Post-pandemic, the meet-and-greet mega meetings of Rotary are picking up steam and this was proved at Visakha Vista, the zone institute held recently in Visakhapatnam, which garnered some 1,000-odd registrations. It was organised under the bold conceptualisation of RI director and convenor Mahesh Kotbagi, and efficient and calm chairmanship of PDG Kishore Kumar, who admitted that the initial hesitancy shown for his home town Vizag as the venue, had even made him think: If it’s not Vizag, then maybe I should step down from heading this event.
But when Kotbagi put his final seal of approval on this city, on the east coast of India, there was no looking back. Every institute seeks to provide a memorable and unforgettable experience to the participants. At the end of the day, the strongest memory from the VV institute was the superb and savvy use of technology. And its endeavour to be an eco-friendly event. As Kotbagi said, with RI now embracing the environment as its seventh area of focus, littering, creation of plastic waste and other garbage was not at all an option. His first priority was to keep the organisers’ eyes firmly on the clean and neat aspect. Plastic banners and posters were done away with, and cloth and other biodegradable or recyclable materials were used. The institute booklet, “which creates a mountain of wastepaper, and which everybody throws away at the end of the institute” was done away with, and the programme was available on the phone app. A fine and novel touch was the beaming of images on huge LED side display panels. Hence, for every topic, the audience enjoyed a plethora of colourful images dancing across the giant panels set along the sides of the auditorium.
As no hotel in Vizag can accommodate 1,000 persons, a clutch of hotels was chosen, and the shuttle service was so frequent and efficient, that the delegates had little to grumble about when it came to transport. After transport and hotel stay, it is always pet pooja that takes precedence. But even though the weather gods played spoilsport through Cyclone Mandaus and messed up the open air dinners on the lawns and the beach, the food on offer on both the nights was delicious.
But at the end of the day… the little touches and the little moments will stand out. Like the colourful wooden bangles that Kishore Kumar’s wife, Shobha, had organised for the women delegates which became a huge hit, or the free availability of goli soda. And of course President Jennifer Jones’ eyes lighting up when young girls holding lamps walked across the auditorium or when thousands of sewing machines, wheelchairs etc were lined up for the Operation Imagine that she inaugurated.
But for a scribe like me, always on the lookout for a good news copy, it was the waterman of India, Rajendra Singh, who set the hall on fire with some home truths. Sending alarm bells ringing on the fast-depleting water aquifers of India, and admitting that he could only speak plain language without any embellishments, he urged Rotarians to act as the bridge between water activists like him and the governments and “speak up”. Very often, governments were responsible for the damage to the ecology, or excessive usage of water, as is done in Indian agriculture. Simple solutions were available; integrate crop and rain patterns. Instead of contractors, make the communities participants in water management. When you take out profit from agriculture or water management, and “catch every drop of water that comes from the clouds with love, you will learn to use that water with respect,” he said.