The Eternal Journey

The Eternal Journey

Bharat Revisited 2 - The days of Odds and Anomalies

The day was packed with visits to Govt. Offices and interviews with the Govt. officials. However, a eleventh hour surprise, we got to know that all the officials were in a meeting with the Dist. Collector. So, to kill some time, the Naandi team arranged for some sight-seeing. It started with visiting a ‘BABA’ who has rooted himself to the same place for the last 10-15 years (without any food or water as said by the Naandi coordinator). Skeptical we were until we reached that place, imagining how someone could stay without any diet. The surroundings soothed us though, and we also saw people worshipping him and offering him some food, fruits, etc. and we later came to know that he eats those offerings whenever he feels like.

Later, we went to a beautiful temple of Lord Shiva, atop a hill. But for Janani, the most fragile of us, it reminded all of us that it’s time for us to get in touch with some physical exercises. The view exuded serenity and awesomeness in every direction. The beauty of nature reminded us of the life we are missing in the urbanized concrete jungles. We are now-a-days getting so engrossed in the world of virtuality that we hardly seem to find time to enjoy the nature around. All along the journey, I was lost in my own enchanting world of music with Saradha pulling out my earphones now and then for some good songs. While I was humming like a bumble bee on one hand, Janani on the other hand, was singing songs at a 0.5X tempo making even the best of the peppy tracks seem like boring lullabies. There was her biggest fan, Mr. Nilesh Kumar Mahana adding fuel to the fire. Sitting in the front seat and waving in ecstasy he was showering praises on her once in every few minutes. Beyond a point it sounded more of sarcasm than genuine praise. Or probably did he really intend to, God only knows. However, this did not influence Janani even a little bit. The more Saradha and I started getting frustrated, the more she started dragging the tempo. Finally we gave up hoping that our vehicle would reach the office soon.

Finally amidst all this mental turmoil, we see the District Educational Office in front of us. We were already given a flavor of all the tactics that we could adopt to extract information from the Govt. officials. Mr. Kapat judiciously taught us those tactics the way Vishwamitra taught Ram and Lakshman the mantras before taking them to the forest. With all the astras in our quiver, we all set out to face the Marichas and Subahus (or probably we felt so until we met them) of the Chhattisgarh Government.

The first person we got to meet was the Mid-day Meal Officer. Three of us went in with the remaining four of us waiting outside to meet the District Education Officer. We were desperately waiting for our chance to pounce on the DEO with questions and in front of us, we saw the other three fellas deeply engrossed in a conversation with the MDM officer. What was a mere fifteen minute appointment with him went on and on and on until all of us almost got fed up. We got a call in between from the DEO and we spent some time with him getting some relevant information. However, even after that, this saga never ended. Ironically, we were happy for this going on so long but we were also exasperated sitting idle outside under a tree, like nomads waiting for shelter. Finally when we were almost about to droop, we were also invited by the MDM officer and served some tea. The discussion went on for some more time and finally we were given leave. We then went for lunch and all our eagerness came gushing out like a torrential current onto the three poor souls about the three long hours they spent inside.

To them, we were a bunch of polite, well-mannered, sincere college students eager to study the state of affairs of the Mid-day meal program. So, whichever Govt. office we went, we received a warm welcome, a tea, and more than expected information. They even took us to some schools and showed us how things were actually getting implemented there. The Naandi team was really impressed with the outcome and in fact surprised at the way things were happening. We were also very happy with what had happened. The next day when we went to the block level and the Mandal level offices, the response was the same. Having got all the information we needed, we were all set for the next phase of the project, our next stop, the villages.

Well, while our days were very tiring with long hours of talk with breaks of bumpy rides between offices, our evenings were a polar opposite. I used to bug Vishal and we both went to play Snooker at the hotel where we stayed. Janani got very busy with the treadmill, so much so that she ran until the treadmill got tired and dead. Saradha just used to visit each one of us in turns. The remaining threesome Abhineet, Ghanshyam and Rahul generally joined us for Snooker or Table Tennis. After an hour or two of this game, we used to go for a grand dinner.

Our dinner typically started with what we called our ‘Nasha’ (Fresh Lime Soda) and Masala papad. Then we went on to starters and the main course. Every meal ended with a dessert, typically a ‘Fruit salad with ice cream’. The icing on the cake was that we never paid the bills. The hotel staff was so enthralled by Abhineet’s grace and radiance that they just asked him to give his autograph on the bill every time we ate there. Between so many foodies, there was an anomaly. Janani, our master blaster, was on a strict diet. After tiring the treadmill, she usually came down with us and ordered a fruit salad every day. She literally lived on one fruit salad each for every square meal. Fruit salad in the morning, Fruit salad in the afternoon, and fruit salad in the evening; we just wondered where all her stamina came from.

Finally, the third day, we slept early with a lot of questions in mind. What was in store for us in the villages? Is everything hunky-dory? Let’s wait until next morning and see what would happen. For now, Sweet Dreams.

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About Uday Sankar Yerramilli

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