Democracy Express was for me a quest, a journey to explore; immerse and experience the art of the possible - politics.
My actual journey began when I decided to apply, though the real journey started on the 20th and ended on the 29th of December 2019.
Set at the peak of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protest in Delhi and across the nation, on a cold winter afternoon, at central Delhi, seated in a 'circle of trust' the first batch of DE-2019 Cohorts started the journey together.
We met as strangers and departed as friends and a community to cherish. It was a life-enriching journey; a pilgrimage robust in learnings and experiences - from eating at a humble Gandhi Ashram school to eating at the posh and pomp Gujarat Raj Bhavan, learning from a younger resource person to listening to an aged sage thinker and practitioner; from listening and interacting with the unschooled rural women entrepreneurs and engineers, the 'Solar Mamas' of the Tilonia, Rajasthan to interaction with the governor and minister; from the interaction with the creators of fake news to the debunker of fake news and disinformation, AltNews. Additionally, interacting the cohorts from eighteen different states of India, coming from diverse background and profession made the political immersion and excellent one.
The best takeaways, amongst other things, was - the strong emphasis on learning to listen and think from those people who don't share my views, facilitating trust-based dialogue and interaction, and that politics is at its heart and soul is and should be people-centric. Most of all, friendship and the sense of community that was forged and shared through the political immersion journey as a seeker was truly meaningful and exemplary. Democracy Express is a quest to make democracy strong and vibrant by nurturing the cohorts to not be just another leader but a principled leader. Steering towards educating the head, the heart, and the hands both in theory and practice. This journey is definitely, to use Thomas Pantham's parlance a 'Constructive Gandhianism' in action.