A morning in December, 2024A.D. A Mercedes is zooming towards Jamkandorana, a village 50km from Gondal. The young couple – Mihir and Janki, seated on the rear seat is engrossed in their conversation coupled with the gaze at the weaving cotton in the farms alongside.

The husband says. “Now I like coming to this region. 15 years back; the roads were not proper and the village used to be so dirty that whenever dad would take us to uncle’s place, we would fall ill for sure. The only factor that dragged me to the village was my cousin, Ashish. We encouraged him a lot to come along with us to Rajkot, but the chap preferred staying back in the village and stusying. Some people from Gondal used to come to that small school of the village twice or thrice a week. He liked being with those people. Strange but true that despite having done his graduation in Ahmedabad, Ashish came back to Jamkandorana to settle down, to help uncle (his dad) with farming. Today, when I’m coming here after quite a long time, I really wish he comes to Rajkot with us. He’s clever. It’ll be good to have him in business with us.

The car entered the village. Seeing the “Footpath” in the village, Janki said: It seems like some colony and not a village.” Mihir answered: “It has changed a lot in past few years. Cleanliness has apparently improved compared to before.” Just near the entrance of the village, they found Ashish. He joined them in the car and said : “Bhabhi (sister in law), let me show you the village.” An hour after that left the husband-wife pondering.

Clean roads as in some society in Ahmedabad or Surat, solar panel and street lights with timer, small but pained houses, veranda with proper flooring and organic waste management system outside every house were potential enough to leave the couple stunned. This was certainly not the village they had thought of.

Showing humps of cotton outside many houses in the verandas, Ashish explained: “People here used to sell this cotton to the nearby mills. With the assistance of our volunteachers in Gondal, some Rajkot engineers have developed such machines using which; the cotton gets transformed to yarn directly. Every house possesses such machines now, so the income of the village has increased. The volunteachers always used to tell us in our childhood that – prosperity never stays where cleanliness doesn’t – and see now not just the village has prospered, but also become cleaner.”

As soon as they reached home, the family members and neighbours gathered there. Those old fables, healthy and warm conversation, having meals on floor and sleeping in open space – all of it brought a new kind of fun altogether. Mihir told Ashish at night, “You’re doing well here, but you have the potential to move ahead. Come with me to Rajkot. I need some trustworthy guy in business. If we are together, we can trade anywhere and everywhere in the world.”

Ashish replied with a smile: “I know brother that I may never be able to buy a Mercedes in life, like you, but I will at least be able to help many buy Maruti!!! Cities are anyway congested and space is not a problem in the village at all. I had got a nice offer in a globally recognised pharmaceutical company, when I was doing my graduation from Ahmedabad. I remembered my volunteacher’s words then – Always strive to find innovative solutions to your problems from whatever is happening around you. – That is why, I accepted the job and stayed in Singapore for two years. During my stay there, I learned that the only difference between the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries is that of ‘Cleanliness’ - Cleanliness on the roads and purity of thoughts. If we can bring cleanliness to our village and our country, what else do we need in life? So, I decided to stay here.”

Pausing for a breathe, he continued: “The changes that you see in the village are not overnight, or after my arrival, they were commenced years ago, when people from some institution in Gondal started coming here thrice a week for teaching us. They would tell us the tales of the cities and the experience. It might just be a source of personal satisfaction to them, but being in touch with them, our vision kept on broadening. Now, we – 50 people from this village – are going to the nearby villages and doing the same task- the task of bringing ‘Exposure’ to the kids over there. If thought process can widen, development is bound to take place.”

“To be very true, I don’t feel like leaving this peaceful life, and my dear brother, it’s not just you, who needs trustworthy people, even the village needs such people.”

There was a pin-drop-silence for a moment when Ashish finished. Janki spoke after a while: “Wednesday and Saturday will be convenient to me.”