“I’ve stood near the doors of countless trains, sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend or relative, and each time, it gives me a high that doesn’t quite compare to any other bending curves….The top of this high mountain is now in full view. There are still some bending curves, but that is nothing new.” – Charles Harrison Townsend
Jagriti Yatra is a 15-day, 8000km trip. It’s the world’s largest national train journey which takes selected youth to meet role models who are developing unique solutions to India’s developmental challenges. 17,000 register throughout India and other parts of the world and the top 450 are selected for the journey. I’ve been privileged to be one of the Yatris.
The train stops at 12 locations to personally meet exceptional change-makers who are bending the curves of India and its society.
As I step inside the train, I could see current Jagriti Yatra posters, as well as the banners of the ex-Yatris who have contributed significantly to society. On the way to my berth, I was struck by the beautiful poems and inspirational quotes all around. Group 18, Cohort M32 tagged! I reach out for my name and walk towards Boggie 9/5 – the place allotted for us in the train. The interactions inside the train started with The Life-Line Sessions – an interactive way of sharing our life experiences with our assigned team members. The facilitator of our group had taken his team to the girl’s hostel (as the train was divided into girls’ and boys’ sections) to plan our journey in life through plotting graphs. 60% of the Yatris come from small towns and villages and it’s inspiring to listen to their on-ground contributions for their communities.
Travelling by sleeper class helps one understand the sights, smells and sounds of India and her people. Having open windows is a plus – looking out from behind a rain-stained A/C window doesn’t quite do justice. I also find the lack of privacy on sleeper coaches part amusing, part endearing and part annoying.
The Yatra had been constructed wonderfully in terms of the schedule; juggling between group activities and time for introspection. We gained first-hand experience through our field and role-model visits and then were instructed on replicating that model in our own presentations. This helped us grasp the idea of the project better, further helping us to explain our ideas in simpler terms to our co-Yatris. All throughout the day, there would be movements in the train. The more you get to interact with the co-Yatris, the more inspired you are. I took an opportunity of being the Boggie Coordinator for the fifteen-day journey.
Life on the train is as busy as it gets! With a packed schedule of debates, presentations and conversations, and a blend of art, music and poetry, Yatris find themselves fully involved at all times. The Yatra sets out to be a lif- changing experience for us to catalyse a shift in mindset. Not only to you but through you, to millions of youth who are watching this expedition as it curves across this great and beautiful land of ours. When we hear how our inspiring role models have created their institutions by surmounting all odds; when we hear of the stories of leadership and courage from our co-travellers, we discover an India that waits to be unleashed. You are that dynamic spirit that will unleash a new society.
For me, the inspiration seemed to be the Yatris on board. I realized the urgent need of advocating about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on a larger scale for us to achieve our targets by 2030. Not that we need to jump to achieve SDGs directly. Initially, we need to create awareness about our SDGs, letting it trickle down into society and create a bottom-up approach. Such an approach will help us Post2030 as well!
As John Keats put it, “Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.” You cannot experience the Yatra from hearing or reading about it: You need to hop on to the Jagriti Rail and be fully immersed in the journey to experience its bending curves.
Sailesh Singhal is a social worker and a youth activist, driving towards an active inclusion of youth through transparent and accountable methods. He is committed to work towards the empowerment of women, social justice and education to all. He is elected General Secretary of SJC Student Council. @SaileshSingal