Train to reality

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ON TRACK Kiran Bedi invited Shashank Mani’s mother (extreme left) to launch the book, while Shashank, Bedi, Gitanjali Banerjee and Rajendra Pachauri (right) joined them
ON TRACK Kiran Bedi invited Shashank Mani’s mother (extreme left) to launch the book, while Shashank, Bedi, Gitanjali Banerjee and Rajendra Pachauri (right) joined them

Shashank Mani’s “India – A journey through a healing civilisation” was launched with a vow – to make a difference to the existing India, reports RANA SIDDIQUI

When IIT alumnus Shashank Mani decided to undertake a journey with his wife Gauri in a chartered train across India in 1997, he hardly thought it would transform his entire view of India. The 22-day journey was aimed at observing how India had changed over 50 years after Independence.

With 22 people from all walks of life, they covered 8000 kilometres through 17 cities and villages, including Mumbai, Aurangabad, Tilonia, Lucknow, Bodh Gaya, Jamshedpur, Kolkata, Hyderabad. Experiences from this trip called, Jagriti Yatra, culminated in several ideas as to how one could make a difference to the existing India and a book, ten years after, titled “India – A Journey Through a Healing Civilisation”. Mani said he had not thought of turning it into a book initially. “I was writing journey memories for my daughters to learn from it but people prompted me to write a complete book,” he reasoned for coming out with the book a decade after the journey.

Published by Harper Collins, the tome was launched at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi this week. At the launch, well known police personnel , Kiran Bedi and Director-General of TERI, Rajendra K. Pachauri were the guests of honour as well as the panellists for a discussion on the topic of the book. The event proved to be motivating and heart warming.

The launch was preceded by a documentary on the journey. The film contained memorable shots of the hamlet Ralegan in Maharashtra, which has been turned into a model village by well-known social activist Anna Hazare without any governmental aid. It also mentioned the danger of the “loss of Urdu” from our texts and lives and encouraged the youth to undertake such a journey, observe the ‘originality’ and learn from the wisdom of our villagers.

Original ideas

Said Mani, “The journey was meant to look beyond the metros and the malls. It made me come to the conclusion that imitating big industrialists is a poor recipe for success. One should bring original ideas to be successful and make a difference to the country.” Added Bedi, “And one should begin with whatever one has.” She also cited an example from her her first posting in a dacoit-infested area in 1980.

“I had only three constables and 120 villages whose security I had to look after. I called upon the pradhans of all the villages and asked for 10 youths with lathi, challi (iron chain) and torches to look after the villages at night, rather than waiting for more constables, whose recruitment would have taken ages. It helped bring about a tremendous decline in dacoity. They talk of public-police partnership (PPP) now, I did it 27 years ago.”

Mani has passed on the baton of the next trip to wildlife conservationist Gitanjali Banerjee, who was one of the panellists too. She said, “Entrepreneurs for me are not Narayan Murthys but the founder of Sulabh’s. We must do things that find resonance with common people.” The event concluded with a vow to working upon several ideas and solutions given in the book by taking the youth into confidence.




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