Between work and witnessing the world


Contributed by Ajinkya Deshmukh, Program Manager

As I sat at my desk in the Delhi office after 21 days, submitting my trip reports and filing my monthly timesheet, I noticed I hadn’t taken a single leave in the month of March, and yet, I was barely in office. I looked at my travel calendar and realised I’d criss-crossed the country for work. From a district in the central Indian Vidharbha region to a small seaside town along the Konkan coast in western India, finally ending with an organisational retreat in the eastern state of Bihar. These were places that dont feature in the everyday imagination of urban India and travelling to them is its own reward.

Kelwa is one such place. Barely three hours north of Mumbai, the sleepy town is at once charming and forgotten. A fortnight ago, I was there with two other colleagues to kick off Digital Greens work with the Maharashtra State Rural Livelihoods Mission (aka Umed). We were to begin working in the districts of Thane, Palghar and Nandurbar. The project would focus on video documenting and disseminating best practices around cotton, soyabean, goatery, and non-farm livelihoods activities in 114 villages in the target districts.

We arrived in the dead of the night, trying to locate our beachside hotel by listening for the sea. As dawn broke, we saw the breathtaking beach only a 100 metres from our hotel.

Over the next week, between long meetings and video production training sessions, we made time to swim in the sea, ride horse-drawn tongas, eat delicately cooked Bombay Duck, and meet some great people (like this brother-sister duo collecting crabs for dinner from under rocks at low tide)!

The programme launch meeting with representatives from all three districts and the video production training were a resounding success. At the end of the week, we were able to map the future course of action for our work in western Maharashtra, and also produce two videos in Marathi on seed selection and the preparation of beejamrut (an organic concoction used to treat seeds before sowing).

Ajinkya taking a session at the training of new partner staff.

What had seemed like just another work trip had offered up so much more! The opportunity to travel had cast new light, literally and figuratively, on the everyday churn of events. I left Kelwa feeling refreshed and rewarded, despite a most hectic work schedule eagerly looking forward to the next time work brought me here.

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