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PERSONAL LEARNING REPORT

A report submitted to

Instructor: Prof. Anil Gupta


Academic Associate: Ms. Pooja Tole

In partial fulfilment of requirements of the course

SHODHYATRA

On October 15, 2016


By

D.Vineet Rao (15103)

INDIAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT, AHMEDABAD


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Contents
Introduction......................................................................................................................................3
The Four Teachers...........................................................................................................................4
Learnings from Self.....................................................................................................................4
Learnings from Nature.................................................................................................................5
Learnings from Peers...................................................................................................................5
Learnings from the Community...................................................................................................7
Discussions......................................................................................................................................8
Day 1 Night...............................................................................................................................8
Day 2 Morning..........................................................................................................................8
Day 2 Night...............................................................................................................................9
Day 3 Morning..........................................................................................................................9
Day 3 and 4................................................................................................................................10
Meditation Session.....................................................................................................................10
Other Discussions..........................................................................................................................11
How do we know that we know?...............................................................................................11
The River Discussion.................................................................................................................11
Final Words....................................................................................................................................12

Introduction
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Ever since I had heard of Shodhyatra, I had decided that this was one course I wanted to take
during my second year. Since I have started thinking critically, I have always wondered about
what gives life purpose; is there a higher purpose to my existence. While I did not really expect
to find answers to these questions, I did want to explore within in order to start the quest for
these answers. The last few years have brought a lot of changes in my life, and have also
changed me a lot as a person. While the struggle to do better in life has improved me in a few
aspects, it has distanced me from my true self. One of the main reasons for me to take this
journey was to try and connect with myself on a deeper level.
I have also felt that this was necessary for me to understand what I truly want to do in my life. I
have felt a lack of specific purpose in my life. While I have always told myself that such
confusion and doubt is but natural at this stage in life, I did want to figure out what were the
things preventing me from exploring new things. I have felt that I must explore new avenues
before I figure out my true calling in life. But there has always been something that has
prevented me from doing the same. Perhaps it was the fear of failure, or the perceived societal
pressure. I wanted to figure out the answers to these questions within myself. Before I could
improve, I had to figure out the exact reasons for the same. This was another strong reason for
me to undertake this journey.
On another dimension, having had an upbringing which was predominantly urban, I have never
lived in villages. I wanted to see the lives that people in such places lived with the positives
and the negatives. This would be a very unique journey where I completely gave up the things I
am used to, in order to appreciate the life of simplicity; to appreciate the spirit of people when
they face adversities without having enough resources.
It was in this backdrop that I had taken this journey. There were many learnings during these five
days from myself, from nature, from peers, and from the local people. There were many
enriching discussions that we had, many experiences that had a deep impact on me. In the
following few pages I have tried to cover all these things, and the learnings that I have taken
away from each of them. I have tried to best recount my thoughts and feelings that I had during
the time, and my thoughts and reflections on them after the Shodhyatra had ended.

The Four Teachers

Learnings from Self


The very first day that we started trekking, the first thing I felt was the physical exhaustion
within the first hour. It was at this point that I felt that I would be unable to go on due to the sheer
exhaustion. However, we all decided to continue, and in a short while we were able to move past
the physical pain and started to appreciate the journey. The primary learning from this experience
was that once a person decides to do something, it is only a matter of time before he can make
that happen. That it is the question of the will of a person that matters most. What the mind has
resolved to do, the body eventually will follow. This was something that I observed repeatedly
during the coming few days.
Another thing I observed was that while the first day was a little difficult, completely giving up
any contact with the external world, the feeling eventually was that of a strange kind of
liberation. It was then that I realized that in order to connect with ourselves, we need to be
isolated from the outside world. That all the emotions, worries, our bonds with our families and
our loved ones can hinder us from truly exploring ourselves. It is only when we move away from
our everyday worries (noise) that we can start thinking about things that really trouble us.
The times which I spent with myself during the trekking, or during the night when I used to sit
outside under the stars, and the meditation session were times when I did a great amount of
introspection. I realized that one of the biggest things that hold me back is the fear of society
what the others will think of me, or my views always creates a block which prevents me from
trying new things, or exploring some new possibility. I realized that there was no basis to this
irrational fear. I thought back to my experiences till this point, and realized that this was a thread
that ran through most of my experiences, and opportunities that I might have missed in life. Also,
overthinking on any issue is another thing that I found was holding me back. I tend to plan and
contemplate; however I tend to not act, which causes a kind of paralysis. I realized listening to
experiences of others that sometimes the best course of action is to act, without thinking too
much about the consequences.
I also learned the importance of emptying the mind of all thought the physical exhaustion was
to a large extent responsible for the same. When the mind was empty, I found that the negativity
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within me was gone; that I stopped complaining, and started focusing on the positive aspects of
things. Rarely during these five days did I find myself angry or agitated. This was a completely
new experience for me and one that I really appreciated.

Learnings from Nature


All throughout the journey we were in the lap of nature, surrounded by all the beauty and
resources of nature. One of the major lessons that I learned from the nature came from the
mountains. When I stood in front of these towering peaks, I felt very small and inconsequential
in front of Nature. It was this feeling that stripped away my ego, realizing the small place we
occupy in the grand scheme of things. It was a very humbling experience it took away from me
the illusion of control that we enjoy in our own little worlds.
While Nature is so powerful and grand, I realized that it also nurtures every single creature that
inhabits it. It is almost like a mother taking care of their child. Every creature, from the smallest
of insects to the largest animals, including humans are taken care of by nature. During our
journey, we also encountered leeches, which at first were a source of major irritation and
discomfort. However, when I thought about it, I realized that they were only fulfilling their role
in the grand scheme of things. That they were staying true to their nature, while we were staying
true to ours (similar to the story about the scorpion and the sage, which was narrated by Prof.
Gupta).
Another aspect that struck me was the way that the water made its way down the mountains,
even when the way was difficult. The water flowed down as rivers, falls, and even tiny streams
in places. The lesson that I learnt was that it does not matter whether you take small steps or big
steps, as long as you keep moving towards your goal. At places the tiny streams barely seemed to
flow, however they did flow, eventually to form larger streams which reached the foot of the
mountain, fulfilling its role.

Learnings from Peers


Peers were one of the greatest sources of learning during this journey, as it was with them that I
spent the maximum time. One of the people in the group had a great impact on me, with the
sheer grit and determination that he showed to conquer his fears. This person has a fear of
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heights, and this became a major impediment after we reached a certain altitude. However
instead of accepting defeat, this person traveled the entire distance, even if he was the last to
arrive at every place. This was something that taught me that it is always possible to overcome
your fears, if you only decide to do it.
I also learned a great deal from Vicky and Anurag, who accompanied us for most of the journey.
Anurag left a very stable, high-paying job in order to come to Chamba and work for the welfare
of the people. He seems to have no regrets about this, and is genuinely happy and satisfied with
the work that he is doing. To give up the trappings of a luxurious life for a life of struggle and
simplicity is something that I greatly admired in him. His connect with the locals, and the
genuine love and affection he held for them also made an impact on me.
Vicky is a very unique person, looking at the bright side of life in the middle of so many
problems. He was one person who was always happy and cheerful, connecting with others
effortlessly without any prejudices or judgement. He is a genuinely warm person, and I
discovered the warmth of the local people when I interacted with him.
However, the person who made the deepest impact on me was Shanku, our guide for some part
of the journey. His story is truly inspiring he refused to do something that he didnt want to do,
and chose to go for mountaineering courses. There he failed during his first year; he stayed back
at the insistence of one of his teachers. The subsequent year he topped his class, learning almost
everything there was about the art of mountaineering. He didnt like the work he was being
offered there, so he returned to his village where he is looking to start his own special brand of
mountaineering. The reason I find him so inspiring is that in spite of having so little choices, he
still chose to follow his passion. It is easy to refuse something when you have a lot of choices;
doing it when your choices are limited is a very different situation. His positivity along with his
spirit left me very impressed.
I also learnt from Prof. Gupta when I was discussing about the choices that we make and the
constraints that are placed on us by society and our peers. It was then that he narrated his own
story about how he never accepted the status quo, or any restrictions placed by society how he
had come into the field of management, and eventually grassroots innovations. He made a point
that I found very correct that it is often we ourselves who hide behind the excuses of societal
expectations and pressure, when it is us who is apprehensive about something; that we must stop
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blaming others for things we could not do. This was one of the things that made a very powerful
impact on me.

Learnings from the Community


The major learning for me came from the common people that I met during our journey. The
biggest quality that I saw was the ability of the people to be hospitable and warm to complete
strangers like us. Not only did they give us a roof to stay and food to eat, but made us feel like a
part of their own community. And they did all this while struggling with numerous problems like
lack of clean drinking water, no electricity or sanitation facilities in places, no roads and
infrastructure, and many other problems small and big. The people we met had a very profound
impact on me, right from the farmers, to their families to the little children who walk for close to
three hours every day to be able to get basic education. They manage to do all this while staying
positive and happy, something which is worth learning from them.
We also visited many schools on our travels, which were a great learning experience for us. The
children were very enthusiastic about learning, making great effort to get educated. We interacted
with many bright children, who came up with brilliant ideas when presented with problems
showing that given opportunities, these children have the capacity to bring great changes. We
also met students and teachers from a Madrassa, which functions on the kindness of the people,
with many of them donating food, money or any other resource they can. In a small place with
very limited resources, this was something that was very inspiring to see. It showed that one does
not need a lot to change the world only the will to do so.
When we visited the schools, we also realized that the children responded much better when nonconventional techniques were used for teaching such as games or puzzles. This showed that
while we may assume that the children do not know enough, they were very well-aware of their
surroundings, and that they learnt from nature and their environment much more than they learnt
from books. This was very encouraging, and if possible we should try to implement similar
techniques in other schools across geographies.
Another person we met had started the Paryavaran Chetna Kendra. He started with close to
nothing, and it was only his belief which kept him going at a time when nobody believed in him.
He proved many eminent academicians wrong when he managed to turn a barren land into a
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beautiful grassland, thereby preventing soil erosion and the ill effects of runoff. He has worked
close to thirty years, without any desire for recognition or fame, firmly believing in his efforts
and beliefs. He also refused to take up any post in the village or district, instead going about his
work with a single-minded focus. It is only due to his efforts that a lot of people are becoming
aware of the value of preserving the nature. He was a truly inspiring figure.
Discussions

Day 1 Night
The discussion on the first night centered on the childhood we all spent, and what (if anything)
we would change if we could. One thing that was clearly brought out was that a lot of us have
felt a distance from our families immediate as well as extended ones. The fact that a lot of us
wanted to change this showed that unlike the perception that we are all moving away from our
families willingly, in most cases it is circumstances that force us to do the same, and that given a
chance a lot of us would like to change that.
The other point that was brought out was that a lot of decisions we have taken in our lives seem
to be influenced by others around us, and that a lot of us would decide differently given a choice
now. This was slightly surprising considering most of us are on our way to a very good career;
the fact that we regret decisions shows that the success as perceived by society and parents is not
the same as that perceived by an individual. While everyone would be very impressed by the
credentials of the students at IIMA, it was unexpected that so many of us would have chosen
something else given an opportunity. Though there is a slight catch to this maybe this thought
stems from the fact that a lot of us have experienced praise and adulation from everyone around
us, diminishing the desire for it. Also, many people had a desire to try something or the other in
their lives, which has remained unfulfilled in our quest for academics and a better career. Many
of us feel unfulfilled about trying out new things, which we would have been able to do if there
had not been such emphasis on academics.

Day 2 Morning
The discussion this time was about learning that we have obtained from unexpected sources. This
was a truly enlightening session, as we heard various stories about people in the unlikeliest of
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places teaching each of us something. A lot of people talked about kindness of strangers, and
how they were surprised by it from cases of people returning forgotten objects, to people
helping out in emergencies. The lesson here for me was that we appear so surprised when people
help us out without expecting anything in return.
We discussed lessons learnt from people who clean our rooms, to taxi drivers, to maid servants;
in other words people whom we otherwise would not consider would teach us something. The
biggest learning out of the discussion was that learning can come from anywhere, provided we
are willing to learn.

Day 2 Night
The discussion this night was about people who have influenced us profoundly. It brought out
many interesting examples. Many people were influenced by people whom they have seen up
close, like their parents or grandparents or close friends. In many cases we saw that such people
around us have pushed us to push ourselves to perform sometimes by providing an example,
sometimes by providing an inspiration, or sometimes by showing us exactly what we must/must
not do. The one thing that struck me was that almost everyone has some person in their lives who
has impacted them in a positive or negative way, shaping their personalities. It is these people at
times who are responsible for the way we turn out when we grow up. I was particularly
influenced by some of the children we had taught last year. Despite coming from very poor
families, and having lived in great adversity, these children are still extremely positive in their
outlook towards life. I feel that this is something that can definitely be learnt from them

Day 3 Morning
The discussion here was about people who have shown fortitude the quality of saying no when
the world wants you to say yes. We saw some great examples, both from history as well as
contemporary ones. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Jyotiba Phule, Vinoba Bhave, were some people
whose name came up during the discussion. The important thing here was that these people did
not wait for others to join them when they brought in changes, but raised their voices, and
against customs and practices that were widely accepted and condoned in the society of those
times. The challenges they faced were extraordinary, but these people changed the world with the

sheer will and grit. Looking at these cases was very inspiring in the sense that I felt that any
change that comes must start somewhere.
We also looked at cases of Satyendra Dubey, Kaushallendra, and Manjunath, who went up
against a system much more powerful than themselves. While they lost their lives, their legacy
lives on. These were people who were ready to sacrifice their lives for their principles. It is
examples like this which have the power to inspire everyone around them.

Day 3 and 4
The theme of this discussion was to give your own philosophy, and to talk about how it would
help make the world a better place. While a lot of philosophies were discussed, and widely
varying viewpoints were put forward, the one thing that struck me was that most people came up
with philosophies which were rooted in their own past and their preferences for example,
people who were interested in education came up with thoughts and philosophies which
concerned the problems of education; people who had witnessed terrorist attacks in their
countries based their philosophies on countering the effects of those events. In a way one can say
that the philosophy of a person very intimately links to what the person has grown up with; our
parents, our society and our peers have a huge impact on the way we see and perceive the world
around us. Two people looking at the same thing can come up with two very different ideas. In
the end it can definitely be said that the philosophy that resonated with me was a mix of a lot of
ideas from karma, to having empathy, to improving the education system; a few elements from
all of them could be taken to positively impact everyone around us. In the end, the elements that
we take are also very much dependent on us, rather than the person talking about a philosophy;
we take what fits with our ideals, which can lead to a bias sometimes.

Meditation Session
This was one of the best experiences of the Shodhyatra. The experience was great because when
we did it on the fourth day, we already had a lot to reflect on; making it a great opportunity to
connect with ourselves. What I reflected on was the things within me that were preventing me
from truly achieving my potential. I found out that the biggest factor for me was that I am
somewhat scared of failure; that I let it become so big a factor that I do not try something that I
could be really good at. The one thing that I also realized was that I lack discipline at times to
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carry something to its conclusion. Also, I tend to start things very well, but give them up midway, not carrying them to their conclusion. These factors I realized were preventing me from
achieving my true potential. This was an eye-opening experience as I had faced my flaws so
directly for the first time, accepting myself; only after I had accepted myself completely could I
go about improving myself
Other Discussions

How do we know that we know?


This was a very interesting discussion discussing how we come to realize what we know, and
consequently what we do not know. Three methods were discussed experiment, evidence and
observation. However the problem here is that we can never truly know everything we cannot
experience everything, and proving something with evidence is never truly complete.
Observation (experiences of others) is also not a complete method, as we cannot be ever sure of
something unless we have verified it beyond doubt. The most pertinent point that I grasped here
was that we can never truly know what we know or do not know such is the nature of the world
we live in. We can at best make reasonable assumptions; hence when we are so unsure about
what we know, the only way to live in this world is to embrace this uncertainty; to constantly try
and search for the truth. It is a never-ending quest, but that does not mean that our efforts fall
short.

The River Discussion


This discussion was about how a river flows, what gives it direction, and how the river is a
metaphor for our own lives. We discussed about how the most important thing for a river to flow
are the banks comparing them to the restrictions we place on our lives to give it a direction; we
close certain doors which define the way our life goes. In other words, the banks are like the
principles we live our lives by without these banks, the life will never have a direction, and will
never reach its destination. The comparison with a river was also in the sense that life always
flows, even when the going is tough, when the path is blocked by obstacles life always finds a
way. The only thing in our control is to give it banks, to guide it where we want to.

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Final Words
At the end of the journey I can say with conviction that this was a journey of great learning for
me, and everyone must go through such an experience at least once. I feel that the regions like
the ones we visited are full of resources waiting for the right opportunities to utilize them. We
saw natural resources, and the resourcefulness of the locals. Many things that they made for their
own use can be sold in the market, giving the people some resources. At the moment the
economies in these places are closed ones, with the produce circulating within the same
community. Hence, without money flowing from outside, it is improbable that development of
these areas will occur.
The second thing I feel needs to be mentioned is about the education in these areas the
education of the children in the end results in people going out of their local communities. While
we thought this will be a factor preventing the parents from taking the step, this was not the case.
However something like a brain drain occurs in these places. The people who go out of these
areas do not return, leading to these areas never really getting developed. If the talent has to be
retained, more incentives need to be provided to the people who get educated, to stay back and
develop their local areas.
On a more personal level, I have become much more aware of my shortcomings the things that
prevent me from going out and performing to the best of my abilities. I have started working on
these things, and while I have not improved all these problems, I have definitely started working
on them. The knowledge about myself has been the first step towards improving myself. I have
started working towards discovering my true calling, trying out new things. This has been a truly
illuminating journey for me

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