A Republic Day celebration with a difference

This year, the Rotary Club of Aurangabad, RID 3132, in collaboration with the SBOA (State Bank Officers Association) School’s Interact club, decided to celebrate Republic Day with a different kind of initiative. Facilitating and motivating youngsters to conquer Maharashtra’s tallest peak, the Kalsubai Peak, “standing tall at 5,400ft (1646m) in the Western Ghats. We undertook this initiative to spread awareness among youngsters on the importance of physical activity and fitness, and also to reduce their ‘screen time,’ and foster a deeper connection with nature,” says Poonam Deodas, a member of RC Solapur North and district chair for RI and Rotary News.

Members of Interact Club of SBOA School atop the Kalsubai Peak, Maharashtra.

The project idea was given by Sarita Lonikar, the first woman president of this oldest Rotary club in Aurangabad (started 71 years back). “I wanted our youngsters to experience a different type of flag hoisting this Republic Day,” she smiles.

A staff member of the SBOA Public School, which is a big school with a strength of 3,500 students, Sarita is an avid trekker herself. It was her idea to start an Interact club in the school, sponsored by her Rotary club. It has about 60 members.

Accompanied by 50 youngsters, 25 of them from the school’s Interact club, and the other 25 from other schools in Aurangabad, the expedition was led by the president herself and Pratap Handrale, associate secretary of the SBOA School.

Certificates being distributed to the participants for completing the trek.

On the day of the expedition, the enthusiastic trekkers departed from Aurangabad at about 4.30am, taking a private bus to Nashik which is about 180km away and then reaching the village near Igatpuri, which is the base camp for trekking to the Kalsubai Peak. After a briefing session on safety measures and trekking guidelines, the ascent began under the guidance of the two experienced trekkers. At the moment, Sarita admits, she has not yet conquered any major peaks, having gone to Hanuman Tekri, Sai Tekri and other smaller places in and around Aurangabad. “But my ambition is to make it to the Mount Everest base camp,” she says.

For the youngsters it was a day filled with fun activities. On their way to the peak, the group paused for a picnic lunch in the lush surroundings of this beautiful region. After three and a half hours, they reached the summit at around 2pm, where they were greeted by breathtaking panoramic views. Here, they first hoisted the national flag and sang the national anthem in full gusto to celebrate Republic Day. Next, they put up the Rotary and Interact flags and banners in a bid to boost the organisation’s public image. “We spent over two hours here, taking pictures, selfies and having a fun time,” adds Sarita.

Sarita Lonikar, president, RC Aurangabad

She says proudly that in this trekking group, priority was given to taking as many girls as possible. The NCC girls’ group was explored for this. She explains at the “SBOA School, even during admission, priority is given to girls, as we want to ensure that our girls get a sound education and can become economically empowered. I am so happy that over 60 per cent of our group was made up of girl trekkers.”

She joined Rotary about 10 years ago and is happy to be the first woman to lead the club; her focus is on membership, and she had already added 25 new members to the club, taking the total to 71, and her objective is to take the club’s strength to 100.

Certificates were awarded to all participants upon completion of the trek, acknowledging their achievement and commitment to physical fitness and conservation of mother nature. Another objective realised was convincing youngsters that fun can be had through physical activity, and away from screen time on phones and computers. The cost of taking each person for this trek was around ₹4,000, Sarita added.

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