. How will Ma and sister live without me? Ohh God, show me way!

“I need to pee”, I wanted some time in seclusion to reflect back Tuesday night’s conversation with my father.

(I)

“Baba, have you written this poetry by yourself?”, my father had the school magazine in his hand.

“Yes, I just imagined how great it would be to have a different currency, different flag, and different anthem. Prabin Da and Saikia khura also sacrificed their lives for that, didn’t they?” The fashionable style of describing freedom and the death of dear ones affect the teenage mindset the most.

Deuta pulled in the wooden chair, “But what will happen if Bangladesh captures Assam for tea and oil? It is so poor a country that we will not even get our salaries; how will I feed you? Bangladeshis will force us to speak in Bengali. Who will save us then?”

Oh my God! I never thought of this side of affairs. Assam doesn’t even have an Air-force or Navy. But are the ULFA people and their supporters fools? They are fighting for a genuine cause- everybody knows that. All Assamese love and assist ULFA cadres in whatever way possible- they are our heroes.

“I am not saying the basic principle behind the formation of such groups is stupid. I only want to emphasis that armed movement like ULFA is not the only way to develop your community or region; Gandhiji didn’t approve violence at all”, Deuta was lecturing with utmost seriousness.

“What are the other ways then?”

“This is a good question. See, ULFA is requesting the United Nations and Government of India to accept its demands. Imagine you were there in the United Nations or with the Indian Prime Minister- you can do much more for the people of this region”.

Wow! That was a completely new line of thought father incorporated inside my brain. I always come last in 100 meter race, I can’t play good football also – how will I sustain a guerrilla fight against Indian army? On the other hand, I always come first in class; I can understand the complex books of Homen Borgohain & Indira Goswami- Certainly this new way would be the most appropriate for me.

My optimism was at the zenith- “Deuta, how can I become such kind of ‘big’ person?”

“That’s like my son! For that you have to study hard now. Then you have to study in world’s best University like Oxford where Indira Gandhi and Manmohan Singh had studied. I have set aside our Ulupara agriculture land for your study purpose only”.

That was probably the first time I imagined myself as a student in the world’s oldest university. The sparkle of dreams in my eyes – this was what my father wanted to see. Dreams are the first steps of success, he always said.

“Promise me, you will stop writing these poetries and concentrate on your books. First thing you have to do is to secure rank in HSLC board exam and then get admission into Cotton College, Guwahati”.

(III)

I came running to my amigos, still trying to fix the broken zip of my half pant.

“I will not be able to accompany you now because I have to first study in Oxford University”. I also explained the proposition behind my decision as I understood from my father so that I did not sound too odd to my friends.

“But Swadhin Da did not tell anything about this; per himself only ULFA can bring prosperity to Assam”, Shamim put forward his confusing viewpoint.

“Tultul, where is Oxford University? Are Science and English required to study there?”, Podum was dreaming in spite of his weakness- I felt energized. How great it would be if four of us study together in future also!

“Oxford is in America. When it is day here, it is night out there. Science and English are required, but I will help, don’t worry.  Just sit beside me during exam time or we will fix timing in urinal”. Who says you have to be practical or knowledgeable while dreaming?

“Wait, do you have any clue what brilliance and how much money are required to study outside India? Even if you are the topper at our Assamese medium village school, nobody will give a damn to you. Why don’t you admit that you are coward and unpatriotic rather than giving excuse? ”, I loved Senga for his direct words, but I hated him equally.

Shamim joined in, “It is fine if you don’t come with us, we still love you. Tell us one thing – what if you do not get admission into Oxford University?”

“I will join you guys. You three will be at higher position by then- so take me directly. But I don’t want to join the arm-cadre division; rather I will be the magazine editor of Swadhinota. Is that fine?”

I always wish decision making would have been as simple as it were during teenage time. There left nothing much to discuss. The stage was all set for Podum, Shamim and Senga; still I put forward my last counter argument-

“Can you postpone by a few years? May be we can all go together if you defer this for now”.

(IV)

And, they didn’t defer. In fact, three of them vanished when one exam paper was still left. Police came to our house too; Deuta didn’t allow them to question me. The whole village was under awkward silence for several months. Everybody knew everything but nobody would open his/her mouth. The educated parents became stringent than ever before.

Time goes by……. I got state rank in HSLC and studied in Cotton College too. I tasted the sweetness of national integration and widened my definition of patriotism. The desire for ‘comfortable life’ landed me in corporate world, where I met another set of people who believe in bringing revolution via cafeteria talks and watching English news channels. I studied the insurgency movements across the globe and developed an emotionless yet patriotic perspective for Assam movement. My father passed away, still saving the Ulupara agriculture land for my higher study. I also learnt that Oxford is not in America and the urinal-cheating wouldn’t have been possible to get into the university. Meanwhile, 90% of ULFA leadership surrendered to Government of India in exchange of lucrative deals without giving a damn to the ideologies that destroyed the lives of thousands from my generation. In this restless world, who cares the ideologies and sacrifices made by three innocent boys of a remote village fifteen years ago?

I do, I do, I do!

In fact, this is my childhood experience that keeps my feet on ground every time I tend to fly in vacuum. A sense of responsibility binds me to my roots. Personally I do not buy-in the argument that one academic degree from an institute can do wonder; rather, what one does on the field makes all the difference. But as Ratan Tata once said, “a promise is a promise”.

I did not even think twice before respectfully declining the acceptances from University of Cambridge and London School of Economics after I received the offer from Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government. While accepting the 100% scholarship as BSG-UNIV scholar, I only wondered how many lower middle class fathers preserve their agriculture lands for kid’s higher education! I miss my Deuta- my mentor, my creator, my pride.

And I miss Podum, Senga and Shamim. They didn’t have a visionary father, but they had a good friend- yet I couldn’t prevent them from going astray. That’s an unfinished episode of my life that I often wish to re-write in my own way.

“Are you still alive? Let’s make a new promise today- you come back to mainstream without taking Government benefits and I will join you all. We will work very hard and build upon our childhood dreams. Together we will create a new Assam, a new Northeast, a new India, and a new World”.

My First Day at Office

11-11-11

I left no stone unturned to have this date as my joining date in NISG. You might not believe but I was working on a critical deployment activity as the sole point of contact until 12-00 PM on 10th November, 2011, my last day at my previous employer-Microsoft. There left no more flight on that day to connect me to Aizawl; but I covered half the distance by an evening flight to Kolkata. Yes, after finishing all the formalities such as handing over the laptop, ID-card etc to my old employer and of course, saying Good-bye and hugging my old friends with tearful eyes. I wanted nelson-nelson as my joining date anyhow.
This was my first job-change, that too with a huge shift from Microsoft to Government- my expectation had been tremendous. That made me feels guilty for being late to office on the very first day. But I was left with no other option as the arrival time for the first flight at Aizawl’s Lengpui airport was 11-10 AM (either from Kolkata or from Guwahati). ‘Friday afternoon’ – I had always considered a wind-up time, not in this case though.
The day started with the famous ambassador taxi of Kolkata. I reached Kolkata airport without knowing I was lucky enough to witness the rare event- ‘on time Aizawl flight’. But the luck dissociated itself in case of my carrying baggage. First time I boarded a small ATR flight and they refused to consider my trolley-bag as cabin bag. Consequently, I had to pay INR 2100 for extra baggage whereas my ticket cost was INR 2200. New place, new flight, new experience!
This was my first visit to Mizoram, previously known as the LUSAI HILL district of Assam before getting its UT status in 1972. Unknown places always attract me, specially the small sleepy hilly towns. I was excited. Amidst the big trees and deep jungle suddenly I spotted the runway of the Lengpui Airport. The first thought came to my mind – was this runway longer than the Mangalore one?
It was 12-30 PM, by the time I reached Aizawl town from the Airport. You have to obtain ‘Inner Line Permit’ to enter Mizoram – miniature form of visa, if I am allowed to say so. I had thought I would enjoy the hilly road from the airport to Aizawl; but I had to stop the taxi twice as I was having vomiting tendency on the curvy road. First time I thought my old equations might not work all the time here in Aizawl.
I did not spend even 2 minutes at the hotel. Just after submitting my baggage at the reception, I took my file and rushed towards the office by another taxi. My guilt consciousness was at zenith that time.
I didn’t find much difficulty in locating my future work-place, but searching for 10 minutes here & there. It was just in front of the Mizoram Assembly house- a four storied building. I took a bow (inside my mind) and approached the security guards sitting out there at the lower-ground floor. And, the fun began.
The security guards were very busy playing a strange game – carom board coins on a chess board using a rule none of the above two. They were so engrossed into the game that my four repeated asks went in vain. My second concern was where I can get access pass to go to the upper floors of the building. One lady with vegetables on her back (read as vegetable vendor) solved my concern.
I went inside one office in the first floor searching for Er. Ringa, system engineer,Department of ICT, Mizoram, whom my supervisor had asked me to meet (my supervisor was in Hyderabad on CIO training). I saw 4 ladies, sitting on a round table and working on woolen sweaters. That was a scene we often see in movies about Government offices. I felt delighted that I was into hard-core Government sector now.
I went to second floor expecting that might be the floor used by Department of ICT, Govt. of Mizoram. There was a long queue at the entrance of the main office. Four people were sitting on the ground itself, spitting everywhere, waiting for their turn to enter the office. The scene completely shut my mood off. I prayed to God – ‘I understand Government, but slightly better please’. Thankfully, God listened to me – that was some Social Welfare department or something.
Next, I reached the third floor. A long row of wooden cubical with a beautiful conference room at the entrance welcomed me. My expectation was at the lowest level – so, I became overjoyed! I found out Er. Ringa and informed him about my joining. He was clueless as my supervisor did not inform him anything, it seemed. I explained him whole about NeGP and NISG without much result; but the moment I used the word SeMT, he understood everything. I learnt another lesson of using appropriate word while discovering my future sitting place. Er. Ringa took me to the fourth floor- my future work-station.
The fourth floor was the SWAN State Headquarter for Mizoram. There was a separate room for the consultants apart from the NOC room, store room and machine room. First impression- very nice (but I missed a few ladies working on woolen sweater.-:)
I met Pu Maka, the current SeMT consultant in Program Management. He assigned me the cubical in front of him. We chatted for half an hour about the current scenario and then he suggested I should submit a joining report to the ICT office in third floor so that there remains some proof that I joined on 11-11-11.
Did I expect some people would wait for my arrival with garland? Probably NO! Did I expect some people would know that somebody called Manjit Nath would join that day and guide me what I should do? Probably Yes! But things don’t happen as we expect, and that is the fun of life. Isn’t it?
By the time I prepared some joining report template inside my mind, submit that along with my relieving letter from Microsoft to an officer in third floor, it was 3-30 PM. I was damn hungry, slight headache with post-vomiting side-effects. But I was there with all my zing to change the fate of Mizoram- how can I stop so soon? I started having conversation with other people out there in the fourth floor. I met Colonel Mehta, branch manager of Tulip, which bidded for the Mizoram SWAN earlier, unsuccessfully though. I met the engineers and operators of V’mtech, the engineering implementer company of Mizoram SWAN.
It was around 4-30 PM, the Sun was setting down; there remained very few people at office. Col. Mehta offered to give lift to me and Pu Maka on his way home. I was feeling so awkward to leave office at a time when I just used to have snacks in Hyderabad-office. “If you are in Rome, do as Romans do”. The duo dropped me at my hotel. The hotel stuffs already arranged my room with my baggage in proper place. Let me not write what and when I had my dinner:)

I remember writing essay ‘My first day at school’ during school-days. Shouldn’t we write essay like ‘My first day at office’ during our working-days? They say, a strong memory of the past gives a solid start for the future. I am just trying to prove them right.

The First Reaction

Well, this was bit unusual. And I really enjoyed capturing the reaction of people when I broke out the news of leaving Microsoft and joining Government service for the first time. Here are the best ones:

(1)

M: Xxxx, check whether this email is fine?
O: Whoa! What is this? I know your passion, but, this….?
M: The planning phase should stop somewhere, right?
O: Yes, but … Did you get something, or just like that? Where are you going? You can take some more time.

(2)

M: Well, this has been more than 5 months since you came Hyderabad.
O: Ok.
M: You have made lots of friends by now.
O: Yes, what’s the matter?
M: I think I am no more needed here.
O: Ha Ha! Which direction are you going?
M: So, I decided to move out of Hyderabad. I resigned today.
O: O!
M: Hmm..
O: ..
M: Tell something
O: ..
M: Hey, are you crying?
O:..
O: It has been more than 5 months. You should know my face is like that only, by now.

(3)

M: So, the tough gets going finally.
O: Whoa! So, you resigned? What’s next?
M: Sarkari Naukri.
O: Congratulations. At least I know one person now who does what he speaks. To be frank, I thought you would break down in the last one year.
M: Glad to prove you wrong, he! he!

(4)

O: What have I heard? Are you really going to work for Government?
M: Yes, you heard correct.
O: Dude, let me tell you- this is one of the biggest mistakes you are making in your career.
M: Oo..
O: I have worked in Government and I know how it works. There is still time, re-think. You are going to ruin your career.
M: [silent]

(5)

O: So Manjit, suddenly you want to meet me after one year. Are you getting married?
M: Ha! Ha! I am leaving Hyderabad, Sir.
O: Let me guess- Government or Non-profit?
M: Well, I did not expect this from you though. It’s Government

(6)

O: Manjit, what is this? Everyone is leaving Hyderabad.
M: Hmm, I told you I have been trying.
O: What you told? Who will organize the Bihu here now?
M: I’ll fly down to Hyderabad to organize Bihu.
O: Non-sense! I am not approving this, Manjit. Please! Now, if you go you should remember you are leaving Hyderabad without the approval from all people- this fact will hunt you later.
M: Oops!

(7)

M: Where are you? Let’s go for snacks. I have only a few days to have Microsoft’s free snacks.
O: Whoa! Interview results came? Don’t tell now that you already resigned.
M: Sorry, I have to tell you that-just 5 minutes back though.
O: Hey, many many congratulations boy! O, I just can’t believe that you will leave Hyderabad now. With whom will I go for snacks?

(8)

M: Dude, I am leaving Microsoft. I am joining a Non-Profit org under Ministry of IT.
O: Ok, are they paying you more salary?
M: Well, it’s like I have been trying this for quite some time now.
O: Good, good! After sixth pay commission Government is paying well. You told your cousin is in Politics- good for you. Any link through him?
M: [why the hell I told him]
O: Where will you be posted? I heard Government employees travel only by trains.
M: I will be in Aizawl, capital of Mizoram. There is no rail track there.
O: What? Where is this dude?
M: I really doubt how you complete your schooling now. Acha, you told you study in the school set up by your father….

(9)

M: Hello!
O: Manjit Nath, where on the earth are you? Itne dino ke baad kaise yaad aayi?
M: I just called to invite you for lunch, let’s go. You come out to your campus gate.
O: Hutt! I am busy. Is this a way to invite?
M: Arre, I am leaving Hyderabad. Day after tomorrow is my last day here.
O: What, holy crap! Your DONER proposal gets accepted or what?
M: Big story. Are you coming for lunch?
O: Yeah, ab to aana hi padega! Give me an hour.
M: You have only half an hour. I need to pack yaar.

(10)

O: Thanks for joining me in dinner. Working late in office, deployment?
M: Nope, I wanted to tell you something; hence I waited.
O: Wow, sounds interesting. Tell me.
M: I resigned yesterday.
O: what? Are you kidding dude?
M: Nope. I went Delhi a few days back, right? I appeared for an interview with Ministry of IT.
O: What? Government? You must be joking now. You have just started your career. This is your first job, right?
M: Yes, but I want to try that. Are you skeptical?
O: Well yes! No! Actually.. I think you have already done your home work. You must be knowing better than me. I know your passion. You are not the suitable person here- that I know.

Yes, you are right- I have lots of extra time to do all these. Just that I cut out some of my time out of SN sites -:)

TJY10: Last Day (The End of a Beginning)

All eighteen days had gone – we were finding it hard to believe. Time of separation is always accompanied by lots of grief, as well as a new ray of hope.

Our group G started with the remaining part of feedback session in the morning. It was the time for me gives feedback on the Yatris. I tried to be as honest as possible and this eventually offended many of my group, mostly the girls. I knew this might happen, but good things can’t happen unless somebody points out the bad things. I chose to be the ‘bad man’, because I had nothing to lose by speaking some bad truths.

Yaaro Chalo..

I felt bad though after everything was done. It was the last day, and all my group members were some wonderful individuals. I went to the girls’ compartment and talked with them individually- I felt good. But that started the rise of emotional zing, which I hated uncontrollably.

There was chair car presentation on OKHAI group, but attendees were too low. Everybody was busy in unsuccessful efforts to take back all the 18 days in the most  possible ways.

There was a small graduation ceremony organized for all Yatris. Jagriti Sewa Sansthan presented us the certificate and a memento as a sign of completion. The Tatas also gifted us a wrist-watch and a pack of books, including the one named ‘Creation of Wealth’. Tata has been so generous in the whole Yatra. Hats off to the great Tatas!

We filled up feedback forms (around 12 pages long) and the member form for JEN (Jagriti Enterprise Network). We also gave the write-up of the DESI DEORIA project for future communications. There was not much formality though- I like it.

I talked to a few with whom I never talked as such. Suddenly all became so close today. I went to Vibha, Ashutosh, Swapnil and Rewati, and personally thanked them. They were some awesomely efficient individuals I have come a crossed in my life. I also requested them to include North East India in TJY2011, and offered all possible help.

We reached Mumbai LT station at around 8-00 PM. 60% of the yatris already got down by then. Shashank and Gurpreet came to receive us. We sang the Jagriti Geet at the station- Indian flag was flying high.

I sat on a taxi to Colaba. The driver asked, “AapTata ke gadi mein aaye hain kya?” I wanted to tell him, “I am coming from a wonderland, and I am here to make India, a wonderland”.

 
“Yaaro Chalo, Badalne ki Rut Hain…..”

 
[It took more than a month for me to write this last post]

TJY10: Day 17 (The final destination)

We reached Mithapur (HQ of Tata Chemicals) in the early morning hours of seventeenth day. We were in the land of the most developed state of India- I was excited.

After the breakfast in the railway station, we were put into different buses to different destinations. Those were sleeper buses, and very uncomfortable for short journeys. But again, a new experience and we had a nice time, lying in the last seats, with the distance between the seat and the roof being only 2 feet.

Our bus went to an irrigation project – nothing much to see there. There was a small river and rather than creating drainages, they used pipes to supply water to nearby areas. Other buses went to visit Okhai group, the rural BPO etc. On the roads we saw huge factories where salts were extracted and transported. Tata Salts !

The fourth panel discussion

We all returned to assemble in the Tata Chemicals main office area. I was amazed to see how salts were produced here and how the industry had been shaped up. We were served a delicious lunch by Tatas. There was a small cultural program organized by them. All the Yatris shake their legs with the Mithapur crowd. Art is something that bounds every one of us together. This is the great unity in diversity of India, and I am so proud of this.

 Soon, our last panel discussion started. The topic was- ‘Power of One’- how an individual person alone can impact the society. It came at such a time when all Yatris will go back to their daily life and will try to change the society, without the help of the rest 399 fellow Yatris. If you are passionate enough, you yourself can bring about a change- that was the message.

Got to hear from Mr Anant Kumar, the founder of Super-30. He was speaking in Hindi, and was delivering no make-up speeches. Anshu Gupta and E. Lango were the other two panellists. The panel discussion was followed by the valedictory ceremony of Jagriti Yatra. We took group photos, Yatris were exchanging contacts; tears were there in the eyes of a few Yatris. The same situation was there in the train station before boarding the train to Mumbai finally.

After dinner all the members of group G assembled and we started the personal feedback session. Each member was supposed to give honest feedback about every other persons of the group. It was getting exciting, soon, it was 00-00 and we wanted to celebrate Ankita’s birthday.

The last night at TJY10 ! I became emotional. I wanted to draw my lifeline again, I wanted to shoot some more videos, I wanted to listen to one more speech, I wanted to miss one more station, I wanted the train brake to be failed one more time, at least……………

[6-24 PM, 15-01-2011, sitting @return train to Hyderabad]

TJY10: Day 16 (Meeting some super women)

In the morning, we were preparing to get down at Tilonia, and can you imagine what happens next?  Our driver missed the station, Whoa! Finally our train was allowed to stop at the Kishangarh station and consequently all the successive programs got reshuffled.

Our destination was Bare Foot College, a solar-powered school that teaches illiterate men and women from impoverished villages to become doctors, solar engineers, architects, and other such professions (founded by Bunker Roy in 1972). The train incident made our host travelled to the Kishangarh station and showed their first presentation at the railway station. Their simple yet extraordinary greetings made us realize how much Jagriti Yatris mean to them.

We shoot a few videos among our group G at the station. We took the lunch at the same station and then headed for the Bare Foot College.

Super Women

I was simply overwhelmed looking at the extra ordinary works of the women in the college. There were a number of women from African and South Asian countries- completely illiterate and not knowing how to communicate to the people around. But do you know what are they doing?

The women were making transistors, building electronic circuits, they were doing soldering and making us understand solar energy in their language – oh my God! I remember my Robotics days at NIT Durgapur and felt ashamed of myself. It was also an eye-opener for me about the capability of individuals. Many a times I used to doubt this, even on myself. I am sorry.

There was also a craft bazar, where I bought a turban. Wearing a turban first time- I was having fun. There was a small cultural program by the villagers. The way they managed the whole program in absence of Mr Bunker Roy (who went to meet HH Dalai Lama) is commendable.  They were some unforgettable people- hats off to the Bare Foot College and the people here.

Get inspired

The day (today) started with a bang, and it should be ended with a bang. What say?

Yeah, it did. While we were taking dinner at the Ajmer station and preparing to board the train suddenly the announcement came that compartment numbers 6 and 7 were detected with brake-fail and needed to be replaced. So, we had to shift our entire luggage to other compartments, that too within 10 minutes and with no electricity in 6 & 7.

Now, that was called ‘enterprise led development’. I simply loved it. After we shifted our ‘widely distributed’ belongings, the train was taken away for the replacement of the two compartments.  A commending job by Indian Railways- they finished the whole operation in two hours.

Prakhar’s birthday was at night. I, Yatish and Rakesh managed to get a cake and some Ajmer (District in which Tilonia is located) special dishes to the train station .We celebrated Prakhar’s birth day at midnight. Group ‘G’ rocks.

[3-56 PM, 15-01-2011, sitting @return train to Hyderabad]

TJY10: Day 15 (A rest day and some ‘bad’ thoughts)

 We spent the whole day in the train today, heading towards Tilonia, Rajasthan. Personally, I took bath after three days (If you are doubting my cleanliness, we had record setter in the train with 18 days).

Let me write down some critical observations about the Yatra today. I believe we have not been doing what we intended to do here in the last couple of days. Couple of love birds are flying in the train. People are not talking about ‘Enterprise Led Development’ anymore. 60% of the conversations are simply gossips. Many have brought up their own agendas.

Top view of the bathroom arranged for us in the Jagriti Train

I remember Shashank Mani said in one of the facilitator’s meetings, that physical interaction would not be tolerated in the train during the Yatra. But there were some incidents happened yesterday night which had been brought to notice of the core team members (I just heard). People were truly expecting some actions- but nothing happened. I was talking with a few Yatris who had been very serious for TJY; all were of the opinion that these things had polluted the whole environment. This is the ‘rotten potato theory’ and should be stopped for the very purpose of the Yatra.

Swapnil came to our compartment today and I tried raising the issue. But he did not seem to understand the problem well(Or, may be that Yatris started thinking he can solve any damn problem in the train). The core team should understand that this is a serious issue. Yatris are in the age group of 20 to 25 and they are quite vulnerable to this element at their age. But TJY has a completely different purpose altogether, and that needs to be enforced if need arises. It is like the most favourite topic of my office—balancing personal and professional life in two separate ways.

Like alcohol, there should be zero tolerance on this issue. Otherwise, many people will carry a wrong message out of TJY. Also, this defeats the whole big purpose of TJY.

We tried to have compartmental session twice a day, unsuccessful. There was hardly one session in the whole train. TJY core team should have ‘check system’ for compartmental session in coming Yatras. After each compartmental session the group should come up with a chart-paper and that should be pasted in every compartment walls or some other good ways- core team should consider.

If my above words have positioned me as the most unromantic and pissed-off guy of  TJY10, you are absolutely wrong; please don’t hesitate to ask me for any clarification.

[9-58 AM, 15-01-2011, sitting @Bro’s place, Mumbai]

TJY10: Day 14 (My first visit to Delhi)

So, the national capital finally welcomed Manjit Nath through TJY-2101. My first visit to Delhi, though lasted for only a few hours.

Our train got delayed and we reached Safdarjung Railway Station, Delhi at around 6-00 PM. Sahoo (from my cohort) had to leave for home due to some family urgency. He completed the proceedings with the core team in the morning hours. We were sad as we had bonded like a small family by then. A few facilitators also left for personal urgency and this offended the core team a bit. I again realized how much it would be difficult for the core team to handle this kind of ‘unwanted’ things. It is an 18-day long national odyssey – you gotta set your expectations clear.

Anshu Gupta addressing us

Delhi was too cold. I dressed myself up in six layers, same with many other Yatris. But we never thought we were the few amongst the luckiest persons of India to dress ourselves like this. Anshu Gupta of Goonj (located at Sarita Vihar, Delhi) made us confronted with some harsh realities of life.

 Anshu Gupta’s speech was one the memorable speeches I have heard in TJY10 until now. An old man likes the winter because many died in the street out of cold and his income increases, a child likes hugging a dead-body as the dead-body never quarrels for his portion of the small blanket– Yatris were simply moved by the story of Anshu Gupta. All started searching for the ‘kida’ that inspired Anshu Gupta to quit his job and start Goonj.

Some people are exceptional. Anshu Gupta was a role model in true sense. I also like his idea of ‘nothing comes for free’. For donating a piece of cloth he always made sure the recipient actually earned that cloth. It may be digging a well for their own benefit, but Anshu Gupta really stressed the point that the recipient respected what he had been given. I remember the Goonj basket at my office premise at Hyderabad. I decided what I have to do next with Goonj.

We had to wrap up our visit within 3 hours due to time and permission constraint. But it was enough to create an impression in everyone’s mind. The dinner was served at around 11-00 PM- we were tired but inspired.

Have I been able to catch the ‘kida’ in my life?

[8-40 AM, 15-01-2011, sitting @Bro’s place, Mumbai]

TJY10: Day 13 (DESI DEORIA)

We reached the ‘chilling’ Gorakhpur in the early morning hours (3-00 AM) and started for the village named Barpar(in the district of Deoria) at around 7-00 AM. It was Shashank Mani’s home town and the head quarter of Jagriti Sewa Sansthan.

The morning wake-up was amazing with two guys beating the drums in front of every train compartment. It was very cold outside- we danced a bit to warm ourselves. That really worked well to prepare us for the Biz-Gyan exercise.

Let me write about the Biz-Gyan briefly here. This was an enterprise plan(we don’t use the word ‘Business Plan’) creation keeping in mind the fact that Deoria will become the HQ of the enterprise. All the Yatris were divided into seven verticals namely agriculture, tourism, information & communication technology, energy, health, manufacturing and education, depending on individual’s area of interest. Now a total of 18 groups were formed and every group had to interact with the villagers of Deoria for detailed information and prepare an enterprise plan based on the situations there. The top groups from each vertical would get the opportunity to come to Deoria in the month of February-March to work on the actual implementation of the enterprise plan. Fooding and lodging will be provided by the Jagriti team for the same.

I and Pratik were the facilitators of the Tourism-1 and Swapnil was our advisor. Yesterday evening we completed our vision and mission along with the team structure. We all sat together in the bus while going from Gorakhpur to Deoria and discussed the plan in more detailed along with a probable revenue model.

Tourism-1 presenting DESI DEORIA

A big celebration was waiting for us at Deoria with elephants, band-baaja, kusti etc. After the breakfast, we were taken to the huge area where the Biz-Gyan exercise was supposed to happen. We were given 2 hours to interact with the villagers before coming up with the enterprise plan in four chart papers. It was an awesome exercise. I and Pratik were ‘kind of’ silent until now. But we had to step in today in co-ordinating the revenue and the time constraint part. All my group members (except 2-3 who were not seemed to be interested) were excellent and fully ‘gung ho’ on the package we developed as part of tourism expansion. This lessened the facilitator’s intervention unlike most other groups, and I was happy to see that. Going as per Microsoft’s mission, I always believe in helping others in realizing their potential. And trust me, that is the only way you can bring a social change.

May I share you the good news? Our enterprise plan- DESI DEORIA was declared the best amongst all the 18 enterprise plans. We were asked to present the plan in front of the crowd of around three thousand people including local panchayat leaders, politicians assembled there. The representative of Tata CSR promised a gift to every one of us when we reach Mumbai as an award. I did not expect this!

Post lunch, I interacted with a few villagers and came to know interesting facts about Shashank Mani’s family. “Woh log to raja hain yeha ka. Yea pura zameen unlogo ka hi hain”, the villager said. Shashank’s father was a member of parliament twice from BJP. Looking at the crowd and the approach even a dumb can guess Shashank Mani is the next MP from the place for sure.

The train was heavy with discussions about the political angle of Deoria visit. Every compartment and every other Yatri was discussing about the same thing. Many felt that Yatris were treated as gene pig.

But I did not feel it’s a big deal- India needs educated and intelligent people like Shashank Mani in politics. And, if TJY is a small add-on to his journey, let it be- it’s his baby after all!

All the best, Shashank!

[8-27 AM, 15-01-2011, sitting @Bro’s place, Mumbai]

TJY10: Day 11 & Day 12

Day 11 (a visit to Tata Steel Plant, though rush-hush) :

In the morning, I thanked myself for not taking much food yesterday night:). You know 4 toilets-28 ‘passionate’ people!

A quick snap through the bus window

Soon after breakfast at Russi Modi Center for Excellence, we were taken inside of Tata Steel Plant. All were excited, but soon the excitement died down as we were not allowed to get down of our buses. Well, I knew this earlier from my BRPL experience; so, that was fine for me. But I can’t help praising Tata for the gigantic factories and the impression it has left on the general public from Tata Nagar. Hats off!

We resumed our train journey in the evening time. Cold was creeping badly and the next destination was even colder. I bought blanket and sweater from the Jagriti team.  That was a good opportunity for the Jagriti team to earn some revenue as well as do publicity. I am not sure whether the team has been utilizing the same; if not, they should do.

We held group G compartment session at the girl’s compartment. Public was not interested and I was also not in a mood to force them initially. But soon the flow came and 80% of the group participated. I started liking my group members. Somehow we have started connecting with each other.

It was a cold night. But the whole train was heated up with the discussion about the Tatas.

[12-40 PM, 09-01-2011, sitting @AC 3-Tier, place- Surendra Nagar, Gujarat]

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Day 12 (Concept of JEN) :

This was a full day on the train. No question of taking bath- let me be very frank here!

Discussion of JEN in the AC chair car

For the last couple of days, Yatris have been busy in writing down contacts. This is an awesome crowd and networking with everyone is a key element. Jagriti team has come with a concept of Jagriti Enterprise Network (JEN), and we were briefed about that in the noon time in the AC-chair car session.” The quest to improve continuously” – I like this particular attitude of Jagriti team very much.

In the afternoon, we were briefed about Biz-Gyan tree exercise. I have been made the facilitator of the group-Tourism 1. We discussed about our strategy for tomorrow for the Biz-Gyan competition.

 It was cold outside. My mobile network was working today. I talked with Maa and others. I am not missing my office at all. Bad, I know, but …..

Many thoughts are flying in my mind. I have realized seriously –I am late by 3-4 years. Some tough decisions are lying ahead to position me back on the track.

 [1-40 PM, 09-01-2011, sitting @AC 3-Tier, The Train]