When Rotary News got the invite for the “First Committee Meet” of the 2017 Zone Institute in Chennai, I didn’t expect the “committee” to have around 180 members. But that was about the size of the Committee RIDE C Basker has put together to host his first Institute in Malaysia. The RI officers — past, present and future — were all there, from past and current RRFCs, RCs, RPICs, and EMGAs, to past, current, incoming and future DGs.
At the outset, Basker said that just as the theme of his Institute — Unite to Serve — denoted, he will strive to ensure both in spirit and practise, that there would be no “groups” within Rotary in India. “In every zone or country, there are groups. But we have decided that our main focus not only for the Institute, but the next couple of years too, is to unite and serve, as our tagline says. If a person can perform, he/she will definitely be given an opportunity. We’d like to make use of everybody’s talent.”
He said all the people in the hall had “great experience and exposure to make the 2017 Institute a meaningful one for everyone. You’ve been chosen because of the dedication you’ve shown in whatever tasks you have undertaken so far. For the years 2017–19, I request each of you to join me in the journey to strengthen Rotary and build a better image of India in the international arena.”
He said initially he had tried to zero in on Bengaluru for his Institute, “but because Rotary has grown so well in India, and the districts are increasing the number of RI officers — I expect 800–900 delegates in Kuala Lumpur — the logistical challenges of putting up people in different hotels, transporting them to the venue, etc, were daunting.” But the Malaysian resort chosen had 1,200 rooms in its towers, of which 250 in one and 150 in another has already been blocked. He particularly thanked the participants from Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh who had honoured his invitation to attend this meet.
PDG R Theenachandran, Chairman of the 2017 Institute, said the Sunway Resort was 35 minutes from the airport, and 25 minutes away from the city of Kuala Lumpur — “it is in between the airport and the city and has all the facilities such as 18 restaurants, a huge food court, 900 stores in the mega shopping mall, a theme park with exciting rides… all of this is interconnected and you have to walk just 300 metres from any one point to another.”
Sharing his experience from his own Institute in 2014 — Sail to Serve — of which Basker was the Chairman, PRID P T Prabhakar said he was “amazed to find 180 people participating in this meeting. For my Institute, I had just shared with Basker the concept of having the Institute in a cruise, and by sheer dint of hard work combined with business efficiency, he produced one of the finest Institutes. Between the day we opened the registration and the day we boarded the ship, the Indian rupee had depreciated by 25 per cent. But the shrewd businessman that he is, he had fixed up with Cox and Kings that all payments would be made in Indian rupees and we did not suffer any monetary loss.”
He recalled that when the entire group alighted in Phuket, “he had organised 14 Mercedes Benz cars for the senior leaders, and buses for others. And he was the last person to come on the last bus back to the ship because all our passports were on the ship and anyone left behind would have been doomed.”
PDG L Narayanaswamy, Treasurer of the Institute, said the registration fee before December 31 is Rs 32,000 per person on a twin room sharing basis and Rs 41,000 for single occupancy. The fee included six meals, airport transfers, fellowship and dinner, and of this Rs 25,000 was to be paid to Cox and Kings and Rs 7,000 to the Institute Chairman. The charges for various seminars and TRF Dinner ranged between Rs 4,500 to Rs 5,000.
Theenachandran added that most of the flights came into Kuala Lumpur city early morning, but if the flight timing was not suitable, delegates might have to come in on November 30. Each extra day — prior to or after the Institute — would cost Rs 9,000 per room and would include only breakfast. “We’ve also chosen this destination as the flights are relatively cheap from any Indian city and several airlines fly to Malaysia,” he added.
Basker explained that the 400 rooms already booked were of different class, but the early birds would get the better category accommodation, and urged people present in the hall to register at the earliest. “Malaysia is no longer cheap and food is quite expensive and we had to negotiate hard; but I can tell you we have got great rates.” Sim cards would be available in the arrival kits — the Institute kit, by consensus in the hall, will be delivered in India.
As Basker asked for suggestions from everybody and took quick decisions on what was feasible, what was not, and what could be considered, many participants welcomed his initiative and said this was the first time such a participatory meet was being held for an Institute and that too so early.
There are 18 committees to handle various aspects of the Institute; while food lovers were urged not to miss this Institute, particularly because Malaysia has an exciting range of food and fruits to offer, it was assured that “the best whiskeys, and innovative cocktails and mocktails would be available during fellowship!”
Pictures: Rasheeda Bhagat
Rs 32,000 per person
(Room + Breakfast)