Moving in from the chill of Patna to Deoria in UP must have been some experience for our friends from the warmer South. In Deoria we stayed at Jagriti Sewa Sansthan Chairman Shashank Mani’s ancestral village at Barpar village. His family hosted the girl Yatris and boys were made to stay at the nearby school which had quite good facilities for a village like that.
Barpar literally means a place which is on the other side of the ‘Bar’ or the Banyan tree. The banyan tree is some two hundred years old and is the identity of the village. It’s a small village surrounded by farms and other villages. A typical village which looks like what sixty percent of Indian villages look.
In groups of ten, all the 450 of us, were sent to nine of the nearby villages to study the issues under various verticals like education, information technology, energy, water & sanitation, arts, sports & culture, agriculture, manufacturing, and health. All the 45 teams had to come up with a for-profit or non-profit plan that would solve those issues.
It was a nice experience for all of us. I had a Chinese, a Russian, an Australian, an India-born Canadian, two Indians studying in USA and Singapore and three others educated in India in my group that I had to mentor. It was a big challenge which I had to convert in opportunity.
They had got a real feel of Indian villages and some were overwhelmed with the issues that these populations faced. However it was a great learning curve for all to come and visit the villages and stay overnight to make plans for its betterment.
After the visit we got some three hours to prepare a business plan pitch that had to be presented within three minutes and with the help of four charts. We had a quite a nice discussion as we had decided we will stick with our community radio plan.
Our plan was, given the village population unable to produce optimum produce from farms due to bad agricultural practices, to educate them about agriculture. We opted to go for community radio as a medium. For the content we decided to go to agricultural universities and agriculture graduates apart from farmers who indulge in scientific farming.
Initially with just two hours of narrowcasting and a repetition, our aim was to educate them on agriculture as well government schemes so that they get economically empowered with information. This would enable them to tap the full potential of their farms and get good money.
Good income will enable them to send their kids to better schools or allow them to continue their education beyond class tenth (after which they generally drop to help their families). This education will make them good enough to get other jobs and hence enhance the finances of their community.
We finished our mock plan as we were entertained by the ‘Alhaa’ dancers/singers from Deoria to give us a flavour of the local community. One and all enjoyed it dancing all the way with them.
It was heart warming to see people really enjoying it and saying we must preserve these traditional art forms. I could feel that our generation feels connected to our roots and has an ear for the traditional arts.
We had our dinner and left to our sleeping areas. We fooled around inside the school room, passing comments, even abusing to mock others, having a good time to ease up. I finished my pitch speech with the help of my team mate Shantanu late in the night.
As it was to be presented in Hindi, I took care that I do not switch to English midway or make it Hinglish. I prefer to follow the rules and do it quite strictly. The whole pitch was made in Hindi with bare references of certain financial terms in Hindi. Almost finished it in prescribed three minutes (overshot the time by two seconds, though!).
It was an experience to go through. I am not the business guy. I never considered going in to a business. I am more of the consultant kind. I am the idea guy. I am the guy who questions your ideas and helps you sharpen it up. But then you have to learn things.
I must thank my group members Shantanu, Haridas, Sanket, Anmol, Elice, Chi Hao Wong, Ksenia Semenova, and Avishma who all contributed to this learning process.
I couldn’t get enough time to write the post last night. I am combining the two days in to one for the day. Next destination is Delhi where we will visit Goonj and audience a panel discussion at IIT Delhi. Hope to see some of you there tomorrow.