The land of valour and bravery; where Rani Laxmibai removed shackles of slavery.
The land of dance, fun and frolic; where almost every night, corridors echo with folk music.
The land of wheat and rice fields
The entire world knows about Orchha Fort, with a majestic view; its ruins and remains boast of the wonderful aesthetic.
Where people are so humble, welcoming and oh! So fine, a trip to Bundelkhand was an experience divine!
I come from the land of Gods – Himachal Pradesh and which is most famous for apples. Where, the lush green vales and the morning sunrise promise a new and a better day. And one fine morning, the sunrise was hinting towards a new beginning for me. Yes… ‘a new Beginning;’ “a new start, a new experience and a new me.”
An unexpected journey of YCS Leadership Programme organised by Development Alternatives and VSO India, enabled me to become a better person and helped me identify as to what I am best at and what I need to work on and improve. When I first came to know about the programme, I realised that this could be a great opportunity for individuals interested in being a part of a volunteer programme, which could let them explore their niche. So, I was quick enough to grab the opportunity. The mere thought of staying in a village and closely understanding the issues faced by villagers was motivating enough for me to go forth and apply for this challenge.
TARAgram Orchha acted as the first place of learning for us , where we were trained to equip ourselves better with an entirely different world. The team building activities were exciting enough to keep our energy levels high. The first three days passed-by quite fast and everyone developed a good bonding with fellow YCS volunteers. The real task though was to work on the field, in adverse conditions and adjust, while staying with our host families.
I was selected for the project named ‘Farmer Producer Organisation (Dairy Cooperative) and the host family was based in Virguan village under Badagaon Block of Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh. There were two other members in this team, Anirudh from Mumbai, Maharashtra, and Narendra from Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. Excited, nervous, happy, skeptical; all these feelings were floating in my mind simultaneously as I arrived in the village. What made me most nervous were the network issues and the frequent electricity cuts. I was also unsure, whether I will be able to adjust to Virguan’s warm weather, as I have been lucky enough to stay in a quite pleasant or rather cold region.
Soon all of us adjusted ourselves to the prevailing conditions of the weather, other issues and we gelled well with the host family. With the aim and objectives of our project in mind, we started working by visiting fields and nearby markets to understand the gaps. The experiences we had, while interacting with the villagers were great, as every night, we all used to discuss the simplicity and warm nature of villagers. Every night we used to play antakshri, recite bhajan and engaged ourselves in general knowledge sessions with kids i
Bullock carts are still used as a means of transport in far flung areas
(Photo credit: Bhavika Sharma)
These simple and kind hearted people never displayed any sign of arrogance. The amount of hard work they do, can never be equated with those working in cities. For us, hard work might be waking up at 7 AM., getting ready, jostling in public transport, working, returning home and finally sleeping. For them, it is waking up at 5 AM, feeding their cows and buffaloes, milking them, then women fetching water from miles for the daily usage or men cycling miles to sell milk in cities and then returning by evening, cleaning the cow sheds and finally, the day comes to an end after so much of hard work. While, we are blessed enough to have three full meals a day and even snacks to munch on, these people barely meet their requirements of two meals a day.
What is worth learning from them is the hospitality, they treat their guests with. For the entire month we stayed with the family, we were treated well, not just by the host family, but by the entire village. While talking about the nice experiences we had, I think I should also mention some of the harsh realities existing in these villages. From child marriage, gender discrimination, open defecation, lack of sanitation to superstitious beliefs surrounding them; there are many things that need to be transformed at the basic level. In this context, we tried to work upon the sanitation aspect and we thought that a school was the best place to begin with. We visited local government and private schools to sensitise them on sanitation issues and made them aware of the ill-effects of open defecation. This was our little contribution that we could make apart from our project work, which we were bound to work upon.
Livestock is a crucial source of livelihood along with agriculture for the villagers of Virguan.
(Photo credit: Anirudh Nair)
What I have given to the village is almost nothing, but what I would take from the village can never be expressed in words. It will be a very proud moment for me, if I was able to even unknowingly inspire the school kids and make them aware of the importance of sanitation and hygiene at an early age, to contribute in making my nation cleaner and to dream of a better tomorrow,. Then I think I will be the happiest person in the world and that I have emerged as a leader.
I came here as a volunteer and I am going back as a leader. In the words of John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
YCS 2015 Volunteer