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WCLP Project reflection

18 October 2011 By Ranjana Srivastava

1 - MapIn 2011 each Williamson Community Leadership Program (WCLP) participant is working on a group project.Ranjana Srivastava has captured the experiences of one of their recent Project Group meetings – group members are Ranjana Srivastava, Raj Singh, John Milkins, Chris Chant and Mark Febbraio:

We are the Victoria Walks group and we got together on the afternoon of September 17 to work out some of the finer points of our project. To set the scene first, it was a gorgeous, warm afternoon which demanded our full attention despite the pressing needs of the project. Hawthorn had won a preliminary final game against the odds on Friday night, giving at least three of us cause for domestic relief because either we or our spouses were decidedly less grumpy at letting us off for the Saturday to become fearless leaders of the free world.

With one fearless leader, Mark, away on an exotic trip, we felt a little short on numbers, but were determined to have a good day anyway. Who knows Victoria Walks might want to add a few of Mark’s exotic walks on to their website under the heading ‘Where to Go if You’re Bored of Our Walks’ – but maybe not…

Anyhow, it took us about 2 minutes to decide that we needed to go walking. It took 10 minutes to go over what work we had done so far (not a lot) and what we needed to do (a lot). Principal Chris quickly and effortlessly took charge of who needed to do what and put us all in our place without us realizing it. John M hit upon the brilliant idea of actually doing a walk that had been uploaded to the WV website. Called the Dragon Walk, it seemed like a perfect way to experience the project’s goals while taking in the sights and sounds of Melbourne.  It took a further 15 minutes for John M to get changed – and it wasn’t even into a dragon costume, but on we went, excited and intrepid adventurers!

Thanks to the magnificent navigational skills of Raj and John, we were on our way, weaving through major and minor streets, whose names we have always known, but beyond that, it was a case of ‘I had no idea this was here’!

We saw several highlights along the way. Principal Chant pointed out a structure which looked like an unfolding roll call and indeed it was! It was created to mark the right of Victorian women to the vote. It was like being on a school trip. Ranjana was excited to notice three weddings taking place and inched close enough to steal a look at the dresses, the brides and the bridesmaids. Funnily enough, her serious comment ‘I don’t care much for asymmetrical cuts, do you?’ went completely unacknowledged by the boys. Ranjana took this to mean that they had not seen enough of these dresses to form a mature opinion. The greenie in John objected to the strrrrretch limousine that the bride and groom were using to mark this momentous occasion in their life. Ranjana quietly felt that she could ride in one of those provided someone else was paying.

Raj and Ranjana found plenty of time to discuss private and public schools and Raj’s interests in football and wait for it, racing! Who would have thought a besuited Raj jumping over drunken people at Flemington to claim his bet? What do you know…!

John and Chris had an impressive eye for dragons, which I must hastily add, was the point of our Dragon Walk – to identify the dragons. Apparently we missed some big ones but thanks to this keen-eyed duo, we were soon craning our necks to identify the little fiery creatures adorning buildings!

One of the weddings we spotted was an Italian affair, replete with garrulous Italian families, which got Chris and Ranjana talking about the lovely Italian side of his family, which still gets together every Sunday for a meal. It was a wonderful window into how generations are bound together by affection, language, culture and… food!

Speaking of food, once we dropped Chris off at Parliament Station, we entered the one and only Chinatown. Before this, it deserves to be mentioned that Chris rejected all of Ranjana’s advances to drive him home, claiming that he loved the weekend public transport system far too much. In answer to Ranjana’s dubious looks, he confessed that he simply did not trust her driving, which reassured Ranjana that Chris was a fine purveyor of people and a good man to know.

Anyway, back to Chinatown with Raj, John and Ranjana. Here, Raj bowled us over by his obscene knowledge of the food scene. He knew menus and prices, decor and patrons! There is no point denying it, it made Ranjana want to quit her day job and work with a city corporate after she reflected on the fact that (on a good day) her hospital cafe served two kinds of mashed potato. Somehow, this inspired John to share his even worse tale of his ‘office’ being located in a disused squash court that was considered too shabby for even the squash players to use! As is human nature, it made Ranjana feel better about her office which is really not all that bad and has a window (that does not open). Raj modestly pointed out that all this fine dining wasn’t good for the waistline, which jolted Ranjana into remembering the asymmetrical wedding dresses, and she was happy enough to resist applying to Serco. John being John, is so passionate about what he does that he would not sell his soul for dining in Chinatown anyway. And Banyule Council should thank its stars for that!

Next we saw Raj off and it was left for John and Ranjana to carry the baton back. John had to duck in for another change (I know, I know…), this time into spunky riding gear, while Ranjana waited at the intersection. She pretended she was waiting out of goodwill, but in fact she was dead scared that she would never find her way back to the parking lot where she had left her car. (You can begin to see why Chris bailed out early). Ranjana breathed a sigh of relief when John finally emerged and walked valiantly towards her, but just like it happens in the (bad) movies, when they got to the next intersection, he gave her a peck on the cheek and walked the other way. At this point, Ranjana quivered with anxiety, cursed John (a bit – he is too nice), and reflected that if only she were a true leader willing to accept her (many) shortcomings, she would have said the following to John, ‘Can you please, please walk me to my car although I have no idea where it is’? But like many deluded leaders, she kept walking jauntily, pretending to look into expensive shop windows, seeing only her pensive reflection. But after a few minutes, seized by fresh courage, she happened to stray into an area where she bumped into her car and all was well with the world again!! (She then took the longest possible route home thanks to her complete inability to understand the GPS.) But as they say (who I don’t know because it’s dodgy grammar) – a good day was had by all.

However, this being an LV report, the lessons learnt must be more than ‘Chinatown rocks’ or ‘Our group is pretty cool, you know.’

So I think what we have learnt so far is that it really does pay to take note of people’s expertise, to listen more and talk less, and enter group projects with a genuine belief that people want to contribute to its success. Many of us are used to working in a high individual capacity and getting things right alone, but there really is a different smell to the success of a group. We hope to keep walking for a bit longer and smelling some of the roses along the way. For this to happen, John M needs to keep dreaming up great walks, Raj his natural ability to navigate, Chris his unspoken ability to keep us in line, Ranjana better walking shoes, and Mark, well, we look forward to having a fifth intrepid walker join us for our next adventure!