The Birth of Narmada Prerna Yatra
In a tale as romantic and cinematic as it can get, Nitin Tailor was born and brought up near the banks of the Narmada river in Gujarat. From the spirituality and natural charm of the small town of Bharuch, Tailor eventually found his way into a multi-national company in Bangalore, earning a comfortable salary. With an educational stint in Sweden and entrepreneur of the year award at IIIT Bangalore, Tailor was always ambitious.
Once the charm of the big city faded, the call to return to his roots overwhelmed him. Determined to be a more positive influence in society, Tailor left his cushy job in Bangalore, and took the first train to Bharuch. Once there, he set up an NGO to address health and educational needs of the poor in Bharuch’s rural areas, using the latest technology. Fuelled by the success and honesty of the work, Tailor went forward to strike into reality a social venture Serve Happiness Foundation. The aim of this foundation was to help the rural poor convalesce from their regressive socio-economic status by supporting grassroots communities and individuals hoping to bring social change. A runner up and winner in the Startup Weekend, Nasscom organised by IIM, Ahmedabad, Tailor got himself certified n Technology Entrepreneurship by Stanford University’s Venture Lab.
In 2012, Tailor was invited, for his efforts, to participate in The International Happiness Initiative Consortium announced by Dr T. Hamid Al-Bayati, former Ambassador of Iraq to the United Nations, to celebrate the International Day of Happiness (UN) on March 20, 2014.
The only motivation that keeps Tailor pumping and jumping for the poor, underprivileged and rural is the need to inspire the youth in more nation-building activities that aren’t simply directed at India’s small ultra-urban strata of society. He facilitated the inspirational Jagriti Yatra and Yuva Prerna Yatra for the youth. These journeys were to mark him profoundly. Deeply inspired, and to pay tribute to his motherland Narmada, Nitin decided to organise the Narmada Prerna Yatra. It would be the greatest opportunities to meet the real heroes who’ve created entrepreneurial success stories in the region.
In a sense, this story of Bharuch-Narmada is an amazing return to the medieval and ancient times when Bharuch developed into an important trading port for Arabs. A bustling cultural and economic hub, it only makes sense that Tailor returns this entrepreneurial spirit back to the rural areas of Bharuch.
On the road to Bharuch
Says Tailor, ‘The “Narmada Prerna Yatra” takes highly motivated youths to a bus journey in Bharuch-Narmada rural region with a purpose to awaken an entrepreneurial spirit within them. During the journey, participants get an opportunity to interact and learn from exceptional “Champions of Change”, the unsung heroes, who have not only dared to dream, but also realized their dreams into sustainable enterprises by utilizing the local resources and talent, thereby creating local livelihood opportunities in the Narmada region. This Yatra aims to inspire youth to understand the value of creating sustainable enterprises in localized global context and to spur them to create similar models in their own arenas.‘
Mr.Nitin Bhatt, Co-founder (Bharuch Nature Club) and Mr. Maharshi Dave Maharshi Dave (Founder, Farm bridge) joined the core team of Yatra and played vital role in the success of Narmada Prerna Yatra. The Narmada Yatra commenced on the 14th of August 2014. Sponsored by Petronet LNG Limited, the initiative’s core objective was to inspire youth for social entrepreneurship by allowing them to see first-hand how the entrepreneurs there ‘converted their dreams into reality through sustainable enterprises in the Narmada‘ by largely relying on natural and immediate resources.
The Yatra drew more than 20 participants across 7 states, a motley crew of Indians coming together to this auspicious spot for one honest cause. Tailor stresses the difficulty of having to condense the participants to the best 25 from more than 100 registrations.
Emphasising on the importance of development that goes beyond the need to achieve material rewards, Mr Khumansinh Vasia (Ex-Minister of Gujarat), reporters Jagdishbhai Parmar and Shilpi Didi from Brahma Kumaris inaugrated the Yatra at the Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vishwa Vidyalaya, Bharuch.
The four days of the journey were spent in personal interactions with the people behind stories of successful social entrepreneurship in these regions, many who left rewarding careers behind to dedicate their lives to developing society at the most grassroots level.
The participants had a chance to interact with Mr Kamleshbhai Kosamia, the principal of The Sardar Nagar Primary School in Valia, who’d successfully turned his government school into one at par with private schools by incorporating innovative pedagogy. Mrs Shobhaben Shah of Society for Education, Welfare and Action – Rural (SEWA Rural) was another individual heavily involved in health and technical education development for women in the tribal areas of South Gujarat at Jhagadia since 1980.
The second day of the Yatra coincided with the Independence Day. For this occasion, the participants were able to witness the work of Shri Indrajeet Vidylaya, Rajpipla, a school established by the royal family of Rajpipla, especially set up to educate tribal children in the area. An important model for other schools working with tribal children, it provides educational kits, mid-day meals and school uniforms for its student with the sole aim of providing children the most holistic development possible- Something even most urban schools fail to accomplish with unlimited access to a wide variety of resources.
Encompassing the philosophy of the Yatra was Shri Dhriendrabhai Soneji and Shrimati Smitaben Soneji, ‘who left their classroom jobs to stay within the lap of nature – their message was simple: minimum needs, zilch wants and perennial joy without any worries in life!‘ says Tailor.
The overwhelming and educational trip helped participants understand the livelihoods in rural Bharoch-Narmada region with a visit to Nani Bhamri island inhabited by only 10 tribal families, a unique existence amidst nature, mountains and devoid of technology, yet successful.
On the last leg of the journey, Tailor says, ‘The fourth day was spent meeting with role models from the Vasava tribal people of Mozda Pariwar, Juna Mozda, Dediapada area of Bharuch District. It was truly inspiring to know the people from Vasava tribe have worked relentlessly on issues such as development of women’s co-operatives, bringing electricity to the villages, land rights of tribes, bonding of fields to prevent soil erosion, and environmental problems. The last, yet inspiring, visit to role model was at the Itakla Farmers Club. A farmer’s cluster, it was awarded The Best Farmers Club of India award by the Finance Minister for adopting new technologies with maintaining ethics and integrity in their unity. It was a real success story of community farming and preventing migration of rural youth to urban centres.
‘The four days of Narmada Prerna Yatra filled with inspiration, awakening and enlightenment culminated with the valedictory session on the evening of 17th August 2014 at the Serve Happiness Foundation at Bharuch.‘The Yatra taught that indeed life is to keep endeavouring, to keep surmounting hurdles, to bounce back from setbacks, to make the most of good times, to create institutions and systems, to offer new avenues of employment. These are some of the ways to help humanity. ‘
For the participants of this Yatra, one thing was clear: There is no giving up in life, and social entrepreneurship must work around the unique and interesting lifestyles of those living in rural and tribal settlements. These unique environments present new problems that generate interesting and innovative solutions.
Working on major sectors of education, health, sustainable livelihood, eco-tourism, agriculture and social enterprise, Narmada Prerna Yatra hopes to become a national movement that encourages entrepreneurial plans and projects that take every unique chunk of the country forward in its own way.
‘Overall, it was great learning experience with lots of challenges. It was not easy to organize such yatra within a span of two months. But, I always believe in power of true intentions. Just follow your path with true intentions from pure heart, good souls would start walking with you and whole universe would help you,’ says Tailor.