They started off as complete strangers on a special coach to New Cooch Behar followed by a bus ride to Paro, Bhutan. But by the end of the RYLA organised by RC Mulund, D 3141, 50 Rotaractors had established a friendship they are hoping will last a lifetime. Under the governorship of DG Gopal Rai Mandhania (D 3141) and DG Jaya Rajya Laxmi Shah (D 3292) this Bhutan RYLA was meant to enhance the leadership skills and “give the Rotaractors an opportunity to believe that they can work beyond the boundaries of geography, generations and beliefs to change the world,” said Rtn Deepak Raj Lala of RC Mulund.
RCs Mulund and Mumbai Parleshwar (D 3141) along with their Rotaract clubs and RC Thimphu (D 3292) ensured that the five-day RYLA camp was a pleasant and rich experience. The package included a visit to Chelela Pass — the highest motorable road in Bhutan, archery and darts training, and a photo shoot where all the participants got dressed up in the traditional Bhutanese outfit, the Gho and Kira. They were also given an opportunity to showcase their skills at a talent show.
Priya Agarwal, who bagged the Miss RYLA title fell in love with the ceremonial dances organised at the inaugural event. “The night was freezing cold and they danced barefoot and not a single sign of discomfort on the dancers’ faces,” she said. While one participant was stunned to learn that “women inherit property in Bhutan and the men move to their wife’s village”, another was amazed by the fact that every village in Bhutan has a field for archery.
Arriving on foot at Taktsang Lhakhang (Tiger’s Nest Monastery) in Bhutan and looking down 900 m at the Paro Valley, was quite an experience for these students. “The trek uphill was tough but we constantly motivated each other and waited for the last participant to climb so that we could all take a group photo. Even the photographer cooperated,” says Priya. Along with the woollen caps, mufflers and sling bags that were distributed at the camp, “we are taking with us memories and lessons that have changed us for the better,” she adds.