Long after the dust settled down with the speakers, sessions and late-night partying fading into distant memory, one showpiece continues to shine in our hearts. Yes, the House of Friendship, nicknamed the Kolkata’s adda zone, was the prima donna of Rotary India Centennial Celebrations in Kolkata.
The three-day camaraderie and fellowship witnessed at the HoF kept the delegates on their toes, excited to strike new friendships, share notes on best practices, tuck in the delicious Kolkata and traditional Indian food, shopping at various stalls, and above all, enjoying the music and dance as they unwinded at the end of the day. “We wanted to give once-in-a-lifetime experience to our delegates and the HOF was designed to create an ambience to attract increased footfalls on all three days,” said PDG V Raja Seenivasan, Chairman of the HoF Committee.
Broadly, the indoor space was divided into four segments — food court; podium with seating arrangement; HoF stalls; and a high-décor lounge — that were buzzing with excitement and chatter all through the day. Rotary projects (77 stalls), commercial booths (14) and Kolkata Bazaar (14 exhibits) made up a total of 105 stalls at the adda zone.
Some of the flagship and renowned projects of Rotary India including TEACH, PolioPlus, LN-4 and Jaipur limbs, heart surgeries, WASH programmes, and Happy Schools besides booths from RIDs 3291, 3030, 3170, 3201 and 3012 were showcased in one half of the indoor arena. “The Kolkata Bazaar was designed to give a shopping feel, of the streets and bylanes of the city of joy. A centennial lounge helped delegates to unwind, relax and engage in casual talk, while seated on cushioned upholstery,” said Seenivasan. On another platform, a medley of Bollywood musicals and group dance on the stage regaled the audience.
At the food court, a variety of Indian cuisines, Italian, Chinese and Continental menus across the 20 food stalls titillated the taste buds of Rotarians.
In fact, a mini Kolkata with models of an age-old tram and a hand-pulled rickshaw turned out to be a big hit among the delegates. Overawed by the colourful sights and the ambience, RIDE Valerie K Wafer from Canada, RID 7010, said, “The HOF inauguration by President Mark Maloney and Gay was such fun and beyond spectacular. This expo with stage programmes is similar to the ones we have in Canada, but the diversity here is just amazing. We loved the food and got an opportunity to collaborate with your projects on display.”
A hub of Rotary spirit and bonhomie, the HoF attracted 4,000 footfalls a day, with many delegates visiting it many times to get a flavour of this unique fellowship.
For many delegates, the HoF gave a platform to interact with Rotary leaders, network and create new friendships. “We rediscovered old friendships, struck new ones and bonded over fellowship,” said Abhishek Sonthalia, President-elect, RC Jaipur Round Town, RID 3054.
The process of ‘joyful learning’ was spontaneous at the HoF for Gaurav Agarwal Jain from RC Kanpur, RID 3110, and DRR Alok Pandey. “It was really pleasant to be at the venue as we exchanged ideas with delegates from around the world. And in the context of #Elevate Rotaract, the youth will get an idea of how good an international conclave can be in terms of knowledge sharing,” said Pandey.
At the entrance to the adda zone, facades of heritage buildings such as the Victoria Memorial, Howrah bridge, Dakshineswar Kali temple, Calcutta High Court, Kolkata Metro, the yellow Calcutta cab, the Shaheed Minar, and a series of vintage Calcutta houses were hubs for taking selfies, and capturing some romantic moments for Rotarian couples.
An impressive show
Going around the stalls, landmark models and tableaus, RIDE Peter Kyle from Washington DC, RID 7620, said the HoF was user-friendly, well-designed and a great pleasure to visit.
Vinod Saraogi from RC Madras Central and his wife Usha, Chairman-elect, Inner Wheel 323, said they got a feel of vintage Calcutta with the nicely done interiors and outdoor structures. If the food court and stalls won a lot of praise from delegates, then the credit must go to PDGs Sanjay Khemka and Sandeep Narang who had conceptualised and designed the entire adda zone to reflect the Centennial spirit.
DGE S Muthupalaniappan, RID 3232, said that the HoF was unique and offered a nice platform for networking among global delegates. “The venue was spacious, aesthetically designed and helped Rotarians to intermingle and strike lasting friendships,” he said. A hub of Rotary spirit and bonhomie, the HoF at the Centennial Summit attracted not less than 4,000 footfalls a day, with many delegates visiting it many times a day to get a flavour of this unique fellowship.
Pictures by V Muthukumaran and Rasheeda Bhagat