The impact of an experience, an event, or a relationship is sometimes judged best by the feeling you get once you realize it’s over. Sometimes you don’t realize how tired you are until you lie down on a straw mat or a cold floor. Sometimes you don’t understand how thirsty you are until you are given a cup of ice water or lemonade. And sometimes, the bond of friendship is realized only when it is time to part. The Jagrithi Yathre ended yesterday and I am still grasping to understand what this means, what exactly it was about, and how it’s changed me.
Motorcycle enthusiasts swear that riding a bike is a completely different experience from driving a car. In a car you’re a passive observer, viewing things from a window frame much like you might watch a serial on TV. On a bike, you’re in the scene, you are the road, and you’re not just observing what’s around you, you are absorbing it. After walking about 100 kilometers in eleven days and speaking to hundreds of people in villages and cities, I’ve absorbed so much of what this country is about. The rush of inspiration, hope, and potential that I’ve felt on this walk is more powerful than the fastest 150 cc engine.
From the green fields and rocky hills of Karnataka, to the “guest is God” philosophy of every village we visited, I’ve no doubt that the bhavana of India is alive and strong. But are its people? Do the citizens of this country truly understand who is in power and who should be in power? Despite the lack of education in many villages, people understand the system better than we think. It is they who suffer when rations are not given, it is they who receive inadequate treatment in government hospitals, and it is they who are courted for votes every five years. The problem isn’t just awareness- it is belief. Do we believe that things can change? If so, then it is just a matter of making it happen. By the second day of the yathre, I began to see that this walk wasn’t just about the Right to Information Act, it was about restoring hope in democracy. We were walking to remind people that things could change and that they had the power to be this change. In fact, I was walking to remind myself this.
The idea for the Jagrithi Yathre came from Gandhi, and like Gandhiji it was inspired by the power of truth. This yathre was about showing people the power of truth, making the people powerful, and making the powerful truthful. Accomplishing this will take time, but we must first believe that it is possible. The Right to Information Act is the first step in empowering the people of India, and the ultimate goal of a free and fair society is something we should all be prepared to walk many more miles for.
– Vinay Krupadev, a volunteer at SVYM from the USA