I am back to the hills after spending almost two months in central Indian villages with WASH United. The following paragraphs will have a brief info about the yatra and a summary of what is was about. You can always visit the main website for detailed information.
Why Central India ?
I have always loved traveling in rural areas, but time the this idea was not mine. While I was about to leave for Amritsar to live on their delicious street food for a week, I got a phone call. Itika Gupta, from Quicksand Design Studio in Gurgaon, invited me to travel with them and document their awareness campaign in six different villages of five central Indian States. She told me a caravan of busses and trucks that will travel 2000kms from Wardha in Maharashtra to Bettiah in Bihar. I didn’t inquire much. I had never been to central India.So I accepted the offer.
The awareness campaign : Nirmal Bharat Yatra
The only document I read patiently was the contract that I had to sign. I just had a glance at the other documents as I was only interested in traveling and that part was all sorted out. It was only after reaching Delhi, I actually got to know about the event.
So, I was part of a fellowship program with the Nirmal Bharat Yatra ( previously The Great Wash Yatra), a sanitation & hygiene awareness & behavior change campaign conceptualized & implemented by WASH United & Quicksand. That was a news for me as I didn’t have any idea about fellowships.
Anyways, we reached New Delhi Railway station. Team mates joined in. I met my fellow fellows. Two musicians, a film maker, an illustrator, a choreographer. We all boarded the specially attached coach to the Andaman Express and there started the journey that would last for the next two months.
First Location – Sewagram, Wardha, Maharashtra
After an overnight train journey, we reached Sewagram, a small village in the small town of Wardha. Just after getting of the train , we saw our busses that were there to receive us. We were told that we would travel in them till Bihar. They were normal AC busses with an A4 size sheet on its windscreen with printed text announcing, “Duty of Govt. of India – Ministry of Rural Development”. I was told that the yatra was in collaboration with the Nirmal Bharat Abhyan of the Government of India.
We reached this huge field with blue tents pitched neatly in a symmetry on one end. There were few small square tents (our shelter for the next 8 days). The lunch was ready in one huge blue tent, that was the dining area. There was another huge shelter for the labour and another huge one for security and other staff. There were security guards, wearing black shades and black uniform, had a heavy built and were standing next to each small tent. There were generator trucks that powered the entire area and there were people walking around with walkie talkies. We were told that there are around 60 trucks and 12 busses that will travel with us till Bihar. We even had portable toilets on one truck and portable bathrooms on another.
The next day the trucks started unloading and the workers started transforming an empty ground into a colorful carnival for kids. The area was soon covered with numerous game stalls complete with a big stage for dance performances and political nonsense. The carnival would happen for just two days and then everything would be packed back in trucks and taken to the other locations.
WASH in Schools team would visit many government schools in an area of 40 kms and conduct sessions with teachers and children on hand washing and menstrual hygiene.
To make the story short, the carnival and the activities were repeated in each of the following locations:
Second Location – Dev Guradia Gram, Indore, Madhya Pradesh
Third Location – Sangod, Kota, Rajasthan
Forth Location – Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh
Fifth Location – Sajanwah, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh
Sixth Location – Bettiah, Bihar
You can find more details on the yatra website itself.
Website : www.nirbalbharatyatra.org
The journey with the Nirmal Bharat Yatra was full of amazing experiences and despite few controversies and minor issues (the crowd of 20,000 people was once ready to beat the hell out of a minister who said something against the local people in Gorakhpur), everything went well and we left Bettiah with a hope to eat a subway sandwich after two months. The point to note is that wherever you go in India, village people are more content, happy and compassionate. Doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor, they will be happy with that they have. The closer I got to the cities (the developed areas) the more frustrated, intolerant, impatient, dishonest and selfish people I saw. Luckily we found a really nice cafe in Lucknow Airport were we had Masala Dosa and other city things that we were missing in the villages. Delhi also looked really clean, organized, pollution free and beautiful for the first time in my life when we landed there.