Zaara Hatke !!!

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”

–  Barry Finlay

The toughest journeys always bring the best in self and also in the team.

Mountain climbing is one of the many extreme sports, branded by the more cautious as reckless behavior. There are dangers on a mountain expedition over which the climbers have little or no control and nature can still easily outwit the psychology of even the best equipped adventurers. So, is pursuing a trek in the Himalayas worth it? For people who have done it , they will do it again and again. People who wanted to do it and haven’t – you are missing out on a high level of ecstasy in life. Adventures make people more alive – they provide pleasure, satisfaction and increase awareness and perceptivity. These make you more conscious about your mental, physical and emotional stamina. The famous saying “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” can literally be experienced in The Himalayas.

Out of the comfort zone, activities such as mountain trekking/ marathon/ long distance swimming/ cycling/ long walk or even an intense work assignment can make you feel uncomfortable in the initial stage and there after the mind takes over the body. You reach a certain stage where your eyes are open and you are in action but still you are in a meditative state. From this state comes the strength and access to a higher dimension of intelligence and life energy.

Let me bring forth the story of one such trekker, Senthilkumar Rajendran, EEP 2009, Senior Vice President & Country head – Acquisition & Distribution wing of Religare securities, who believes that trekking is not just about capturing the destination but it is the beauty of the journey that is awesome in itself. Prior to Religare, he was working with Kotak & Citibank.  Apart from the fact that he has served in the financial services sector about 17 years, he is passionate about trekking in The Himalayas.

“I’ve done many treks in The Himalayas but my spark came when one of my colleagues said that “Pin Parvathy (approx. 18000 ft.) is the toughest-riskiest-longest-steepest and undoubtedly the beautiful trek in Himachal Pradesh”, told the trekker.

Q: Describe your team and your personal experience for this journey to The Himalayas.

We were a team of 8 people who decided to climb Pin Parvathy range; the beauty of trekking is that it’s both an individual and team activity. Everyone has to do his part for himself and also for the team. It’s an activity where you are completely involved and at the same time without being entangled to it. You’re completely peeled off from your position, designation, organization, family, social status, identity and the mission takes charge. On the way, you engage with different types of villages who live simple but meaningful lives.

“It was an out of the world experience to capture Pin Parvathy and to look behind to see the path we had travelled. The Beauty is not just in the mountains, but in the spirit of the human race which is ready to wander, travel and explore. On reaching the peak, we celebrated our team effort and felt fulfilled as an individual at the same time. The awesome experience for me was conquering a new peak, connecting with new people, getting to know my self-better and above all to wander amid Mother Nature. Many say if you wander you get lost, but I would say that if you wander you will find yourself. With this spirit I can say “Miles to go before I sleep”.

Q: What/who encouraged you to trek to The Himalayas?

I have read many books of yogis & few by young foreign writers (both from East & West) on their various experiences about The Himalayas. This evoked a certain feeling of mysticism and curiosity within me to undergo such an experience & that’s when I did my first trek 4 years ago, which eventually turned out to be My Himalayan Lust. I call it lust because one can never have it all, but still would make the maximum effort to fulfill the desire. Though this is my seventh trek in the last 4 years but each time I go to the Himalayan ranges, it feels like it’s the first time.

Q: What motivated you to go for trekking?

The goal to reach high altitude, the uncertainty of weather but yet the adventure to pursue that path & to test yourself, the mystic beauty of the mountain ranges and above all the satisfaction of capturing a peak and the view from top basically pushed me to go for trekking.

Q: Trekking is one of the ways where you get connected to Mother Nature, so in that context what are your life lessons or your realizations about your experience while trekking to The Himalayas?

When u are in the Himalayas, you are completely with yourself and with Mother Nature. You drink fresh water from the stream, you get to breathe clean air , you have time to gaze the stars at night, you watch the sunrise and sunset. You sleep on the ground to get as close as possible to the earth. You always hear the sound of water stream or falls and can experience the calming effect it has on you. If you are conscious you will  be able to feel the energy in your body when the sun rises in the morning. You interact with people at a different level, without any disturbance, and get to know them at a different level. You completely engage yourself with Nature at one certain point of time.

Q: What are your personal outcomes that you have gained as a result of this trek?

You realize that actual luxury in life is when you are at complete harmony with yourself and with nature. To a great extent Himalayas takes u there. You eat fresh fruits when u are hungry, you doze to sleep gazing at the stars and moon & after having a quality conversation with your tent mate, you sleep peacefully at night on the ground, you wake up before the sunrise not because alarm but by your body clock & by hearing the birds sing and you become very active as the sun rises. When the journey to the peak becomes difficult and when the climb gets really harder and steeper, when the weather becomes really harsh you realize that you will never feel like quitting but to continue to move forward with a complete trust to reach the destination. This is the inherited intelligence of human beings. The immensity of human nature can be experienced and felt very clearly.  And more importantly,’ you’ exist in reality, in present and not in the mental or psychological world of anxiousness, worry or even fear.

Q: Trekking is when you have to leave your comfort zone in order to experience that what is unseen, how true is this in actuality?

I say if you do a trek once, you will realize the bliss and you will feel like doing it again and again. In fact it shall become a part of your life. You realize that your age, health, energy are fuel to make the most of it. But every journey has its own path. This path is neither structured nor travelled by those, who enjoy being in comfort and is available only to those who go out of their comfort zone and would love to test themselves on adversity. There are risks involved but the question is “ is this journey worth it”.  My answer is…… I have already started planning for my next trek!!

Some of the sneak peeks:

  


There’s no reason why children in inner cities or rural areas do not receive the same quality or opportunities as those in suburbs or wealthy neighborhoods. If we truly believe in giving all citizens a chance to pursue happiness and pursue their goals, then we cannot continue to marginalize entire groups of people”.

–  Al Sharpton

Biplab Das, PGP 1999, Is Bringing a Change by Introducing Quality Education to Children in the Rural Parts of West Bengal’s Government Schools

Biplab Das, PGP 1999, has BE from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He has 14 years of experience in companies like Tech Mahindra & Accenture. Biplab has also managed most of the software projects in BPM domain.

He and his batch mate Saurabh Kumar founded Kishalaya Foundation in 2013 to improve learning outcome of primary kids in remote rural India. He now wants to focus on social enterprises with focus on early education and preventive healthcare in rural India. Currently, Kishalay Foundation is focused on Sunderland area of West Bengal. He wants to take this initiative to pan India in the coming days.

The Founding Story behind Kishalay Foundation:

There is common perception is that rural students may not be good in studies. Been spent his early periods in rural area, Biplab has personally experienced the difficulties a rural student faces. He has realized it is quality early education, which makes all the difference. It is the right pedagogy and techniques with right learning environment can create lasting impact in rural children. With this philosophy in mind Biplab Das & Saurabh Kumar, both from 99 batch, decided to form Kishalay Foundation and work towards improving learning outcome in remote rural schools.

The Various Problems While Taking Up This Challenge:

They are working with the Government Primary Schools in remote rural villages where most students are first generation learners to address some of the appalling statistics we have on early education through our interventions programs. Education report suggests that 35% of children in grade 1 cannot recognize numbers from 1-9 & almost 50% children in grade 5 cannot read a grade 2 level text. Also, there is a huge problem of dropout rates which is nearly 40%.

And Their Solutions..

They are trying to pitch into the gaps existing in the Government provided early education in remote rural India. They are also engaged with Government primary schools with their intervention programs to address the problems associated with early education. Mid-day meal program of Government of India is able to bring kids to schools but their belief is that if they bring in these interventions, then they can bring significant changes. They are trying to bring attitudinal changes in Government provided early education delivery by bringing in all stakeholders (teachers, students, parents and SIs-Government officers) to create an effective early education ecosystem in remote rural India.  

Q: What was your motivation behind Kishalay Foundation?

During school days I was inspired by the work of rural transformation-Rangabelia experiment in Sundarban, West Bengal by our teacher Padmashree Tushar Kanjilal, though not directly in early education. Later on, we felt it is early quality education that can only change India from the grassroots being 70% of the population belonging to the rural areas. ASER findings and other primary education stats also motivated us towards this.

Q: Where do ideas come from?

Our own early experiences during student days and later experiences in life. Surely experiments of Vivekananda & Tagore at philosophical level helped us.

Q: Precisely tell us about the various existing obstacles that have been confronted-

Surprisingly we have not faced much of political interference as of now which basically shows there is an overall desire to improve education. Teachers have not used sports goods given by us or played with kids, there are attitudinal issues about NGOs or intervention by outsiders. On a similar note computers are also not used much as educational aid for better learning which again require attitudinal changes and training. Parental engagement is very poor, so there is not much improvement for first generation learners. Some of the basic techniques are not followed, leaving huge gaps thereby leading to dropouts. Poverty may not be the main reason for dropout, it is the gap in early years for which students are not able to follow anything in higher classes. In few areas we have also faced issues related to religion and caste specifics.

Q: Whose work inspires you?

Work by Ramji Raghavan of Agastya Foundation we find inspiring. Also been influenced by Bunker Roy of Barefoot College.

Q: Has the IIMB education helped you in any way in starting off with this journey?

Absolutely, IIMB’s social side is well known and especially the way IIMB was for systems during our student days. The peer group has also helped a lot to start this initiative.

Q: What are the various responses that you have received so far?

We have received support mostly from ’99 batch, so far. The Logical Indian which is an independent and public-spirited digital news platform also covered our story. We did few crowd funding campaigns in ketto.org and we are yet to receive any large grants. Presently, we are looking at CSR partnerships now.


Ramesh Kuppuswamy, EEP 2008, an alumnus of IIMB was a Colonel in the India Army with over twenty years of service to the Country before he switched over to the Corporate World. He is the Program Manager-Implementation at CISCO Advanced Systems, India. He has already given us an opportunity to view his latest book “Revelation-A Path Walked” (in the last edition of the newsletter) and he has once again surprised us by his brilliant display of his talent through a piece of his article, “Looking Through My Eyes”-

Looking Through My Eyes…

“It is nothing unusual for everyone to start the day with a good note. However, do we consciously make that choice? The first thought that connected me was to make up the bed in the best possible way. The days spent in boarding school and military had imbibed this habit deeply. But given a chance, I do make a choice to miss it. More so, it was a Sunday. Still, I spent about ten minutes to make my bed right and fresh. The first task of the day was done right. That gave a great sense of happiness and pride. A confidence to make every task best through the day.

When I connect to write at end of the day, I feel the power of first thought and task had a great impact on day’s work. Probably, I am not going to deliberate more on this, as everyone would have experienced this in your life. Let me take you through my moments of the day.

A century old machine, people still adore using this two-wheeler evolved through World Wars. My heart was beating with its thumping sound vibrating across everywhere. A reliable friend and my travel companion. Started my journey to a place known to many, but unknown to me. Badlapur, a small town in Western India. Unlike a good traveler, I decided to venture out with no plan.

It was a usual town and found nothing different for me to get excited about. Am I at the right place? I decided to stop for a cup of tea on the roadside shop to get some information about this place. I had to travel some distance to outskirts to a famous Hindu Temple at the foothills.

The roads were bumpy with only gravels and stones around. A pat on my back for my decision to travel on a two-wheeler. Rest every other vehicle had its share of the burden to burn itself tossing through this road. As I traveled a distance, something made me stop. The luscious greenery with nature at its best untouched by modernization. Have I stepped into a dream? Unbelievably marvelous scenery to witness with clouds hovering over the distant mountains and plains filled with green vegetation. As I traveled further, the stops became frequent to be with Nature.

The loud thumping sound echoed through that place as I started to climb the mountains. The climb was not that steep and too long. As I reached the top, I felt that I am in heaven on Earth. All around the mountains stood tall and calm dressed up in greens. The mist graced them to enhance their beauty partially revealing for everyone to wonder, like a beautiful woman in her veils. The air was refreshing and every ounce of that I could breathe was with full of oxygen. The mind, body, and soul were being purified and filled with lots of energy. The excitement in me was unstoppable to explore more and more.

No one comes into your life without a purpose. So was this shepherd, who appeared in that deserted place. He accepted to travel some distance to show me this place. At the corner of the mind, I envied as to how lucky he was to live in such a serene place. Full of life with smiles all through the time he spent with me earning his livelihood for that day. What makes him be so happy, that I have to travel in search of it. Being simple and grounded should be the reasons.

The temple was on a bank of the streams at the foothills. The waterfall from the mountains flows by the side. Right from adults to children enjoying the coziness of flow of the stream. A clean place, unlike a tourist place to be. I offered my prayers and gratitude for the opportunity to bring me to this place.

As I set to travel back, a small kid from the locality was running towards the temple. It was a quite distance away. Only to wonder that it should be the best way to reach a place fast where public transports are not available. I stopped him to take a picture with me. His smiles made the pic unique and beautiful.

As I traveled back, my thoughts revolved around to assure me that I would visit this place again. Undoubtedly, nature is the best teacher and friend. I got so much to learn today from my friend. When I reached back home, the warmth of fresh bed made in the morning hugged me.”