Jun 08, 2023
As retreat was announced, excitement began to build up. I started hearing many stories of previous retreats from my colleagues. Stories about the location, the sessions, the events, cultural nights, and the people of Manjari.
The day arrived and the journey started. The members from different locations joined the journey. I got introduced to the new members. As evening approached, the real fun began. All members joined the party in the compartment. One of the very popular members started attracting all and soon became the focal point of the party. The jokes, the dances, the comments, and the songs filled the train compartment. The chatter was about office stories, gossip, and imaginary affairs. The TT also joined the party and allowed us to play loud music and enjoy the time. The members tried to make the most of it.
The Kesla campus is an hour's road journey from Itarsi City. The road was pleasant as we passed through dense forests and crossed the Narmada River on the way. The forests were full of Palash flower trees, Teak, and Mohua trees. It was déjà vu as it took me back to my childhood days in eastern Maharashtra.
The moment we entered the campus, it charmed me. The fresh air, the cottages in between trees, the trails, serene and beautiful setting were all I needed for a break. Day one was slow as sessions started late. The fatigue from the long journey was still there. As evening approached, the energy started to normalize. The wait for the cultural evening was over. All joined the party. The artists, singers, and dancers volunteered to perform and it was a treat to experience. All joined in for a festivity and partied hard.
As I moved out in the open sky for a walk, I could see a clear and starry night. It was a rare sight and visual treat. I hardly see a clear starry night sky in the cities as the air is dense with pollutants. It was almost like camping. I could see people sitting in groups under the sky enjoying chatter and togetherness with colleagues.
There is a coexistence as birds and monkeys are all around. Monkeys can be seen jumping around, playing with their families, and eating food remains. The monkeys here are bold and display an attitude as if they own this place. I think they are right in their own way. We human beings have entered their territory and habitat. The dilemma is always there. We want to go to remote, serene, peaceful natural locations for quiet time to rewind ourselves and reflect. We should be mindful of the existence of our fellow species on these adventurous journeys and be gentle to them and nature.
The Kesla PRADAN campus is the perfect setting for learning and rewinding oneself. There is minimal disturbance from the outside world. Alas, except for mobile phone coverage. I often think, what if as an experiment we switch off our mobile phones for three days and detox completely? The sunrise in this Satpura range is beautiful. Capturing sunrise on the campus was so exhilarating. I could see the inhabitants of nearby villages collecting Mohua flowers on my walks on the trail on the campus.
The sessions were interactive and engaging as I got to talk with a lot of new people. The discussions were mostly around themes like values and the theory of change etc. In between, we sneaked in to discuss out-of-syllabus matters with the teammates. The diverse nature of the members made these discussions interesting.
Late-night chats under the starry nights, cultural events, truth and dare, sports and long strolls on the campus added icing to the cake. It was also time to catch up with the seniors and the discussions with them were enriching and encouraging. There was an instant connection with each other. I think nature has a role to play in this. The food was good and I think we gained a few calories during the retreat. The location was perfect for photography. Participants had a gala time photographing with friends, colleagues, and seniors, selfies, and shooting reels. The light, the background, and the clean skies added more to the photographs. The photography sessions were also time for interesting talks with colleagues. The beautiful photographs will remind us of our time here.
The thought of leaving behind all this and joining the hustle and bustle was troubling. As I started the journey back home, the feeling of leaving all this behind was there. I was imagining how it would have been if it were a monsoon season. The rains, the streams, and the greens; would have added more life to it. Kesla is not just a place but has become an emotion. I left the place energized, with new perspectives, connections, and learnings.