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!