When the theme of your Institute is Nothing is Impossible, can you let the RI President return home without fulfilling his very simple request —getting a tee-shirt made for the event? Even if it was made at 6 am and just before the Dazzling Dubai Zone Institute Convenor, RI Director Manoj Desai, and Chairman Raja Seenivasan, were to accompany President John Germ and spouse Judy to the Abu Dhabi Airport after the Institute? Obviously not; so Seenivasan woke up a member of his team, and the tee-shirt was brought to the reception promptly! If the Jaipur Institute had colour and elegance, the Dubai Institute had a mix of dazzle and exotica. The ice-breaking session for the incoming DGs or GETS was held at a catamaran. Lest you think it is a simple contraption of a few planks of wood put together, as the traditional meaning of the makeshift boat used by fishermen in Tamil Nadu denotes, it was actually a luxury yacht. Next on the cards, to send the adrenalin pumping for the DGEs and their partners, was Dubai’s famous Desert Safari. The next two major events — Institute Inaugural and the Awards Nite — were held at two of Dubai’s most iconic landmarks… the first one at the Jumeira Beach with the Burj al Arab as an imposing backdrop, and the second at the Armani Pavilion at the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa, with its enchanting dancing musical fountains.
Yes, Institute Chair Seenivasan and his team pulled off an amazing Institute in a land away from home, and that too for a whopping number of 930-plus delegates. The delegates were smoothly transferred from the airport to the three different hotels, and then to the inaugural venue the first day through comfortable coaches, and the Burj Khalifa the next day. At both the venues, the biggest plus point was the sit-down dinners, with the food on offer being a good mix of Arabic, international and Indian cuisine. Surprise of surprises, there were enough counters for drinks and there was no jostling or pushing or crowding. It was possible to just walk over and get a beer or a glass of wine, without losing your shirt! And, at long last, the toilets for women were clean and without stench. What a huge relief this is for women, only they can tell you. Raja’s team put their hearts and souls in making the trip a memorable one for the delegates, and the biggest relief was getting a sim card with some decent talk time, without going through the rigmarole of carrying your passports and the rest of the song and dance required to get a sim card in a foreign country. Of course a bag… nay, several bags… of goodies trigger child-like enthusiasm in the most seasoned adults, and Team DDZI had laid out some goodies in the gift bags. But at the end of the day what mattered was that you didn’t have to wait for over 5-10 minutes to get into a bus for the venue, or more important, return to your hotel after a sumptuous dinner and a long day. Or spoon in your food from a heavy plate while standing, juggling with your handbag, and in my case, camera bag too. The speakers were great too — Leander Paes, Mike McQueen and Anshu Gupta from the NGO Goonj, were particularly outstanding. The delegates had no idea of the kind of background juggling and bargaining that happened in booking rooms, negotiating sudden cancellations, and then managing a last minute, unprecedented surge. Often, it is in the smallest of things that the grandest of events flounder. But give me a smooth transportation, including efficient airport transfers and hotel check-in, a clean toilet and a place to sit and eat, and you will make me a friend. I’m sure most of the delegates at Dubai would agree. That in the process Raja had to lose 7 kg — something he had tried for years, but had failed — was the worst kept secret in Dubai!