When as the DGE of RI District 3201, Madhav Chandran was preparing to undertake one of the most exciting journeys of a Rotary leader’s life, that to the International Assembly in San Diego, in January 2019, like most governors-elect, he too was scratching his head on what gift to take for the 500-odd DGEs attending the event.
He first thought of all the typical souvenirs associated with Kerala, including elephants and houseboats. “But then I didn’t want to take anything that would make my luggage too heavy, as Sujata and I would have limited weight for our baggage. Next, I thought, instead of giving a souvenir to all and sundry, why not reduce the numbers, and give it to only those who are connected with our district.”
And what better connection in Rotary than service projects? So Chandran got in touch with RISAO in Delhi to get details of all the projects his district (then RID 320) had done with international clubs and districts. “They were very cooperative and gave me a full Excel sheet starting from 1990 with names of clubs and districts who had done joint projects with our district (320),” he smiles. What he got was a virtual treasure trove — 313 projects, done in partnership with 104 districts worldwide, with the total amount spent being a whopping $10.84 million!
He now had a list of 104 districts and decided that he should give their incoming governors a personalised gift. First of all, the DGE had to be given some background or else he would be at sea about the whole exercise. “Next, I had to personalise the gift, so it would be carried back home and not thrown in the hotel rooms. So I decided that if the DGE’s name and picture are there on the gift, along with the names of the district and the projects done, there will be a better chance of it reaching home.”
It was decided that he would present a personalised ‘scroll of honour’ to each DGE whose district had done projects with Chandran’s district. This meant putting a picture of the DGE and his/her spouse on the scroll. This was easier said than done; “my district secretary Jojoe Jacob sat in my office for a whole week as we searched for photos of the incoming governors and their spouses on Google,” he laughs. He was amazed to find that some of the districts, particularly in the US, had done between 10–14 projects with RID 320.
He got from RISAO a virtual treasure trove of 313 projects worth $10.84 million, done by 104 districts worldwide, in partnership with his district.
Finally came the much-awaited governors’ training programme in San Diego. DGE Madhav Chandran and spouse Sujata boarded the flight armed with 104 personalised scrolls of gratitude.
Recalls the DG: “The IA was indeed a memorable experience to be relished. The grandeur of the Grand Ball Room, the imposing stage, the events that ran with clockwork precision; it was a melting pot of cultures, costumes and cuisines. But what made it even more special for us was connecting with the 100-odd DGEs.”
As the couple went around the task of locating the DGEs from districts which were trusted partners from the past and presented the scrolls, which not only reinforced past relationships but forged new ones, the scrolls created a buzz of their own! “There was astonishment at knowing about so many projects that had healed children, supported the elderly and provided healthcare, education and sanitation to a multitude of beneficiaries,” said Chandran, admitting that it was a “logistical nightmare to identify 104 faces in the nearly 2,000 delegates at IA ’19, but the results were magical.”
The DG adds that one DG from the US has already contacted him for doing a mobile eye clinic project worth $15,000.
And then there is this invaluable bond of friendship. Recently, during Onam, “when I didn’t have much to do and decided to take a holiday with my family in Mauritius, I called up the DG I had honoured with one such scroll. He overwhelmed me by being at the airport with his DGE and DGN to receive us. I also visited his club and addressed its members.”