The November Of 2023

by | Jan 31, 2024

I plan my trips well in advance and always leave room for some delay in departure or arrival. This time, I had come to Delhi for India Fellow training, with a similar thought. I reached a day early so that I have a few hours to relax even if the train was delayed.

Dilli-dil-walon-ki

I reached with a bundle of emotions and expectations along with the pretext of meeting my co-fellows (and friends). It was an opportunity to unwind and be a part of a rigorous learning expedition in tandem because these are the people who are in the same boat as me but also have unique learning journeys of theirs. The solidarity in familiarity with the obvious diversity is probably a reflection of our own country.

My next few days were filled with workshops, sessions and visits to important places in Delhi. We had a diverse range of topics to help us plan our next few months on field. The training was conducted at Indian Social Institute. It’s in the heart of the capital close to many central institutions of our country. We explored Chandni Chowk, Jama Masjid, India Gate, Qutub minar, Lodhi Garden, and National Gallery of Modern Art.

In our free time, I went on a little shopping spree to Lajpat Nagar market and Janpath Market. The key was to make a sizeable purchase and be willing to walk away so that the whole lot can be bargained at a decent agreement. I also got to eat some delicious food. Though the choor choor naan did not sit well with me, I found the Chole Bhature extremely appealing, plus the Shahi Tukda near Jama Masjid, and Soya Chaap at Savitri Cinema complex in Greater Kailash (GK).

One of the treasures of Delhi that I could dig through were the bookstores. At Khan Market, I visited Farooq Chand and Sons, Bahrisons, and Full circle. Then in GK – II market, I went to Kunzum, CMYK, and another store of Full Circle. I now have enough books to keep me occupied for the next few months.

Me with my current reading list!

Safar Abhi Baaki Hai

However my days did not end with Delhi. My organization had an extended holiday due to Diwali. So, I took this opportunity to visit one of the most famous weekend getaways from here – Rishikesh. This was my first solo trip and I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of choice and time one can create for self when alone. It felt introspective and reflective to explore the mystical energy through the vibrant and culture of this place, with the stench of greed in the form of religious business.

I got to walk by the famous streets on both the banks of river Ganga and many hidden gullies of Rishikesh. There were silent peacocks to look at, and lost German tourists with who I could finally use German learnt over two years ago. They were a bit surprised. The Beatles Ashram was a memorable place to visit, specially its unfinished structures, abandoned sites, and meaningful graffiti.

One of the best views of Rishikesh

My next stop was Udaipur. I visited Basic Healthcare Services where one of the fellows, Adya works. She helped me understand how her team works on health of people from marginalised communities; how they reach patients, diagnose, and treat them. Some of the issues they are trying to tackle are just about basic needs and availability of resources in remote corners of South Rajasthan.

Here, I also went to Astha Training Centre to stay for a night. At that time, there was a group of adolescent girls staying there going through an alternative education program as a means of empowerment. From there, I made my way to Kotra Adivasi Sansthan working on the border of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Prabha, my co-fellow is there supporting the team in making benefits offered by the governments accessible to tribal communities. People here speak a dialect of Gujarati mixed with Mewari. This area is home to Garasia and Bhil tribes. They have their own governance and operating mechanisms. However, they struggle for visibility and rights even today.

Me with Prabha. Picture by Harshad M.

The last stretch was also a great experience. I was supposed to go to Kheroj from Kotra and then to Palanpur to catch a bus but I was so engrossed in reading Nudge that I forgot about the stop. That created a series of smaller trips in this order – Kotra > Kheroj > Khedbrahma > Vadali > Satlasana > Kheralu > Patan > Radhanpur > Gagodar – over 14 hours, six local transport vehicles, and two state buses.

Aage kya hoga?

My desk at my office in Gagodar, Kutch

Now that I am back, I have started applying my learning from the training immediately. There are a couple of videography students here and I shared some of my insights from the storytelling and writing workshops with them. I will also be using the takeaways in fieldwork, facilitation, documentation and publishing. My organisation welcomed me back heartily and is excited about what I will do in the coming months. I also have a clear goal now, to be a better person, a better fellow, a better colleague, and a better friend everyday.

Love, Vikram

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