The Eternal Journey

The Eternal Journey

'BHARAT' revisited 1 - The First Touch...


Can ten days make a difference to someone?? Ten days… Just ten days??? Yes, and it made all the difference to us. The furious waves of the gigantic sea in front of us vanished and out came there miniature ponds as still as a stone, except for cattle and humans bathing. The unending stretches of grey sand have been replaced by vast patches of lush green fields. After all, it is TIME, the most lethal weapon in the creation of mankind which can do anything. The language of communication, the demographics, the geography, everything changed. However, one thing did not change. The warm welcome we got, the way we were treated, the way people served us; all remained the same, depicting a true INDIAN attitude.

For those who are lost by now, we were in the Zest resort in Pondicherry ten days ago, and now, we find ourselves amidst the heart of rural India in Raigarh District in Chhattisgarh. Seven STUD(ent)S all set out with an objective of understanding the Mid-day meal programme in this place, we landed in Raigarh on the 3rd of July. In collaboration with Naandi Foundation, a NGO, we were to conduct this study and give some recommendations (God knows what). The article features 7 of us (Abhineet, Rahul, Vishal, Ghanshyam, Saradha, Janani and the Legendary ME) and the other ones who are the block representatives from Naandi.

A bumpy ride amidst heavy rain, an early-morning goof-up (auto breakdown) for Rahul, a narrow escape missing the early morning flight from Mumbai to Raipur, an irritating flight, a warm welcome at the Raipur airport, a tiring 6 hour travel to Raigarh in our wave of sleepy inquisitiveness, a sumptuous lunch, landing at an unexpectedly good hotel, ending in an ironically boring but an excited day. This sums up the zeroth day of our rural stint. One thing worth detailed description is the tiring 6 hour ride to Raigarh. 

The driver of our vehicle was probably an ex-pilot. He ensured that the speedometer never went below the prescribed max limit. On the narrow two-lane roads of Chhattisgarh crowded with trucks and trailers constantly delivering goods to the industrial belt, here is a small 4-wheeler racing at full speed like a pro playing ‘Need for Speed Underground’ barely managing to avoid hitting anyone. We all sat in the vehicle with our hearts clutched in our fists and our minds at a constant vigil prepared for assault. However, unable to concentrate after a while, and the previous night’s weariness drooping upon us, we all fell asleep praying to god to ensure that our parents won’t get to hear of any casualties of ‘7 managers crushed under a Chhattisgarhi truck’.

Our first True exposure to BHARAT at Raipur Airport which resembled a two-storey building; Once again, when Mr. Sunil Singh Kapat, the Naandi Project Officer who came to receive us, exuded optimism humility and confidence. Are we really losing touch with our culture and our true self with the so called ‘GROWTH’ at the urban factories of human civilization? Here are freshly recruited Management graduates of a leading Indian business house put up on a rural project with an objective of understanding BHARAT and how it works as against INDIA, which reminds me of Amitabh Bachchan’s legendary ‘India vs. India’ monologue. We spent the evening discussing about what probably could be our fate for the coming days, though on one hand, we were pleasantly surprised at the kind of place we stayed. We were supposed to be ready by 8:30 AM, the next morning as said by Sunil. So, we dispersed early to bed that night.

The next morning, started with a delicious breakfast. And there were two chariots (Boleros) ready for the princes and princesses from the city (we were in fact treated like that) to take us to the Naandi Office, on the outskirts of the town in a village called Kodatarai. The roads leading to their office were our first glimpse into the countryside. The only word that we could think of describing the scene would be ‘PRISTINE’. The office wore a shine, a simple two-storey building, probably the only one in that village, with the house owner’s residence on the ground floor and Naandi foundation having rented the office on the first floor. Special arrangements were made to greet us. Royal welcome… I repeat ROYAL WELCOME awaited us. This was also true with the remaining villages we visited in the subsequent days, where we were garlanded, showered flowers, presented hand-stitched bouquets, kumkum, Aarti, etc.

The first day went on with introductions, invocation songs, of course, a rurally grand welcome to each one of us, followed by a discussion on how we want to go ahead with the project, and each one of us got into action. RS, AS and GH spent the entire first half of the day with their continuous downpour of questions while VS was busy smiling looking into each one’s faces. JK was scratching her hair all along, unable to understand what was going on, and bugging SG or US (that’s me) to translate the discussion into English or her local language.

After an intellectual outburst, we all took a break for lunch. And later continued the next phase of debacle; However, this was more peaceful than expected. It was a very brief (really brief) presentation by Naandi team about their presence in that district followed by a very brief (I repeat “very brief”) Q&A session. The same story repeated again. After a tiresome day for some and a gruesome day for some others, we came back and re…tired…. t…o… zzzzzZZZZZZZZZ.

(... To be continued)


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