Connecting with the Soul

The NuSocia Way

It was January 2020 and I was on one of the weekly team calls with my head office when our founder-advisor shared that in March 2020, the organization would be completing three years and would be a perfect timing for all of us to get together – to reflect over past and to brainstorm about future; to know ourselves and to know each other better and most importantly – to experience together, the values of NuSocia (experience the values – seriously, is that even possible?!) The entire team across locations was ecstatic about the same – for it was going to be the first such meet where every single associate of NuSocia was expected to be there. Each of us started imagining about what entails.

The meet was labelled, Annual NuSocia Thought Summit, acronym as ANTS – a small, yet disciplined and committed team. The day started getting closer and I had received no information about the travel / venue. First, I was skeptical whether I am getting excluded from the meet being a new member, then I connected with some colleagues across locations and realized that everyone is travelling to Pune on those dates – Disappointment, was the only emotion I felt – for my opportunity of travelling outside my base location on a outstation trip was gone. Just a day before the ANTS was to begin, we all received a travel advisory – that there will a ‘rural stay’ as part of the summit. Every time anyone in India talks about rural – they often refer to Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “Soul of India lies in its villages“. At NuSocia, we have always been working in the villages for our client assignments and had a decent understanding of the village life, as part of our roots as well as work.  My memories also took me back to my RLLE course program at my MBA days – where most of my MBA batch got their first experience of villages. My only excitement for the meet was just to meet the rest of the organization. Finally, it was the first day of ANTS and outstation teams started to gather together at Pune – it was nice to put face to some of the names I have just interacted with over team phone calls.

 

Thereafter began our journey to our destination – a village called Bajarwadi, roughly 70kms from Pune city, near a small town called Bhor. In the 1600s, the village of Bajarwadi served as a marketplace for soldiers of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s army, who lived in the nearby Rohida fort (Vichitragadh). We broke into different cars and off we were – still with anxiety surrounding on various aspects of food, stay comfort, agenda for the three days etc. The welcome message from our founder advisor said, be ready to connect with your souls. Let’s see.  As we started to drive outside the city limits, the anxiety gave way to camaraderie with the team and all together assimilating into the serene drive in the Westren Ghats. Different teams chose different detours to reach our first pit stop at Bhor by 11.30am, for the first taste of rural life, over a lip smacking Mastani – a milk shake topped with ice cream.

That’s where we met our local guide from Grassroutes, the host organization which was actually a startup founded by one of the college juniors of our CEO herself. The organization Grass routes (www.grassroutes.co.in) is working with a mission of creating sustainable community centered experiential platforms to understand rural living. The surprise trip planned by our advisor, included experiencing the village at its natural best as well as spending curated time in co-creating the vision for future of our organization.

To begin the journey, our village guide Poonam, a young resident of the same village welcomed us in front of their deity, at the community temple, honored us traditionally with local headgear (Gandhi cap) and Tilak (a mark of respect) on our forehead. The genuine gesture of welcome immediately made us feel at ease and saw the anxieties fly away. This was followed by a village walk – to make us become aware of our surroundings. However, the walk was much more than just that. It allowed us to immerse ourselves into the culture and lifestyle of the place. We saw houses more than 100 years old, traditional ways of heating water, a village gym and wrestling place, old wells and even the village’s place for last rites. By the time we finished the walk – many members of the team had started to feel tired with the sun shining bright. For lunch the group was divided into smaller sub groups and sent to different households in the village. Initially, it was weird to note that we were all not staying together but soon the reality sank in that it would be impractical for one household to make place / arrangements for so many of us in same place. However, the disappointment soon changed to a pleasant realisation while talking to our local guide – when we realised that by making different household responsible for stay and for different meals of the day, every household gets a chance to participate in welcoming the guests to their community as well as earn a part from the activity. Indeed, such a beautiful example and execution of collaborative community development.