From Roots to Kitchen – The Originality of Pickles

Name: Shagun Setia, Kehsav Parthasarathy

Yatra year: 2015, 2014

Company name: Rural Roots

“Be the change you wish to see in this world”- inspired by this quote, Shagun Setia and Keshav Parthasarathy decided to start a social enterprise along with their full time day jobs which can support their startup, in one of the tier-3 districts of UP, Deoria. Filled with an undying passion to help the poor, rural roots was started with an aim to empower the rural women.

They wanted to come up with a solution that not only provides employment outside the agriculture sector to the destitute but also empowers women and lifts their status in the society. In other words, they wanted to create a socio-economic change. This led to the formation of Rural Roots, a food-processing social enterprise, through which they hope to create long-term change in this region.

The turning point in their life, they said was a 15-day train journey across the length & breadth of India which changed their perceptions and opened their eyes towards the socio-economic inequality that prevails in India. In 2014, Keshav participated in the Jagriti Yatra, which helped him better understand problems in rural India. As part of this journey, he stayed overnight in a village in Deoria and this experience left an indelible impression on him. Shagun had the same experience when he went for the Yatra in 2015. They still remember being in a village with hardly any toilets, limited access to safe drinking water and people living in the most desperate conditions. It was this experience that propelled them to take an initiative to improve the conditions of people in this district.

They started Rural Roots with an aim to uplift the condition of people in Deoriaand benefit over 500 women in this region. The journey which has been great so far, initially wasn’t so easy.

“When we started the project, we undertook a survey of different villages to identify income levels and other social parameters in those villages, however, without proper roads, street addresses, and without internet in those villages, it was tough to gather the exact location of the village residents but Keshav learned a new software called “what3words” and taught this to the local team to gather the coordinates of as many survey respondents as possible.”, he said.

This was the first of the many challenges that they faced over time. The experience made them both adept at problem-solving which till date they consider as one of their key strengths. Apart from their experience, the passion that was imbibed by Jagriti Yatra through their tagline ‘Building India through Enterprise’ was what kept them going inspite of the challenges.

Today, two years later they have around 15 marginalised women who make pickles and other food items to sell. Apart from them, they even employ 2 full-time workers who manage them in Deoria. Their organization has successfully empowered women to take matters in their hands and contribute towards the growth of their families as well as the district. It was all because of their patience and support that the women are able to create ripples of change.

When asked for a message for the future yatris Shagun said, “JagritiYatra is a revolution that is transforming the youth of the country into responsible citizens. One should be part of it as it exposes them to rural India and encourages them to work for its betterment. No other organization will give you such an opportunity. Grab it and make the most of it.

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काश मुझे सीमायोने बताया होता की, मै कही नहीं हु सिवाये तेरे मन मै
जो कहते है की वो आसमान छू सकते है
वो कही ना कही सीमओं में मानतें है
क्यूंकि आसमान की कोई सीमा नहीं होती!

कुदरत मुझे तोहफा देती रही है
आज उसने मुझे एक अलग सोच का तोहफा दियां
पहेली बार मैंने अपनी आत्मा से पूछा
की कैसे होती तू अगर तेरी कोई सीमा नहीं होती
कैसे होता अगर तू आसमान होती!

चलती मै कही भी, लहर की तरह बहती
बिना किसी काले झोंके के आने के डर से
पहनती मै अपनी बूनी हुयी सोच, बिना उसके दबा ले जाने के डर से
सोचती थी मै की पंछी हु मै, की पंछी हु मै
बंधे है पंख जिसके!

आज पता चला ताला भी मैंने लगाया था, और चाबी भी मैंने ही छुपाई थी
सीमओं का बाज़ार है, जिसमे से मैंने कुछ खरीदी
कीमत में मैंने अपनी सोच चुकाई
खुल गयी आंखे, करली बड़ी बड़ी बातें
अपनी ताकत मैंने लगाई है
कुछ जंजीरे टूटी है ,कुछ अभी बाकि है!

अब कोई सीमायें नहीं
आसमान हु मै!

यूविका गुप्ता

Action Cannot Be Far From Here – Jagriti Yatra Diaries

By Pallavi Tak

Jagriti Yatra 2016 handbook shouted – the MUST requirements for the yatra are as follows – Waterproof jacket- Sweater/ Warm jacket, Thermals, scarfs (Meant for heavy winters), Woolen socks (At least 4) and good quality shoes, Thick/ warm good quality shawl, Thick Blankets X 2 (the winter nights on the train will get frosty). Further the handbook scared us – Temperature reaches 2 degree celsius or colder; you live in general sleeper compartments (non AC), no alcohol or smoking or non-veg diet on the yatra, limited internet connection or mobile charging points, minimum 15 day travel strain, immune system may give up, and towards the end it gently added – d
o not over prepare – It is an adventure after all!

Give me a break! Are you preparing me for the yatra or scaring the hell out of me! Well, Shashank, Ashutosh, and Vaishali would as a team say – “Both”. And add further – “Yatra is all about taking you out of your comfort zone. It is about discipline. Indeed no nation building may happen without self-control”. Oh Lord, this is one holy scam! A Source of relief would be Shashank’s utterings with all his might – “A good meal and shower can keep soldiers marching ahead with all their zeal”. Rest assured there will be regular supply of treats and no famine will strike the train, this was a good news for a traveler coming from the desert of Rajasthan. And it hardly took any time to discover that the caterers hailed from Rajasthan, hence taste of the soil would not be missed on the yatra.

The very first day facilitators’ training scattered the nuts out of us. The theatre resource-person said – “Look into the eyes of your partner, for next ten minutes”. I had learned from a TEDx talk that if one looked into the eyes of a person even for a few minutes, one would in all probability fall in love with him or her. This was getting complicated! Next to me stood this man who worked with tribal farmers and looked very much like them, with a long beard and ponytail, dark skinned and reluctant to exercise his duty to perform the instructions of the act. So now, I landed up in a situation where I had to boost his confidence in me and in himself too, to assure him that by no chance we are going to fall in love with each other. He became a mirror and then it was my turn, he acted and I copied and then the roles reversed, all looking into one another’s eyes. By the end, we hugged and congratulated each other for not falling in love! What an achievement!! We probably had not yet recovered after this exercise that we were asked to talk in gibberish, loud and clear. As a responsible elder sister to him (by now), I helped this tribal man who was shy all over again to give his best shot to this new assignment, to talk in gibberish. By now we had started understanding each other’s gibberish too.

The first few days were like getting geared up for the yatra. We were carefully allocated groups so that we could have enough diversity and learning opportunities from people coming from varied walks of life and different backgrounds. So?? The English speaking were mixed with the Hindi bhashi, Chinese with Bhojpuri, Marathi with Kannad, Telugu with Maarwaadi. Now the ball had set rolling for an ideal experiential learning environment. You pulled us out of our comfort zones guys!! Chill now! You win!! And we deal with the challenges at hand. We were all talking gibberish!

By the third day itself my feet were well swollen up like that of a pregnant woman! Courtesy the long training sessions that my legs kept hanging down and the blood circulation interrupted. I thought to myself that my legs would also get used to this torture, but stubborn them, they kept bulging up till day six and then they realized, ‘no one was really bothered about them’ , so they started shrinking to their normalcy. I believe this was some intelligent ignorance that had just happened.

The morning wake-up calls after tiring days and nights that we were still getting adjusted to, came with mixed messages. One would get warm masala chai, as many cups one could gulp in; along with a promise of jittery cold water bath after a long wait in the queue. Krati would give valuable advice – “Guys, you could chant Hanuman Chaalisa at every mug of cold water you pour on yourselves. This woks for me.” And I would wonder, why I ignored all attempts of my younger sister to teach me that holy chant! Now this soldier will have to sacrifice her bathing part, while compensating it by eating extra may be. No chance, one cannot not live without no shower! And we would go to the war front everyday, fight our fear of cold water, make some scary sounds while bathing and come out having had some musical bath. And this would be the first accomplishment of the day, we would proudly bask in its glory all day, till the next day we were sent back to the border as soldiers.

So how did one earn his meal on the yatra? There was no child labour nor any blue or white collared jobs to have fetched you food on the table (there is no table indeed, one has to stand and eat). But long queues. Three food counters, 480 yatris, three long queues. I believe this was the only time I regretted boasting about having ‘so many yatris’ on the train travelling together.   After sometime, one started feeling that now without standing in the queue one would never ever feel one has really won his meal. So I decided that I would return home and tell my mother, to make me wait for a good 20 minutes before she served me food, or else I would take it as a dole. The wait had started helping me build my appetite. No wonder I put on couple of kilograms.

If this was not enough, my cohort would keep the show running. Miss A had expectation of finding at least one guy worthy enough to be loved, alas she had a long wait. Miss B never forgot to fall and fumble in love, again and again and again. Her bisexuality would only give her wider choice. Miss C was daring enough, not even by remotest hints one should challenge her or she would accept it. She had climbed a BSNL tower only a few days back at somebody’s dare. Miss D would talk in Hindi like she was talking gibberish, and she spoke fluently in Kannad that sounded gibberish to rest of us. Miss E would take her own leisure time to articulate her thoughts, and her pauses would leave a lot of room for one’s own imagination and ‘fill in the blanks’. Miss F was a quiet one, and in the chaos that all the rest would create she looked like one unaffected Buddha. On the top it was me, strictly instructed to not turn into a mentor or teacher or senior advisor to the cohort. After all it was meant for experiential learning. Imagine a teacher being asked, not to teach. Then why did you ask me to be their Facilitator? Well the answer was – to facilitate an environment for experiential learning. Oh God, it is complicated. I just wished, I should not forget my boring teaching ways acquired after a decade of practice, else I will get bad ratings from my students. How would they get their good-night sleep in the class then? My only source of relief was ‘unlearning’ technique that I would have mastered on the yatra.

The chaos was only at its high and growing by leaps and bounds, there was no Chennai-dip. My cohort now had expanded to group of 21 members. So now it had gotten a bit, no….a lot more complicated, complex, strange, weird, chaotic. One would try to find order in the chaos on a daily basis and by the end of the day one would get some success too, just to discover the next morning that life never fails to surprise you. So after fifteen days of fast moving train and life as yatris, role models and their attempts to shake us up, deep friendships and human-relations that had got formed, the comfort in the discomfort that one named ‘comfortable discomfort’ that one had fallen for, the experiential learning that had started showing up, the love for entrepreneurship one had cultivated, the early wake-up calls and chais along with cold water baths one had gotten used to, the tears and laughter that echoed in the bogies, Antara’s regular announcements on the Business Gyan Tree competition, the day’s schedule that would pop up on watsapp through all group channels several times, the food that despite losing its charm in monotony appearing fair time to sit in group and eat, the long queues that one started to think as one’s right….all was fading away and about to be getting lost in memories, leaving behind nostalgia and lifelong friendships. Good byes were difficult!

And now, less than a week after yatra completion, the Watsapp inbox is filled with nostalgia and tears, Facebook is flooded with pictures of the yatra and hundreds of friend requests outgoing and incoming. As we sit in the comforts of our homes and daily jobs, it has become so uncomfortable to stay comfortable anymore. One is all the more restless than ever before! The real discomfort has begun now, when the body is being forced to indulge in the monotony of regular jobs, but the mind refuses to get comfortable and complacent all over again. Mind denies sleep after having been awakened. Heart discards all thoughts of remaining self-centered and living a meager life. The horizons are reluctant to shrink again. The rising Sun rejects the darkness to set in again. The overwhelmed consciousness cannot fall asleep anymore. The boundaries are stretched much beyond their ability to return back to where they started from. The comfort zone is so uncomfortable now. The spirit finds itself caged and is desperate to find a flight to freedom. Soul demands liberty. Life seems to be about to happen, like never before. And one cannot wait to welcome the change! The stage is set! And the hero within discovered.

Action…cannot be far from here!


Jagriti Yatra – Experience of a lifetime

By Nidhi Nasiar

Gazing out of the window, I see a world of trees and mountains, rivers and valleys, flowers and fruits whiz past me. I barely manage to squeeze my hand out from the horizontal iron bars to feel a gush of wind blow past it as I clench my fist to dearly hold on to the flying moments slipping by. The sceneries are changing at a rapid pace almost merging into one another forming a kaleidoscope of memories knitted together by a tender thread of time, both spent and lost in this breathing, writhing, squirming and rejoicing soul of the Jagriti Yatra Rail.

I sit there spellbound by the expanse of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual roller coaster experiences on this yatra which have ended in a blink of an eye. 12 destinations, 15 days, 15 role models, 450 yatris and 8000kms: spanning the potpourri of cultures, knowledge, demography and topography across India.

This minuscule dot in the time frame is spreading swiftly and deeply creating a major impact blotting my life canvas with a motley of colours, much more than years of conventional education and experiential practices. My glorious escapades from the daily habitual routines to this journey gave way to an excavated cavity of untapped potential and newly discovered curiosity in various unchartered domains.
The random ideas substantiated into a tangible business model, multiple sporadic dots could now be connected while some new dots sprang up. The vast exposure offered by the yatra has opened new pathways whose existence I was unaware of, out of the box solutions to the extremely common problems which required a critical point of view to be noticed, sensitivity towards our own roots and much more.

As Shashank Mani beautifully put it, ”Nare nahin lagane, kaam karna hai. ”(We do not believe in shouting slogans but in working towa rds bringing a change). Each yatri resonated his belief as they started on a journey to play their part in building India through social enterprise.

The ignited spark of rebellion to refrain from accepting the existing poor state of Tier 2 and tier 3 districts and taking an initiative of change through feasible and sustainable solutions has been one of the many outcomes in the form of a visible difference after the yatra. The insights from the multiple role models and their journey towards a better India has added fuel to the fire of taking a step towards being the change we want to see in the world. The yatra focused on a plethora of verticals like education, manufacturing, healthcare, sanitation, arts, sports etc. which highlighted the burning issues in the middle of the pyramid, a strata comprising of around 750 million Indians today. An approach to address the problems by following a well-devised step by step business plan from seed funding to the target customers to a revenue model, its sustainability and the impact was learnt and executed in the Biz Gyan Tree Event held at Deoria. The panel discussions leading to open Q/A sessions were particularly successful in resolving the personal queries which were helpful to the masses rather than acquiring only the factual and superficial information about that enterprise.

Inside the train was a different story altogether. A mini India (or a mini world, as we had international participants from various countries) was a dynamic hub of exchange of ideas, cultures, knowledge, habits and skills. It was a molten pot of gold of vibrant activities going on 24*7 between people from rural and urban backgrounds.

Despite having a language barrier they never ceased to dwell on the constructive aura in the train which they could both share and understand.  Presentations on role models enhanced the confidence of many and gave them a platform to thoroughly research the assigned enterprise and brainstorm critically to find flaws in their flourishing existential system. AC chair car sessions held on the train regulated the process of constant unlearning and learning to optimize our limited time together.

The train also provides a few snuggle spots to curl in and zone out in a whirlpool of self-introspection. Recall your day in flashes of important quotes, ideas, new implementation techniques or a way of life. Absorb the impressing novelties all around and let them seep into your blood to become a part of you. Rejoice at the discovery of a new passion in your heart; celebrate the sown seed of curiosity.

The yatra is a parallel universe co-existing in real time, far away from the monotony and comfort of our daily routine of jobs/college etc., uniting each one of us on a common platform to view real India with the tinted glasses of comprehending the difficulties of the masses and coming up with viable solutions in form of a social enterprise for nation building. It stretches us physically, mentally and emotionally to grow our sphere of personal development. Our survival instincts are honed while we manage to live in cramped spaces in motion. We get in touch with ourselves profoundly and wander across unexplored territories of our own heart. The yatra also ensures a lifetime supply of strong alumni network as a backbone. The relations build in the train are gems for life. The laughter and cries, hues and blues in the journey are the jewels embellishing my life for now and ever.

What I take away from the yatra remains ineffable and words cannot do justice to it. It is something I cannot even come close to explaining. You have to experience it to feel it!

With this I bid farewell as the anthem reflecting the spirit of Jagriti Yatra “Yaaron Chalo” reverberates through the huge auditorium when the entire Jagriti family swings in rhythm and coordination, fully charged with overflowing positive energy, with a promise in their heart and determination in their soul to be the change.

We are India, We are change!

Yaaron Chalo!

#What I Learned

By Nikhil Goel
As I reflect back on the learning’s that I take back from the 15 day sojourn called “Jagriti Express”, I am amazed to note how many of them can be applied to our conduct in corporate life. Below is a modest attempt to enlist a few.

Learn to pace your innings:

I vividly remember Dr. Aarvind of Aravind eye care hospital, Madurai, the world’s largest and most efficient eye care facility reiterating their founder Dr. V message “Intelligence and capability are not enough. There must also be the joy of doing something beautiful.” However, he emphasized that rushing into things isn’t the way to go. Wait till the time your heart talks very clearly as to what you want to do and once you have the green light, just go all out to see it through. Dr. V started the hospital at the age of 58 with 11 beds, not a young age to venture into the world of entrepreneurship by any yardstick. But once he had the clarity of purpose and burning desire to fulfill his vision of ending needless blindness, the feat that he has achieved today in a small span of time is for everybody to see.
Never let your school interfere with your education:

Bunker Roy, the founder of Barefoot college, wisely quipped the above line by Mark Twain while dwelling on the repository of wisdom and knowledge that villages of India hold. Certificates, degrees shouldn’t be the basis to judge one’s capabilities and worth. Years of experience and traditional know how can achieve solutions to problems that formal education system has failed to solve for so long. In corporate setting too, we at times try to look for answers outside when the solution lies inside. We try to overlook the resources at our hand in our effort to scramble to the solution using the template models. If you want to learn, start unlearning.
Any organization worth its salt has to face its crises:

In Bunker Roy’s opinion, if everyone around you is happy with what you are doing, you are probably doing something wrong. Criticism just like crisis is an inevitable part of any organization’s journey. Be it barefoot college in Telonia or Goonj in Delhi, these organizations drew strength from such episodes and were drawn closer to their purpose and vision. Individuals need to look at challenges in the same vein and embrace them as part of their life journey.
Recognize that there are currencies other than money in our world:

2015 Magsaysay award winner and founder of Goonj, Mr. Anshu Gupta, had a very modest beginning 18 years ago. He had nothing but wisdom and courage to ask questions which no one ever bothered to ask. Why doesn’t one get drinking water in taps when we are charged for it? What arrogance causes urban people to claim to be helping the poor kid while exploiting them to do their household chores? What they claim to be charity is actually favor extended by the underprivileged who use their discard. In his ‘Cloth for work’ initiative, Mr. Gupta has identified material and labor as two other currencies which can be utilized to build India. The local communities work on building things most important to them in exchange for a kit prepared using materials contributed by the donors. Here labor gets traded for material. Even in corporate settings, we need to think outside the contours of conventional wisdom and look at challenges with an open mind and an approach not afraid to challenge the status quo.
Heart knows today what the mind will know tomorrow:

One should never lose sight of the cause that is close to one’s heart. A man’s life should be driven by purpose and not by profits. A doer is not necessarily driven by logic but certainly by passion. Explaining the relevance of listening to one’s gut and instincts, Mr. Jaynesh of the Sabarmati ashram dwelled on how Gandhi always listened to his heart while finding answers to his most daunting ordeals. No matter if the solution is contrarian because any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already. Listen to your inner voice and take the plunge. In one’s professional journey too, one encounters situations where heart and mind are in conflict. Great leaders have always listened to their heart and that has made all the difference.

Empowering Women And Their Ways

By Divya Ramachandran
I spent Christmas and New Year with some inspiring women from Rae Bareli, a small village in Uttar Pradesh. These wonderful women were almost always laughing and seemed happy. What made them this positive and cheerful, I was curious.

When I asked them, they told me their story:

“We are a few women from a small village. We never had much money. Our husband’s income was not enough for all of us to survive, especially with our kids around. So we talked about it with the other women in the village and decided to start an NGO, where about 20 women come together and put in a minimum of Rs.20 per month into the NGO. So collectively at the end of a year, with monthly donations coming in, it was quite a lot of money that piled up. This could be used for emergency cases or maybe even starting a business.”

This system proved to be an efficient one that benefited the village. But it was not only that benefit that came about. The women of the village were not looked up to, for starting something innovative. And the way women are looked at in the village is with a lot of respect, not just their generations, but future ones also.

“What are you going to do after the yatra?” I asked.

“We want to to tell all the women in our village about our adventure and encourage them to go on their own adventure.”

A day of wonder, a day of love
A day of questioning, a day of reason
A day of ease, a day of tiredness
A day of amazement, a day of bewilderment
A day of respect, a day of giving
A day of fun, a day of laughter
The days pass on as we go on this journey
Each moment being different from the next;
Some days we sit somber and tired
Some days we are alive with passion and respect
Some days we laugh out loud not caring a bit about the world around us
Some days we work hard to reach out and tell someone what we mean
Some days we are quiet and to ourselves
Some days we are outspoken and want to fill our time with conversation around us
Some days we want to find an escape
Some days we know this is what we came here for
Some days we travel on buses, on long rides
Some days we stare outside the moving train enjoying nature
This is the yatra of making new friends,
Friends for life;
This is the yatra to be amazed at what a beautiful country we have around us
This is a yatra that shows us what our own potential is
This is a yatra that shows us that there is a world beyond us, but nothing too far that it’s not reachable
This is yatra where we learn by expressing and communicating
This is a yatra where generosity and courtesy come naturally to those around us
This is yatra where you meet people from everywhere
This is a yatra where you can converse and find more people just like you
This is a yatra where you can find people strikingly different from you
But at the end you all know you have been on this journey together…no matter who you are, how you think or where you’re from.