Programs and space for creative people.

/ zoemhamilton

Jagriti Yatra Day One: Yaaron Challo!

*Zoe is on the Jagriti Yatra journey across India studying social enterprise. She is (trying to be) blogging from the train about her experiences as often as possible. *   Jagriti Yatra has circumvented the globe. Now on it’s sixth Yatra, the train journey has taken over 2,000 young people to the far corners of India collectively traveling the distance it would take to cross the entire planet. The energy was palpable yesterday as hundreds of participants, or ‘Yatris’ as we are now called, arrived at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences for our first official day yesterday. People from all over India and a handful of internationals like myself chatted as we started the registration process. While a good part of the morning was dedicated to meeting my fellow Yatris, the afternoon was packed with speakers and conferences. We met two social entrepreneurs, Jyoti Mhapsekar and Popatrao Pawar, both of whom, unfortunately for me, spoke only in Hindi. By the time Pawar began I was able to locate a translator. Nonetheless both were inspirational. Mhapsekar spoke every tenth sentence was in English. From what I gathered she works with biogas, waste pickers and women. I wish I understood more because she seems like an amazing role model. Pawar was a foreman of a village panchayat who is famous for completely rehabilitating his village’s economy. From no viable drinking water and barren land, using new water and resource management techniques, he was able to completely change his village for the better.  It now has a thriving economy, an admired education system (the literacy rate went from 30% to 95% in the 20 years since Pawar started), and even a few villages that it’s aiding. Between speakers I spoke as much as possible to my fellow Yatris, understanding where they were from and what they were hoping to gain from the experience. I expected around 60 internationals but in reality there are only about 20 of us out of the total 450. But the diversity is still incredible. From urban Mumbai engineering students to rural social entrepreneurs from the North. So many languages are being spoken I feel disoriented. The evening was a whirlwind of cultural events (dancing, poetry, songs) and inspirational talks about the trip that awaited us. Twenty percent of Yatris go on to start their own social enterprises and 49% work in the social sector. Projects replicating the Yatra have been created by former Yatris in the US and Europe. Devdakka Patnaik of the Future Group was the keynote speaker. He spoke on subjective truth vs. objective truth. Diversity is allowed because we recognize subjective truth. When we think we have access to the single objective truth, that is when conflicts between ourselves and our neighbors begin to arise. Not everyone thinks like you and if you don’t understand that then you will not be able to do business. After a long day the final ceremony ended and we were shuttled off to the train station. On the platform we waited until 2:30am before our train finally pulled in. Spirits were high on the platform as people sang Christmas carols and exchanged sweets. And when our new home pulled in, we were excited. The train is shiny and clean, waiting for us all to inhabit it with our clutter . We’ve all been divided into cohorts consisting of six people (same gender). For activities three cohorts form a group (mixed gender) as well. Today we arrive in Hubli for our second city! Internet is not as available as I would have hoped but I will try to keep posting as often as possible.