Gramya Manthan is a nine day rural immersion journey with 30 passionate change agents to remote villages in Kanpur Dehat, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is an annual program of Youth Alliance.
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Here we are having a conversation with Spriha Atray who attended this program in 2014
Can you give a brief introduction about yourself ?
I am Spriha Atray. I did my BA in Economics from Punjab University and currently a Young India Fellow of Asoka University. I was selected for the Gramya Manthan Rural Immersion program of Youth Alliance in year 2014.
What is this program about ?
It is an amazing program in which students from cities and metros who haven’t experienced the rural India yet, are taken to interior villages in Kanpur Dehat which is in Uttar Pradesh and are completely immersed in the rural setting, far removed from all the comforts of urban India. Every year 30 students from across India get selected for this program. But students from rural areas can also apply for this program. So the cohort is a mix of both.
What is the selection procedure for Gramya Manthan ?
The selection process consists of two procedures:
The idea is basically to check if you are mature enough to undergo this session; if your sensibilities match with the requirement of the programme; if you are physically and mentally inclined with the social sector; to know how curious you are. The interview is basically testing who you are and try to understand you because there are many self-improvement sessions in the programme so they have to make sure their effort doesn’t not go wasted
What are the activities that you will be doing in the ten days?
Most of the people who come for this program are mainly from urban centres or metros and they have not seen villages; they have not talked to villagers. These ten days you will be working in the village, talking with the villagers, drinking water from the tube wells living with the families, you will get to sleep on a terrace, you will conduct health camps for old people and ladies, summer camps for children etc. The whole idea about doing all this is that you get to interact with them; learn from ideas and practices. This is one part.
We also have a lot of sessions that focussing on enhancing your empathy or value based awareness about yourself. They have many good mentors who are involved in social sector. You will have one-on-one mentoring. There are meditation sessions, sports activities etc. All this will be held simultaneously. The idea behind this is that it will help you to be more aware about yourself.
Share an unforgettable memory you have of those days ?
I was staying with a family in the village. The people were very welcome towards me. One striking feature I noticed was how the family members interacted with each other. Because back in cities this kind of interaction between family members is missing. They also talked to me about a lot of things The families are very close. This kind of personal connection is something that experienced for the first time. Another unforgettable memory would be of the day when I slept on the terrace facing the starry sky. That was my first such experience, something I cannot forget.
How did this ten day program change you as a person?
I live in Chandigarh amongst all the comforts, but this program helped me see how 65% of India lives, for the first time. It is also a very dismal condition for the women and girls as there are no proper sanitation facilities, toilets or proper water arrangement. I think my outlook towards life has changed. I started valuing all the smalls things more, started talking to people, I was made aware how fortunate I am compared to many people. Secondly it improved a lot about myself because of the introspection sessions, meditation sessions; after the program I think I am calmer and a more peaceful person than I used to be. Also it became very clear as to what I wanted to do in life, I was helped by the mentors, who helped me find out my interests and my real self.
What do you think is the most unique feature of this program ?
It is a program which really changes your outlook towards life. It makes you realise the blessing that you have. It makes your full potential when you are outside your comfort zone. It makes you realise what you are capable of a person. In short it makes you a happier person.