By Shriya Garg
The Jagriti Yatra is a unique train journey that takes 480+ enterprising youths on a journey that helps them answer the question “How to build India?”. The spirit of Jagriti is rooted in bringing jobs and opportunities from the metros to Tier II and Tier III cities in India. It believes in taking ideas from the west, and the cities, and implementing them where they are needed the most: the middle part of India.
The ideal manifestation
Siddhant Chowdhury, a 2016 yatri, embodies that spirit perfectly. Born and brought up in Jammu, he went to the University of Warwick, London, for studying Bachelor’s in Law and Business Studies. An excellent student, and an avid adventurist, Siddhant participated in extracurricular activities, and when he graduated in 2013, he had to his name all the four awards the university had to offer.
One of the main reasons he chose Warwick was because of the great indoor sports infrastructure Warwick offered. The idea struck, and he started planning opening an indoor sports club of his own in Jammu. However, he didn’t want to come back to India just yet. When he got a part-time job as a cleaner in his university, he had his first taste of working in hospitality. After speaking with seniors and friends, he realized that this is what he wanted to do, and enrolled in Glion Institute of Higher Education, Switzerland, for a Master’s in International Hospitality.
When he stepped in Glion in 2014, he was very high on confidence, and life. It was a small batch, of about 45 or so, with only 2 other Indians, and life was amazing. Until the bullying started.
“There was this guy in my class, an Egyptian, who somehow had a tiff with me. It started with mild verbal abuse for no reason, and then gradually escalated to pushing, shoving, and even punching. He’d make racist comments about me in front of everyone, and people would laugh at the jokes. The jokes would also even be then repeated later. I was physically and mentally bullied to such an extent that my self-esteem crashed. I became a loner, I wouldn’t even want to come out of my room. If people offered to hang out with me, or help, I’d doubt their intentions. Why were they doing it? How could they like me?”
At this time, the life-transforming philosophy of Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism rescued him, and with the support of his family, he got the courage to push back.
The bullying slowly came to an end.
Freed from this pressure, Siddhant started brainstorming on his idea of opening an indoor sports club in Jammu. The idea had merit. Jammu is a very small community, with a reputation for being the go-to place for retired men and women. However, this leaves the youth with little to do, which means migrating to bigger cities and towns. A lot of young adults also get into drugs and alcohol because of this reason.
“We started with indoor cricket, table tennis, crossfit, and a gym. In the beginning, to raise awareness and get exposure, we held a lot of tournaments and events where we would invite teenagers and adults for free, just to give them an idea of possibilities. We are also planning to open a basketball, volleyball, and futsal court soon”.
A club that Siddhant started with his brother, it currently employs about 25 people full-time, and has 800+ members.
In the meantime, Siddhant had finished his Master’s, and started looking for a job in the US. After a lot of struggle, he was placed with The Hyatt in Key West, where he quickly became the local superstar, known for his ability to upsell and cross-sell, becoming the only non-manager to win the Global Associate of the Year award, especially in that small span of time.
It was around this time, Siddhant started to think about coming back. A sudden death in the family became the shove.
Asked if coming back to India was a difficult choice after living abroad for 5 years, he said: “I adapt easily to different places. I hadn’t gone to the US to make money, or to know what to do. I knew what I wanted to know. I wanted to learn how to do it. I was planning to start a hotel in Jammu, and my job gave me a lot of insights into it. A lot of people told me the working culture of the two countries is so different that you can’t bring the learning back to India. The contexts are too misaligned. But that was wrong. I know now how to get work done from people, and I am a lot smarter about decisions. We are tying up with the Ramada hotel, to open a five star facility in Jammu. The best part was that I didn’t feel out of place. The moment I stepped in India, I was home. The only reason I’d want to go back now to the US would be for a vacation”.
Jagriti Yatra believes in giving back to your roots, and we are proud to have Siddhant as a yatri with us this year.
Featured image source: Jayakumar Ananthan via Unsplash