This article describes Gulshan Thakur, an event manager's experience at the Nirmal Bharat Yatra
Gulshan Thakur, 22, originally from district Palwal in Haryana, a graduate in Programming from Delhi University now lives and works in the country’s capital, Delhi. A little over two months back he joined Lalit Arts and Studios Pvt. Ltd , an event group based in Delhi with a dream of making it big in the line of event management business. “I never liked academics to be honest with you,” the young guy smiles, “In fact I struggled to hold my attention while in school and college because I didn’t find studies interesting. I wanted to go out and do something in real!” In Lalit Arts and Studios he had just taken charge of his responsibilities that on the fifth day in office he was told to proceed to Wardha in Maharashtra to be a part of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra as the event guy!
“So big deal, I thought!,” he laughs out aloud almost embarrassed. “That reaction was perhaps because I had no clue what I had just walked into!” He goes ahead smiling, “ I was briefed that all I had to do was go and help organize an event. I was prepared for that. I had done fashion shows, big parties and sports events earlier in Delhi. But the day I landed in Sewagram ground in Wardha and I saw the scale of the event, I was blown away by the realization of what lay ahead of me. It was like being hit by a truck.”
Games arenas at the Yatra
Sitting in the event ground, now almost at the end of the yatra, Gulshan talks about his work, all the time his eyes shift to the laborers who work under his supervision to erect the entire event venue from a scratch. His walky-talky beeps every other minute and someone says, “Gulshan, yeh kaam karwadey! (Please get that work done)” He talks constantly on his walky-talky, giving directions to, I don’t know, how many people. He oversees the laborers who are working in front of him, all this time he is on his walky-talky not to mention, he tries to answer my questions in between. I understand this situation perfectly because I have seen him for nearly 60 days now. I have noticed how hard he works and have often caught him working till the wee hours in the morning with his team to make the stage, media hall, VIP lounge, game arenas, entrance arch, tin barricading, brandings, canopying, flakes/hoardings, installing air conditioners and so on. The guy doesn’t stop!
He tells me he learnt on arrival that there were going to be all of eleven vendors under him during this event and laborers who he would have to use to get the work done. “At one point of time in the beginning my mind went blank but with each passing day, bit by bit, I have learnt the A-B-C of organizing everything just the way it is to be done.” He tells that the biggest challenge for his team was to set up the event venue at such a short period of 3-5 days, all the while travelling alongside the Yatra. You have to take into account that Nirmal Bharat Yatra was travelling from one place to another in the country shifting every ten days its location. He doesn’t miss to tell you of the challenges he faced on a personal front as he admits shyly, “Sleeping with dozen other people in tents out in the open, eating out, and travelling continuously, exposed to extreme heat and then cold, dealing with fever that came and went without notice have all been tough for me on this trip.”
Each stop has posed a different kind of challenge for the event organizers. In Kota ( Rajasthan) the time they had at hand to set up the carnival and event venue was just three days , including the travel time from Indore to Kota. There were stray animals and so many insects that posed an added hindrance to their work. Tin barricading was done to keep the stray animals out of the venue and fumigation to drive out the insects.
The stage at the Nirmal Bharat Yatra
Gulshan recollects, “ In Wardha Sewagram ground , the entrance arch gave way and fell down just few hours before the event was to begin. Wardha was the most important event as it marked the beginning of the yatra officially.” He adds, “The entrance arch was made of plywood and now it was damaged and replacement from Delhi would take one day and half. We had no time with us. So we decided to go ahead and try repair the damage on our own. We took our own risks. Our carpenters repaired it, painted it and in two hours time it was standing.” This is the entrance arch that you saw all through out the yatra through which thousands thronged to the event venue.
Event area set for the carnival
The other big challenge for the event team was dismantling and managing it in 12 hours while others slept and before the yatra moved onto the next destination in the morning after breakfast. “ After the event gets over at 8 pm, and till we drive to the next destination at 10 am, in these few hours we need to not only dismantle all this but to repack it in an organized way to ensure we can use it in the next event venue. In ordinary circumstance it would just take 30 minutes for us to dismantle the entrance arch if the contents were not to be reused again, but now it takes us close to 2 hours as it is to be reused again in the next stop.”
Media Hall: seen here is Union Minister Rural Development Shri Jairam Ramesh in a press conference
As I spend time with this guy I learn that canopies (16ft X16Ft), shelters (45FtX30ft), tents (60ftX45 ft) have different dimensions and in this event were set by Rama tent House, one of their vendors.
“From the first time I stood in Sewagram ground in Wardha almost sixty days ago to setting up the stage in our last stop in Bettiah in Bihar now, I know I have come a long way. I have changed immensely. There is a confidence in me that will be hard to shake. I know there couldn’t have been a better launch pad for a fresher like me than Nirmal Bharat Yatra.”
Gulshan Thakur returned home with a box of sweets for his mother and a birthday gift for his elder brother. “I was away from home on Diwali but I am going to celebrate my brother’s birthday. It’s really going to be a celebration because now my mother has a reason to be proud of me,” Gulshi tells me over telephone from Delhi.
Nirmal Bharat Yatra meant different things to different people. For the people living in villages who we took the message to end open defecation, wash hands with soap, better sanitation solutions and practice hygiene, the people we interacted with closely in the 5 states we visited, the partner NGOs we held alliance with at every stop, the many people who were a part of the yatra in their own capacity trying to make an impact. For the development guys, this was the ultimate community based out-reach program impacting lakhs of people. For the journalists this was the best opportunity to report facets of India and learn about their own country that no book would tell them, no TV channel would teach them. In trying to focus on how many people we reached out to ,outwardly, we didn’t really think about the 500 people who were a part of the Yatra and that 500 lifes have been changed forever!( A global team- Indians, Germans, British, Americans and others) For our friends from abroad, it was a great opportunity to travel to India and that part which isn’t included in a tourist route map ever! But there are also those people far from development and journalism world for whom Nirmal Bharat Yatra meant a lot.
Gulshan Thakur is one of them.
And along with him are many others who will carry the spirit of the Yatra ahead in their roles in the society, no matter how isolate their industry appears. After all change would have to come from all quarters of society.
By Urmila Chanam,Fellow, India Water Portal for Arghyam
For full coverage of the Nirmal Bharat Yatra, click here.