Posted by: miilee | December 28, 2009


Kochuvelli. After having left Mumbai on the 24th at 11 in the night, we’d been traveling for the best part of three days at the end of which we got to the first stop of the yatra. I guess none of us would forget the first three days. We’d all just started getting our heads screwed on the right way on the train. The make shift bathrooms, Smriti’s “Good Morning Yatris!” wake up call, the efficient and awesome catering, running up and down the train, getting used to the constant movement and most essentially, getting to know everyone.

Well, I remember having the intimidating feeling of trying to cram in the names of as many people as I possibly could. I mean cummon! There were 350 people! And it had been just three days! (It’s been a year now and I’m still no where near completing the task of matching name and face.)

It had been so amazing! The energy in the train was tangible! I’ve been on several long distance journeys with huge groups but there was something different about being here. Generally, we’d indulge in singing songs or playing cards etc to pass time. But here, on the Train everyone seemed to be focusing on one and only one aim; to discuss, debate, share and brainstorm about every possible thing that could, in some manner, contribute to the society. Since we were just stepping into the waters of enterprise, the talk was more about the oceans we’d tested in conversation earlier; politics, government planning, elections, law and judiciary and all those things that were wrong about the country and all that should be done to it. On looking back upon it now, those talks of the first two days- though well intentioned- now look impotent. From this side of the yatra, they look full of cribbing and complaining and anger and absolutely no positive result. It did make good grounds for conversations and introductions but not much beyond that.

I guess it was a kind of pressure valve letting off pressure. Our friends back home didn’t want to waste time talking about these issues at hand when there was a new issue of J.A.M. to be explored. Our relatives thought we were just trying to act smart when we spoke of these issues because all of what we said had nothing new; failure of government machinery, problems. It was easily tagged as something parroted from the newspapers, done to impress the ‘adults’.

Here we were finally, all equals. We could talk about them and identify the real frustration beneath the veneer of awareness of current issues. It had been cathartic in a way. I guess you need to clean the system of all the rage and garbage before the real gainful talk could begin.

And the gainful talk too happened. Jyoti Naik of the Lijjat Mahila Gruha Udyog and Manish Tiwari had spoken to us before the flag off and Mr. T. R. Doongaji had bid us off with words that we were ruminating in our heads. Thoughts had tentatively started forming in our heads; throwing out roots and shoots like a seed amazed to find a sudden patch of fertile soil in a wasteland. A number of us on several occasions found ourselves gazing absently out of the windows at the rapidly changing landscapes, lost in our own thoughts; those we’d considered never to be our arenas……

Then At Kochuvelli the journey had taken such a swing, I’d found myself actually catching my breath at it. We met not one, but four brilliant minds.

The order is now getting a little muddled in my mind, but as far as I remember, it had been Shree Padre who’d met us first. He’d spoken to us about several things, prominent amongst them being promoting journalism amongst farmers which, in a state where the literacy rate was at its highest was the most practical thing to do. He also spoke of effective water harvesting methods and how advantageous it really was. That evening, we’d walked to a beautiful tourist garden close by to watch the setting sun on the beach. There had been something magical about seeing that fiery orb dipping into the sea. We knew it was about to go dark… but we also knew that there would be light at the other end, because that parting ball of flames had left the promise of a morning in his wake.

The next day, we’d taken busses to Technopark, the famous IT hub of Kerela. There, Mr. Vijayraghvan, the founder of technopark spoke to us about the entire journey of setting up the first of its kind of IT hub in Kerela, of resisting corruption even in the smallest amounts and some really valuable advice about setting up new ventures. Then Mr. Harimohan of Toonz animations had spoken to us about his firm, its birth and the future of animation in India. He’d so wonderfully stressed not on the ‘yes, we can’ but on the ‘yes, we WILL’.

I remember the strong sun that had been glaring down at us as we’d sat in the amphitheater at Technopark. But I guess Mr Vijayraghvan’s and Mr. Harimohan’s determination to tell us all that we needed to know and our thirst to take it all in, out shone any sun that this land has seen. We’d lost all thought of anything physical as we’d taken notes of everything, all the while aware that what we were in was a one in a thousand situations.

Then we’d headed for Thanal, an influential NGO at Kovalam that had single handedly been responsible for shifting the Kovalam Beach from the ‘most undesirable’ to the ‘must visit’ pages of the “Lonely Planet” by simple and efficient techniques of waste management, making Kovalam a zero waste zone. The spearheads of the movement, Usha and Jayakumaran would have blended into any crowded street of kerela as the most ordinary of people, barely hinting at the magnitude of their work. With their work, the more environmentally conscious people in our midst felt hope stirring in our hearts. Here was a scalable model. Here was a possible solution to some of our plastic and waste related problems. It was encouraging to say the least.

That evening too we’d spent on another beach; The Kovalam Beach. As if to prove Thanal’s work, there was nothing but clean grayish sand where the waves kissed land. Yet, as we’d stood there, watching yet another sun set, wondering about the day, I’d seen a couple carelessly discarding their ice cream cups where they’d stood. After knowing the mammoth effort that had gone into the cleaning of this beach I’d found my indignation yanking me to my feet. I’d walked up to them, wordlessly picked up the trash and deposited it in the near by bin. Nearby, another family had just thrown six paper packets of pop corn too and a few paces away, yet another couple had left their imprint. Just before I had moved a muscle, two fellow yatris had gone up to the couple and collected the trash whereas a child from the family had seen us and picked up the trash. It all went to the bin. There was hope. Again, the darkness was at hand this evening, but the promise of a clear, beautiful morning light hung in the air……



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Maithili Desai, Maithili Desai. Maithili Desai said: As the @jagritiyatra leaves Kochuvelli station right now, tinking of our time there… […]

  2. hi miilee..
    read ur blog.. looks as if u ppl r having a really grt n motivating yatra.. hope u tk d best out of it..
    best wishes
    hemangi rastogi

    • Hey, thanks! Actually, I’m still working with the yatra… they are due bak tomorrow evening 🙂 can’t wait to see the new batch of TJY 🙂

  3. Good Job guys … Say my hi to Hemraj.

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