IIM Indore’s “Class of 2011” (my junior batch) was the first one to see a lot of changes in terms of their 1st year curriculum. The ‘one’ sitting at the top of it all would like to say that they were blessed. We like to say that they were experimented with. And like all experiments…. Some go your way, while others don’t. One of these drastic changes was the Rural Immersion (yeah, I know it sounds snazzy – management grads can generally give that effect to even simple things). How tough were these rural immersions?? Well, I’d be too cheeky if I commented on that, coz during that period, we were just enjoying the shorter lines in the mess. And even the media promotions were left to my dear junior counterparts. However, by the comments and pictures of some, I’d be safe in saying that they did enjoy themselves; and considering the responsible souls we are, I’m sure some benefit to the society was done.
Why am I talking so much about something which I obviously have little knowledge about? Well, coz for the past 1 month (and most probably for the next 1 also), I’ve been treading the roads of a rural India (read Kalahandi, Orissa) which many would be astonished to see; many would not even wana be in this part of the globe. I mean, we’ve all been to villages; ancestral lands of many of us are rural. But to actually experience it as a part of work, away from family, for an entire 2 months is an entirely different story. I won’t dive into my work out here, mainly for 2 reasons – a) you’d leave this page this minute if I bored you with medicine and coz b) this stuff is generally confidential. But there’s much more that I’ve learnt from my experience out here; stuff which many of you could probably relate with.
The People – Let me tell you, they’re not all poor. Just like the rest of India, there’s a huge divide within villages too. And the Marwaris… well, sadly they’ve earned their riches here too and along with that a bad name. People say it’s in the blood… I’m starting to agree, and also hate it. Kalahandi is otherwise known by the world as one of the poorest regions in the world. I’ve spoken to so many out here and well, the poverty is a very long story, and I have no idea which parts of it to believe.
The Work – People in villages are generally laid back… except farmers probably, at specific times during a crop cycle. Bureaucracy – It’s probably a synonym for corruption and laziness everywhere in the world. However, it’s only when you experience it in a rural setup that you realise how much better the offices in cities are. Here… even money does not get their asses moving. I think they just believe they’ve been destined by god to sit on their asses, doing nothing!!
The Infrastructure – “Non-existent” – Do I need to say more? People here tell me that the minister of the PWD in the Orissa Govt. has been from the Kalahandi area on more than 1 occasion. Well… I can only say that he must really hate his own home.
The Landscape – It’s probably the one thing (other than some of the people I’ve worked with out here) that I can appreciate. Yes, the area is surrounded by forests in every direction, there are loads of small tributaries inviting you to have a dip, and the mountains just complete the picture which seems to be perfect for a Bollywood movie.
The Learning –
* The “Real Wild” is very much unlike that which you see in movies. It’s only a picnic if you’re there for a day or two and with awesome company; not when everyone you speak to mentions Naxalism as the 1st word associated with your location.
* India’s figure for no. of villages is highly inflated. I’m not saying that we cheat the world; I’m just saying that every 2 kms. – A new village starts. How crazy is that? After living here for 2 weeks, I realised that I’m not stationed in M. Rampur but in Burat; for god’s sake – they’re practically attached!!
* The government is even crazier to create infrastructure (hospitals, schools etc) in every village (read 2 sq. km. area); by infrastructure I mean buildings with walls and a terrace. Whether they possess the facilities required, that’s an entirely different story. Let’s be real – can’t there be 1 hospital/school for an area of 25 sq. Kms and an ambulance/bus for people’s commute?? Even people in cities travel that far for good schools, colleges and hospitals.
* Mahindra Bolero is a hot sell in rural India and even Nokia is a premium brand. People purchase Dish TV before a toilet. If asked why, they’d just say, “Why’d man create roadsides…”
* People skills come in handy more than knowledge. The latter is a bonus while the former a necessity. Also…the muddier you look; the more willingly they speak to you.
In all, if you ever land up in a similar situation, I’ll tell you some words that you will surely need to remember: Adjustment, Patience, Negotiation, Resourcefulness (mainly to kill the boredom). Manage all that and you might just survive.