“in the next 20 years the planet will witness the biggest nation building exercise ever……….and you can be a part of it.” These words at the Jagriti Yatra launch on 24th Dec, 2014, gave me goosebumps. They stayed with me and were often reiterated along the course of the 8000 kms across India in the fortnight to follow. The days that followed took me on uncharted paths to cities I had often planned to visit but never did. But now I did, with a whole new agenda, an agenda to understand, learn, imbibe and embody. It was a journey to explore how we, the 450 Yatris could participate in “Building India through Enterprise”.
As we set out, I started feeling the weight of all that i had packed with me, my apprehensions, reservations, notions and even ideologies. But, with the help of some exceptional souls as my fellow travellers I managed to shed some of it along the way, making space for all that I had to learn from them. I started as that person in the corner not knowing whom to talk to next and what to say for a conversation starter, and ended up with a so called PR team doing all the talking for me. On a more serious note, these were the people who in such a short span of time understood me for who I was, helped me open up and facilitated the Yatra for me to a great extent.
The Yatra was about meeting these 12 unique role models, hearing their life lessons, enquiring about their entrepreneurial struggles and most importantly drawing inspiration from their vision and passion. They truly were a handpicked team of stalwarts so inspirational that they held the power to challenge you and empower you at the same time. Their work often belittled my attitude to life but at the very same time they made me believe that I have the power to change it. They were living examples of the famous saying “Be the Change you want to see !!”
The word “entrepreneurship” has had its various meanings for me, but the Yatra added a dimension to it by prefixing the word “social” to it. The term “Social Entrepreneurship” took me for a ride. The first few days on the Yatra, I often pondered on what it really meant. Looked for answers in my fellow Yatris works, panel discussions and role model visits. Being the person that I am, I was extremely hesitant to ask someone and I am glad I didn’t. It was my journey to understand what it meant and specially what it meant for me.
“Social Entrepreneurship” could be taking up a cause like Joe Madiath at Gram Vikas or Bunkar Roy in Tilonia and taking to rural life for fulfilment of the goals established. This would entail a simple life with value added through daily achievements towards the bigger picture. “Social Entrepreneurship” can be manifested as seen at Aravind Eye Care or Akshaya Patra where technological advancements and innovative business models can impact human lives in large numbers. And “Social Entrepreneurship” can be an Infosys which sustains over 150 thousand livelihoods through the employment generated and supports millions more through the 250 crores of CSR budget generate annually. This does leave the definition open-ended but it also entails that “Social Entrepreneurship” is what I define it to be. It depends upon how socially impactful is my entrepreneurial idea, no matter whether its urban or rural, not for profit or for profit and small or big.
A lot of grey areas were filled with technicolor as the days passed by. Ambiguities were cleared and even the greatest road blocks and hurdles seemes surpassable and achievable. All this through the endless stories of success, failures and lessons learnt from what I call a “family of friends”, my fellow Yatris. I strongly recommend Jagriti Yatra to advertise it as “over 450 Role Models”, as every Yatri brought something so unique to that journey that no one else could. The greatest learning is often said to be from your peers and I can second that totally. Admiration and respect were attributes I could not stop associating towards the people I met and even the people I heard off but didn’t get a chance to meet.
Every morning was a new struggle for me. A struggle to break out of my shell and meet someone new, to learn something new and think of something new. As some of my friends would say “isn’t this the point of the Yatra?”. These friends became sort of crutches for me that tread the path ahead for me and guided me comfortably into conversations. They often came with recommendations on whom to meet and whom to definitely meet. I can definitely say that these instantaneous bonds are the ones to be cherished and nurtured for life, making them harder to let go than anything else. I miss those faces for their grin, for their constant judgment of my age, their sullen eyes when we bid adieu and for those wonderful souls that took shelter behind those faces.
“Yaaron chalo……badalne ki rut hai……..yaaron chalo…….sanwarne ki rut hai……” the yatra geet brought tears to the eyes every time it ended. These were tears of joy, of hope and of a passion that I felt in those rooms filled with 450 fellow Yatris, each one boiling with a desire to do and to see change. To be a part of it. This was indeed a breath of fresh air given the common living room conversations which often hear statements like “who will do it ?” and “nothing is going to change in India”. But, the Yatra gave the answers to who can, who should and who will do it. The assimilated energy in room that rose with that song is a signal to what lies ahead.
What lies ahead is “steps” towards self building, community building, city building and all towards nation building. And this cannot be done alone. These steps need to be taken in tandem with each other, with society, with rural and urban communities and with the public and private sector. They need to be steps with an impact as someone rightly said “Success is when I add value to myself and Significance is when I add value to others.”
These 15 days gave me what no travels over the last 25 years have given me. It gave me a set of friends to cherish, a purpose to work towards, a passion to be driven by, a motto to ‘turn my words into actions’, a sense of responsibility to utilise my education and resources, a desire to work for my country and country folk and above all it gave me a Reason.
“be empowered……….not entitled”
Copyright Abhimanyu Prakash