On the 3rd of October 2019, we set out on a journey to understand the rural-urban divide that is prevalent all over the Indian countryside. This trip was a part of the CBSE’s Social Empowerment through Work Education and Action (SEWA) and focused on taking learning beyond the school’s boundaries. Another objective of this initiative was to underline the significance of the interdependence of all human beings and our dependence on the environment in this shrinking global village. Students of Std 11 and 12 began their one day trip called Van Yatra in the Tapi district of Gujarat as per the itinerary suggested by the Surat Chapter of The VanBandhu Parishad (NGO) working under Ekal Abhiyan Trust.

As per our AVM value of “Pehla Prabhu, Pacchi Paglu” our first stop was at Rokadiya Hanuman Mandir at Songadh. After having darshan of Shree Hanumanji, we enjoyed a delicious Gujarati breakfast and our teacher and guide Pratik Sir enlightened us about the 5 core principles on which Ekal Abhiyan works i.e. Shiksha, Swasthya, Sanskar, Jagran and Vikas and how the EKAL organization marches on to fulfil them. After the brief intro, we moved forth to our destination – Narayanpur village, around 30 km from Songadh.

We all witnessed a heart-warming welcome by our hosts, because of the belief of “Atithi Devo Bhava” that resided in their hearts. The Ekal Vidyalaya class had children ranging from small legs to big heads who prayed to God in unison that was being heard in the blissful silence of nature. We learnt that three subjects were taught to them, and the interesting part is, they learned them in the form of a song, katha or story. We witnessed that each child reflected their education and learning very confidently and with clarity of concept. This justified one of the three objectives of our visit – witnessing education in such a socio-economic landscape. Discussing about their values, the Pundit of the village elucidated over the matter and explained that every child respected their parents and mentors. Moreover, they sang devotional songs, Hanuman Chalisa, and other patriotic songs, which showed their inner saintly and devoted side. About 1 acre of land (about the size of the village) was used for agriculture and animal husbandry without the use of hazardous chemical fertilizers, to support the vegetation need of the village. We were also informed that the villages where Ekal Abhiyan has reached are almost addiction (smoking, drinking) free. And in our entire trip we were amazed to witness the same.

Std 11 students of our group had designed a special activity; we call it ‘basket the throw’ which aimed at explaining Risk & Rewards ratio which is a fundamental concept of Investing. By engaging Ekal Vidyalaya students through this game, thereby also promoting the idea of learning with fun. Our team concluded the game by delivering the message ‘Invest in Knowledge & Protect the Ecosystem’. Moreover, they were also able to convey the importance of making small savings regularly. All the children were highly active all throughout the three hours during our visit. The respected elders and teachers were given shawls, saris and tiffin boxes as a token of appreciation, and the children got an environment-friendly LCD writing pad as a token of respect and love. In order to promote the objective of oneness, each student of AVM was made to present the gifts individually to all students, teachers and karyakartas of Ekal Vidyalaya.

The trip did not end here. After the eye-opening experience at Narayanpur village, we headed to the sanctifying Gaumukh Mahadev Temple, where we had a relishing lunch. Next, we merrily ventured into the lap of nature at Gaumukh Falls. The very sight of the waterfalls induced thrill and excitement into us. In the blink of an eye, we all found ourselves under the cascading waterfalls. The experience below the waterfall was no less than a medical therapy which reenergized all of us from the tiredness of a day long journey. Time flew and we thoroughly lived the moments. Finally, an ice-cream treat marked the end of this remarkable trip.

Indeed, this was an awe-inspiring experience for us to witness such youngsters and elders who delightfully cope with the challenges of life and accept it the way it is! It gave us invaluable insights into the true meaning of happiness. Truly, there is an urgent need to narrow the gap between rural and urban India. To conclude, this first-hand experience shaped our mindset significantly and helped us realise that we have a responsibility towards the less privileged, the society and the environment. Trips like these provide us the opportunity to understand our responsibility towards community.

Reported by: Raghav Singhania, Harshil S. Patel & Jagrat Sandesara (Class 11)