Courage to Start Small

By Pallavi Tak

I sit in a whirlpool of sounds. The life-saving machines beeping from all directions switching from one note to another, as if playing a piano deciphering a unique symphony. The staff is changing shifts, greeting one another, giggling and taking stock of patients. The housekeeping engaging itself in the daily chores and taking instructions from the staff. These noises in the backdrop of a clear signboard shouting ‘Please maintain silence’, gives me some reason to keep my sense of humour intact.

The data screen in front of me shows numbers gradually normalizing, the chest harmonics do not bother the doctor now. Blood reports remain a matter of serious concern though. As I perch on the chair beside Abba’s bed in the Intensive Care Unit of Jawahar Lal Nehru Hospital, Ajmer; I indulge in visualizing the Valedictory function of Jagriti Yatra 2016. The social networking platforms have already started buzzing and are poured with pictures of beautifully dressed yatris in their traditional attires. This day is sacred, as the yatra comes to a conclusion. In the last fifteen days this train carrying over five hundred yatris has transformed into a home away from home for all. Parting ways now is difficult, emotions are on their high and promises to stay connected beyond the yatra get further pronounced.

Shashank Mani rightly puts it as, the yatra is not about getting immediate business ideas or strategies or funding, instead creating human relations during the yatra. This flourishing network of over 4,000 yatris built since 2008, the first formal Jagriti Yatra, is its real achievement. From here comes the first lesson, entrepreneurship is not just about ideas – they are plenty; not even about funding – resources are abundant; but it is about the people, the team and their commitment.

No wonder I am waiting for my ‘yatri parichay’ more than the participation or Business Gyan Tree winner certificates. Enterprises have never really been built over qualifications. Entrepreneurs swim against the currents and the dogmas. Their concern is people, their problems and apt solutions, eventually – impact creation.

It was adequately forewarned that yatra is not meant to be easy, to be experienced from the comfort zones, and it is more than outside, a journey within oneself. Yatra runs parallel, outside and inside. One that is seen, the other felt. One that is witnessed, other experienced. One that pushes you in all directions, the other that weeds out. One that fills you with stories of role models, the other that compels you to have one of your own. Lot many pull and push factors work diligently on the individual till he reaches a complete disequilibrium. From this nadir point of complete unlearning, begins the true beginning. One has to feel small to get the fire in the belly to grow big. This journey is about shedding ego, to be able to focus on the people, problem, and zeal to find a solution.

While for me the very reaching to the yatra was a challenge, and my learning started five years before the yatra actually began in 2016. I give credit to Dr Jyoti Chandiramani, my ex-boss to have introduced me to the yatra in 2011. I had just got enrolled for PhD programme then, and was struggling to capture the highs and lows of research agendas and methodologies. In the midst of the circus that I had created around myself of running a home, conducting research, teaching economics, and deep down my heart conspiring to shed it all for my passion for entrepreneurship; here I was filling up Jagriti Yatra (JY) form. I was so excited to see the length and width of the form, which took me an entire two days to furbish the information asked for. And of course my honesty and due diligence were to be rewarded by an affirmative response from the JY office. But life does not really give you things so easily, especially the ones you strive for the most. Of course I was not selected. And not once but twice. It was a futile effort and good enough of a reason for me to quit, but I was tempted to apply a third time in 2016.By now I had completed my PhD and shifted my base to another town. So effectively had a lot more mental space to actually become a yatri. Except for the major challenge that by now both my parents had been diagnosed with cancer. I had already reached my nadir, it seemed. And now my desire to board the JY train was stronger than ever before. Time had tested my determination enough, to have finally said yes to my wish.

Enthusiastically I took the JY mail to my current boss, announcing that I am selected as a Facilitator for JY 2016. It should have been a proud moment I thought, which would help me win some weight in front of my new boss. And I thought I would stand as a person among the crowd. A hassle free leave grant with financial support was the least I expected. My boss asked me – “What do you want?” I politely answered – “I want to go for it” He added, “So if tomorrow somebody said he would like to go to Antarctica, I should send him?” further he questioned, “ How does the institute gain?”. “You are not even one year old in the organisation, this is too much to ask for.”

My fight had seemed to have begun, and I started feeling like an entrepreneur already. Later I was to meet couple of authorities to justify my 18 days leave and an investment of Rs 62,000/-. One of the seniors claimed that she had also been selected as a facilitator few years back, but her sense of duty towards her institution was far more important than her wish to have a long vacation with JY. I gave up on giving any further explanation beyond, “For me it is not a vacation, but a long conceived dream that should be actualized now. And I come from a situation where I will have to make proper arrangements for my ailing parents to leave them behind for this span.” It took them two and a half months to understand that I was not wanting to go, but had made up my mind to GO. By now I was made the Co-convener of the Entrepreneurship-Cell at my university, considering my spirit of enterprise. My conviction was well supported by Mr Raj Kishor, a senior professor who went for me from one door to another to get my application moved. Eventually just a day before I was to start for my journey, I got the permission along with a decent allowance to cover my JY expenses. Half the entrepreneur in me was already brought out in the process.  And I was loving it. I had never fought for myself so hard before. I was experiencing a new me. Sometimes we are made to face the brick wall, this is only to filter the determined and the prepared, from the rest.

I had never fought for myself so hard before. I was experiencing a new me. Sometimes we are made to face the brick wall, this is only to filter the determined and the prepared, from the rest.

Another incentive for me to board the JY train, was that there would be an uninterrupted flow of warm chai on the train. Morning 6.30 would be this lovely call for chai, and in the winters of December what could be more delightful than having a masala chai, on your berth, in a moving train. Two cups of chai back to back would confer enough warmth and courage to head for a cold water bath. Followed by another round of tea at the breakfast table. The usual exchange of greetings with fellow yatris and introductions; discussions on role-models, business ideas, problems and innovative solutions; quiet reflections; or just sipping tea with a blank mind; so much could happen over breakfast tea. Though the evening chai times were relatively less rigorous and more bent towards friendly conversations, relaxed murmurings, or just dedicated to

Though the evening chai times were relatively less rigorous and more bent towards friendly conversations, relaxed murmurings, or just dedicated to process of unlearning, or even quiet absorptions. Yatra, yatris, chai and business-ideas made such an awesome combination. I can board the JY train again to experience this a one more time.

Vivid memories of the ‘life-cycle’ discussions will also be cherished very fondly, this was the first point of relationship building among the yatris in true sense. Unintimidated each would be required to share his life story, the ups and downs faced and challenges conquered. The whole group comprising of twenty-one yatris fitted in on one berth or another, hanging in one corner or the next, concentrating on the yatri sharing his life graph whose voice would get faded in the noise of the moving train or fan. The group would hold themselves physically close to conduct this exercise and come out of it as a team emotionally connected, with tremendous amount of respect for each other. This exercise was the first high point for each yatri in general. He not only met warriors, but also while narrating his own story discovered a hero in himself. The second high the group experienced was while making a group business plan to be presented at Deoria. Till now they would be emotionally, intellectually and individually bonded well, to carry the baton of this JY human network to the next level.

Having been a witness to the discussions on lives of role-models, fellow yatris, ambitions of the organising team, dreams of the young minds, determination of the budding entrepreneurs, sitting in the ICU today, despite all the challenges at hand, I feel energized. I could not complete the yatra and had to give it up at the end of the fourteenth day. On this day call for my hospitalized father became more crucial than the finishing line of the yatra. May be this stays as an incentive for me to return to JY a one more time, to witness the valedictory once. For now, I have my precious take-away from the yatra that would remain unparalleled and unequivocal to any other learning experience of my life. For over a decade, I had been a dreamer, wanting to do something big and becoming a change catalyst, but still in many ways was directionless. My focus was on dreaming big, which of course is the mandatory ingredient, but equally important is STARTING SMALL. Dreaming big does not require courage, what demands it is starting small and staying persistent, despite all odds. And this small start may encompass big sacrifices too. The most interesting part of the journey of an entrepreneur is, self-inflicted and embraced pain to quit the comfort zones, starting it small and not stopping till the big dream has been accomplished. Also not forgetting that the human threads is what should bind it all. Entrepreneurship is not a race for finishing line, rather it is the starting point for self-awakening. And so is Jagriti Yatra.

Yaaron Chalo!!! Let us Start!