Rural Central India for two months

The Nirmal Bharat Yatra venue at Sewagram, Wardha, Maharashtra
The Nirmal Bharat Yatra venue at Sewagram, Wardha, Maharashtra

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 Andaman Express
The Andaman Express

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  

The Nirmal Bharat Yatra team reaches their first venue, Sewagram, Wardha, Maharashtra
The Nirmal Bharat Yatra team reaches their first venue at 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.

The dining area at the Wardha venue of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra
The dining area at the Wardha venue of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra

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.

Sabika Muzaffar, a filmmaker shooting in the rain at the Sewagram venue of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra
Sabika Muzaffar, a filmmaker shooting, when it suddenly rained and created a new challenge for the team at the Sewagram venue of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra

The Carnival

Performances during the Nirmal Bharat Yatra Venue at Sewagram, Wardha, MaharashtraPerformances during the Nirmal Bharat Yatra Venue at Sewagram, Wardha, Maharashtra
Performances during the Nirmal Bharat Yatra Venue at Sewagram, Wardha, Maharashtra

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.

The Activities

Trevor, a choreographer fellow from London teaching dance to the school kids of Sewagram
Trevor, a choreographer fellow from London teaching dance to the school kids of Sewagram
Kids watch, as Trevor, the choreographer fellow from London teaches dance to the local school kids of Sewagram
Kids watch, as Trevor, the choreographer fellow from London teaches dance to the local school kids of Sewagram
A child learning the proper way of hand washing at her school in Indore, Madhya Pradesh
A child learning the proper way of hand-washing at her school in Indore, Madhya Pradesh

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

Our inhouse performers spitting fire in the carnival of Nirmal Bharat Yatra in Sangod, Kota, Rajasthan
A performer spitting fire at the Nirmal Bharat Yatra venue in Sangod, Kota, Rajasthan

Third Location – Sangod, Kota, Rajasthan

Portrait of a Rajasthani man with white beard watching the performance on the stage of Nirmal Bharat Yatra in Sangod, Kota, Rajasthan, India
Portrait of a Rajasthani man with white beard watching the performance on the stage of Nirmal Bharat Yatra in Sangod, Kota, Rajasthan, India
Colorful women watching the performance on the stage of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra venue at Sangod, Kota, Rajasthan
Colorful women watching the performance on the stage of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra venue at Sangod, Kota, Rajasthan

Forth Location – Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh

A performer swallowing a sword at Nirmal Bharat Yatra Carnival at Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India
A performer swallowing a sword at Nirmal Bharat Yatra Carnival at Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India
Ititka Gupta, enjoying the bus journey as it reaches Lucknow from Gwalior for Nirmal Bharat Yatra in Gorakhpur
Ititka Gupta, enjoying the bus journey as it reaches Lucknow from Gwalior for Nirmal Bharat Yatra in Gorakhpur

Fifth Location – Sajanwah, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh

Movie screening for the hardworking crew before the carnival at Gorkhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Movie screening for the crew before the carnival at Gorkhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
A performer at Nirmal Bharat Yatra venue at Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
A performer at Nirmal Bharat Yatra venue at Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
The inhouse magician of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra holding his white pigeon before an event in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
A magician at the Nirmal Bharat Yatra holding his white pigeon before an event in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India

Sixth Location – Bettiah, Bihar

A crew member working inside a mosquito net in Maharaja Stadium, Bettiah, Bihar
A crew member working inside a mosquito net in Maharaja Stadium, Bettiah, Bihar
Itika on her way to a school for the WASH in Schools program of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra in Bettiah, Bihar
Itika on her way to a local school for the WASH in Schools session of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra in Bettiah, Bihar
A school girl from a government school in Bettiah, Bihar answering to a question during the WASH in school session.
A school girl from a government school in Bettiah, Bihar answering to a question during the WASH in school session.
School Kids of government school in Bettiah, Bihar, laughing in a WASH in school session which is a part of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra
School kids of a government school in Bettiah, Bihar, laughing in a WASH in school session.
A crew member playing with a frisbee on the venue of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra in Bettiah, Bihar
A crew member playing with a frisbee on the Nirmal Bharat Yatra venue in Bettiah, Bihar
Venue for the last carnival of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra at Maharaja Stadium, Bettiah, Bihar
Venue for the last carnival of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra at Maharaja Stadium, Bettiah, Bihar

You can find more details on the yatra website itself.

Website : www.nirbalbharatyatra.org

Conclusion

A crew member working inside a mosquito net in Maharaja Stadium, Bettiah, Bihar
A crew member working inside a mosquito net in Maharaja Stadium, Bettiah, Bihar

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.

6 responses to Rural Central India for two months

  1. Varsha says:

    Good collection of photos and very good to read about your experience. I am particulaly glad to see little girls from Bihar getting an education.. something I never thought was possible, given that the condition of women is so bad in Bihar.

    🙂 Kudos!

  2. Himanshu Khagta says:

    Thanks a lot Varsha!
    The situation has improved a lot for the past few years. Bihar is not the Bihar you imagine. Its far better then that.

  3. Haneesh says:

    Yeah, I agree Himanshu but they are still lagging behind. There are certain things that needs attention from the government and various organisations so that people living out there can improve their standard of living.

    But its really nice to see that persons like you are bringing the original face of various states to people like me.

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