Expect The Unexpected
I left for Panna with mixed emotions: excitement and anxiety – I was happy to have been selected as part of our company management workshop, but there was also apprehension and fear of the unknown – since this was the first time I wasn’t sure about what was expected from me.
The team from Hyderabad with me onboard flew in to Jabalpur from where we continued our journey with a five hour car ride. This place is certainly not easy to reach. I was traveling with my colleagues, people I had known for many years now. We’ve always interacted with each other on work related matters, but on this trip it was somehow different. There was something new – I was connecting with them at another level …
Day one was a long day’s traveling. We reached the property late at night. When we finally arrived it was such a pleasant surprise to see Mehmood and Ulrike there. They were so warm and welcoming, it made us feel very special that they were waiting up for us at such a late hour. We had dinner together, were told about the place we were staying in and were given an inkling of what to expect over the next two days.
The cottage we stayed in was the most spacious one I’ve ever stayed in or even seen. And its best part was the terrace. There was “nothingness” all around us, just the flickering fire flies with the stars for a backdrop. Ulrike had given us a good briefing on what we might expect to encounter here – anything from monkeys and snakes to the odd leopard or bear!
The next morning started auspiciously for us. The team from Delhi was delayed so our hosts made a quick change of plan – and off we went to Khajuraho to see the world famous temples! Through narrow lanes in small villages over back-breaking road slined with acre after acre of recently harvested sesame fields. In a jeep! In a jeep! And yes, once again in a jeep – for me this was again the very first time. It all felt like a dream.
We reached Khajuraho after a one hour drive. We had to wait a few minutes for Mamaji – reputedly the best guide in town. After our tour, I knew why he deserved the title. He just beamed us into another world … What an incredible experience it was!
The workshop begins…
The introductory round was something else. We had to introduce ourselves by stating one secret which no one else in the group knew about. During the session, I tried really hard to come up with something – but I didn’t really succeed. Since then the question has been rolling around in my mind and every once in a while I remember something funny that no one else knows, and have laugh to myself at these thoughts.
MM, our co-founder, really scared us in the run-up to the trip by warning us that the food might be not quite the best … but it turned out he was completely wrong. The food was simply great, and the nice, hot, fresh pulkas are the things I remember best.
After lunch we headed back to our sessions – we had to list our problems at JSM and then we voted for the top five. After that the founders talked. Kartik mentioned that “we started off the Hyderabad office eight years back with …, and I was really happy to hear my name come up. It reinforced that feeling in me that I really belonged – “Yes! This is our company”.
At the end of day one I thought that what I had expected was not what it was turning out to be. I somehow had been expecting monologues with all of us sitting and listening. But not at all. It was really interactive, collaborative and I contributed just as much as anyone else. The foundations for day two were laid.
Day two started off with a walk. All of us plus Ulrike’s pack of dogs. Through the woods. Across the river. With our sights set on the Rajnee Coffee house for some pakoras and tea. A nice cozy place in a small village. Now I’m usually scared of dogs, but I overcame my anxiety and made friends with them and even fed them some biscuits. It was a good beginning to the day which as it rolled on turned out to be all about ‘overcoming fear and shyness’ in a big way.
Back to the workshop…
We were asked to define solutions for the problems we had brought up the day before. To my amazement it was me who became the solution provider in our group. I bonded surprisingly well with my team mates. They were MM and Ashish, our CTO, both from the Delhi office. And I’d never spoken a single word to either of them before. Never ever. And then came an even bigger surprise – I actually took the larger team through the fishbone problem solution framework that we’d created. I was really nervous at the beginning but by the end it worked out well and I felt good – I had a warm feeling of deep satisfaction. And I realized that all it takes to be able to speak in front of a group is to know your topic really well. Then confidence comes automatically.
We took some nice group pictures – good memories will last forever.
Next day bright and early in the morning we all left – the Hyderabad team had to leave and wanted to see Janwaar Castle – a skatepark in the middle of rural India – before we hit the road to Jabalpur airport once more. Four vehicles were waiting for us in the parking lot but when Ulrike asked, “Who wants to ride with me on the bike?” it was me who volunteered and immediately jumped on. That was one ride, I shall never forget. We reached Janwaar Castle. I’d read about it and seen some pics and YouTube videos before we came . But actually seeing the kids skateboarding so effortlessly gave me the irresistible urge to have a go myself. So I was the first of the JSM team to get on a skateboard. I was somehow a new person. I’d changed, I’d been transformed – I was willing to try new things out and not be at all bothered if I failed …
“Every story has an end” , they say “but in life, every end is new beginning”. And so it is with me. My Panna trip has now come to an end but with my new-found self-confidence, for me its like an exciting new beginning.