We did a 7 day cycle yatra in villages around our learning centre, from September 28 – October 4, 2017. Based on my observations here in the village, people in the cities and villages have mutually exclusive and complementary skills. While people in the villages are very good with working with their hands, people in the cities are very good with technology, know the English language and can market goods. If people in cities and villages can get together, we can create magic. The first day was spent preparing for the yatra, which entailed getting all the cycles ready, making an energy snack (which was the only food we were allowed to carry), and discussions on some crucial issues, such as not carrying money and gadgets. The seventh day was spent on reflections.
There is hardly any interaction between rural and urban India. Therefore, this cycle yatra was an attempt to bridge this gap. It was also an opportunity for the city dweller to experience life in rural areas and to realise the richness and the kindness of people in villages. For us working in the region, the cycle yatra has been a boon. It gave us the opportunity to meet with people from different villages.
The unique thing about the cycle yatra was – no money, no mobile phones, no cameras. We were not allowed to carry money or gadgets. We were to work in the farms, which would then entitle us to food. So we would cycle about 25 – 30 kilometres every day, work for about 3 – 4 hours in the farm and then eat with the family on whose farm we had worked. The absence of money and gadgets heightened the sense of community and increased bonding between the 13 of us. All of us came back richer. Some insights from the cycle yatra:
- People in the rural areas are so ‘rich’. In every village that we went to, people threw open their hearts and houses for us.
- Despite the fact that we did not have money, we never went hungry. There was someone always there to feed us. We realised how hospitable people were in the villages. This also gave us the chance to reflect on our own behaviour and attitude in the cities.
- We realised how tiresome and back breaking farm work is. This gave us a chance to see the travails of the farmer first hand.
Thanks to the fact that we worked and lived with the community, we developed such close relationships with people in all the villages. In fact, just before Diwali, we distributed sweets in all the villages where we had stayed.
Since we did not carry a camera, we do not have pictures. However, we do have some pictures that we took while doing a recce of the route. Thanks to Google, we have this short film.
The cycle yatra was facilitated by Mr Ramawtar Singh, who can be seen in the picture inspecting the cycles.