A Learning a Day for a Journey of a Lifetime ”Jagriti Yatra”
In December last year, I went on a 15-day train journey across India with over 500 people. With participants from around the globe, I was sure to go around the world in 15 days listening to personal and professional stories, meeting change-makers, policymakers, and women leaders. I've always loved traveling but little did I know that living on a train that transported us between states and stories for two weeks could teach me so much! I chose education as my area of research for the yatra, but since this journey had such a big impact on me, here's learning I had for each of the 15 days of travel.
1. Sharing personal journeys between people of diverse interests and goals and pooling in knowledge and experience makes all the difference in creating feasible and viable breakthroughs. I spent these days journeying with my co-yatris Ojas, Shruti, Chetana, and Nidhi. We ate, slept, and learnt together. Coming from different places, none of us knew each other before this. But talking to each other every day about our insights and our challenges, and having each other's experiences to lean into to support and question our own was inspiring and fuelling, to say the least.
2. Care, love and compassion are key ingredients in the education process. A visit to Kalkeri Sangeet Vidyalaya – a school that supports children from socially marginalised and economically disadvantaged backgrounds in Hubli, Karnataka – showed me that education needs to be holistic. Social skills, a nutritious diet, adequate healthcare facilities, and importantly (but often very underrated) joy are as much a part of the development and progression of a student as academics.
3. Is it time to start my own NGO? We attended the Jagriti Enterprise Mela in Bangalore – a festival that is working with a social focus on diverse themes of education, agriculture, health among others and addressing the challenges of societal development. The mela provides an opportunity for a mix of for-profit & not-for-profit enterprises with a vision to create a better India. It inspired me to start my own!
4. Adapt, adapt, adopt! It took a while to get comfortable on the train but soon enough the early morning two-minute cold water showers with our allocated half bucket of water went from being dreaded to enjoyable. Adapting to the situation can do wonders for making the most out of an experience.
5. A simple cooked meal can shape a child's future - a full stomach is so important to an active brain. We can't look at illiteracy through a singular lens. We can't look at illiteracy as children dropping out of schools, but need to question why they are doing so and how we can support the viability of education and not just the possibility of it. This became strikingly clear with a visit to the World's largest NGO-run Mid-Day Meal Programme in Vizag that serves a wholesome school lunch to over 1.8 million children across 12 states and two union territories in India.
6. Life in Simplicity - We visited Gram Vikas High School run by Mr. Joe. The classrooms are made of thermocol to keep the room cool and children are involved in various on-the-job experiments and innovative problem-solving. Daily living is a part of education and learning.
7. Impermanence - we visited Nalanda University which was intended as a place for meditation and to store and develop knowledge. It was destroyed in the 12th century, which was a huge loss to the nation and the world. Still, the magnitude of knowledge that survived was awe-inspiring to witness and an experience to cherish.
8. Discussions Galore - Just talking to people can be transformative. Every day we were part of group discussions, panel discussions, meetings with role models and chatting with friends. My conversation with Ms. Manisha, a banker from Navi Mumbai, was particularly beautiful & close to my heart.
9. We relate to the world and ourselves from different roles, experiences, cultures, and locations. Sometimes being in a different place shows you a different side of yourself and your potential.
10. There are so many extraordinarily facilities available to us that we often just don’t know of! I visited Madurai's eye care facility for the second time - the largest in the world and was again humbled by the work they are doing and how more people need to know of it.
11. Using our natural resources - visiting Barefoot College in Tilonia and meeting its founder Bunker Roy was pivotal in my understanding of possibilities and potential. His vision of training solar mamas and using what is available to us was truly inspirational.
12. The practicality of education – Mr. Sonam Wangchuk’s dreams in educating Ladakhis and its people was so inspiring. His work threw open the question of the practical application of our education in our environment. How relatable is what we learn to how we live? He started the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL) for reforming the educational system of Ladakh. At SECMOL students are encouraged to think outside the box, to put their ideas to use, to care for their unique fragile environment and are educated for more than just getting a degree to get a job.
13. Joy- I started to appreciate the little things like train food and late-night talks. I started asking myself - When am I happiest?
14. When you're speechless, take pictures - Here are the
pictures of different moments from the trip.
15. How to keep learning - Ask yourself every day what did I learn or unlearn today? What moved me, and why?