That Saturday morning was particularly chilly. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, and the shuteye of just three hours wasn’t enough for me.
The night before, I was drenched in the rain and wasn’t sure if I could travel all the distance. But, somehow, I made up my mind to go on our office retreat to Keonjhar.
I took an auto and reached the office building at around 7:40 am. There were 40 of us. Things got packed and some more people arrived a little later. At around 8:30am we boarded the bus and our journey began. A few more joined us near Vani Vihar.
The bus made a quick stopover at a gas station near Decathlon to fuel up for the journey of almost six hundred kilometers. At around 9:15am, we crossed Cuttack and picked up one of our colleagues – Ms. Mama Panda.
And that’s when all the fun started. Peppy dance numbers started blaring from a Bluetooth speaker, in no time the aisle became the dance floor, with my colleagues swaying to the beats. The spectacular moves were taken up several notches higher when little Sai, son of my colleague Ms. Monika Mohapatra, danced to ‘Bala’ and ‘Jai Jai Shivshankar’.
After an hour, antakshari program started and the passengers sitting on the right formed one team and the people sitting on the left formed another. We were treated to beautiful vocals of Ranjana ma’am, the director of SDRC, as well as Anagha, Sarita di, Sasmita di, among others.
The journey progressed, so did the fun and at 2:30pm we reached CYSD’s rural livelihood center at Kapundi. A beautiful campus spread across an expanse area of 13 acres, it is used to provide capacity building training programs.
We jumped out of our bus and walked to our dorms. After choosing our bed and keeping luggage, we went to the dining hall to have our lunch – rice, dal, ouu khatta (elephant apple chutney) and potato cauliflower curry. Post lunch we assembled at the training center for a group activity.
Except for Ranjana ma’am, Ms. Mama, and Ms. Monika, the rest of us were divided into three groups. I was in group three, and with me were Ratnakar sir, Manas sir, Sid, Anagha, and Laxman.
The task of each group was to build a pyramid structure using 10 cups. The catch, however, was that participants can’t build the structure with their hands but blowing a balloon and keeping it between their lips to carry the cups and place them on top of each other. The entire activity was supposed to be completed in 30 minutes.
Our team coordinated well and managed to create the structure in 20 minutes. We howled with excitement but, much to our dismay, the structure fell like a house of cards the next minute.
The team one accomplished their task in style, with few minutes remaining. When the outcome was discussed, Ratnakar sir took the microphone and said that three ‘P’ – Purpose, Planning and Patience – played an important role behind team one’s success. The team was determined to win, and they had the clarity of their purpose. They had planned well, and they distributed their tasks among their members according to their strengths. The victor team displayed immense patience and persisted with their tasks while our team made the mistake of celebrating prematurely.
After that, we were told to assemble on the ground and the next activity began. We were divided into four teams, eight people in each. This time also, I was in team three with Pintu bhai, Sarita di, Asutosh, Simanchal, Trilochan. Each team was given a bedsheet and the members held it together. The task was to hurl a volleyball on the bedsheet, which was to be caught by the other team. One drop means one point.
The first two teams were pitted against each other. Despite putting up a tough fight, we lost the match to team one as well.
After the match was over, Ratnakar sir said a few lines on the activity and its purpose. He emphasized that the winning team bagged the victory because of three Cs – Control, Coordination and Confidence.
The team members had the control to figure out the trajectory of the ball to catch and hurl it efficiently. They had perfect coordination when it came to hold the bedsheet together and work as a close-knit team. They had the confidence to win the game.
After that, it was the time for one more activity – a game of Chinese whispers. All of us were divided into two lines and told to stand at least one arm’s distance apart from each other. Sid and Rishi (Ripon sir’s son) were at one end and Ranjana ma’am took them aside and told them a story. They returned to their respective lines and told the same story to the person standing next. Sid told the story to Manas sir and he told the story to me.
The story was of a bird that was perched atop a tree on a chilly winter night. Due to the freezing temperature, it collapsed on the ground. Then a cow came by and dunged on it. It warmed it up and the bird whistled happily. Hearing the sound, a cat came to the dung heap, took out the bird and ate it.
After the game was over, the persons standing at the extreme end were called upon – Pratyush and Tushar. When asked about the story, Pratush said “One cat had piclic (sic)” and Tushar said something akin, “A crow pooped on a baby. The baby fell into a well.”
Ratnakar sir explained the importance of communication in our lives, even more so in an organizational setting. He then explained the hidden meaning behind the story. Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy. Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend. And when you’re in deep shit, it’s best to keep your mouth shut!
After that, we relished pakoras and Ranjana ma’am mesmerized us with her rendition of ‘Do lafzon ki hai dil ki kahaani” from the movie The Great Gambler and a few more.
After that, we went to the bonfire and Ranjana ma’am started an activity where one person will say one, the person standing next to him/her will say two, and the person standing next to will clap instead of saying three. It will go on and the participant will clap instead of calling out three or its multiples. One is out if they say three or its multiple, or if they clap when saying a number other than three or its multiple. The activity went on for about 30 minutes.
After that, a game of passing the ball was played followed by dance and merriment.
When it was nine, the dinner bell rang, and we went to have our supper. It was rice, roti, dal, paneer for vegetarians), chicken curry (for non-vegetarians).
After that, we went to the bonfire to discuss the plans for the following day. It was decided that whoever wants to go for a morning walk on the farm to see the fishpond and poultry will have to get up by 6am.
I slept at around 1 am and got up at 5 am. At around 6:15am, I accompanied Ratnakar sir on his morning walk and saw pumpkin, beans, cauliflower, cabbage, tomato, chili plants growing in the lush and beautiful farm. At the fishpond, we met Ranjana ma’am and others. We took photographs and went to see the poultry pen.
After having tea and breakfast we started our journey for Bhimkund at about 9:30am. After reaching there, we immediately started preparations for the lunch – rice, boondi raita, vegetable Manchurian and paneer for vegetarians and mutton for non-vegetarians. After the cooking was done, we ate to our hearts’ content and went for sight-seeing and group photographs.
At around 5:15pm, we boarded the bus to Bhubaneswar.