From the Editor’s Desk – July 2016

Rasheeda Bhagat

Fun time at Seoul

Whether it was managing the smooth movement of 43,000-odd Rotarians through the various halls and corridors of the massive hi-tech KINTEX facility or transferring them from the various hotels across Seoul city to the Convention venue, about an hour’s drive away, the logistics and management of RI President K R Ravindran’s 2016 Seoul Convention left the delegates highly impressed.

The development of Seoul itself, into a gigantic, modern hi-tech city, with a plethora of huge ­multi-tiered flyovers, multi-laned wide, smooth roads, is a modern day marvel. And yet for all its technology and gleaming steel and glass high rise buildings, scenic beauty has not been a casualty. The River Han, the fourth longest in the Korean peninsula that winds its way through the Seoul National Capital Area, adds charm to this modern city, with 27 bridges straddled across the river at various points, allowing huge patches of greenery, riverside pedestrian walkways, restaurants, etc.

The best of Korean efficiency was on display at the Convention, my first, so I don’t have another experience to compare it with. But I did talk to Rotarians from different countries, veterans of multiple Conventions, who said this was one of the best organised and well planned Conventions they had attended. The weather gods changed course and even light woollens had to be discarded, and caps and sunscreens became necessary to traverse the huge distance between Kintex 1 and 2, most of which could be covered on mechanised walkways; the first one had the major sessions, and the second had the sprawling House of Friendship with its numerous Rotary stalls, shopping booths, and of course food stalls, from which you could get any type of food.  While the more adventurous foodies made a beeline for the Korean cuisine, dominated by heavy non-vegetarian delicacies, the more conservative ones stuck to pizzas and pastas! I rooted for the chicken biryani from an Indian stall; it was reasonably good. More than anything else, it was a great boon to get free wi-fi connectivity at the venue!

While the opening session had its own drama, with Rotary Founder Paul Harris strolling into the hall — through a screen hologram of course — to find out what the whole fuss was about, and world dignitaries such as the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Sri Lankan and Korean heads of state addressing it, it was the closing session that won hearts for Ravindran. In a poignant address, he disclosed how 53 years ago Rotary gave him the most precious of gifts … his mother, who was nursed back to health after a paralysing polio virus attack thanks to the dynamic Rotarians from his grandfather’s Club.  And, if a mega event is happening in Korea, it has to have Psy of Gangnam fame. He came, performed live, and sent the assembled Rotarians crazy with his music and dance.

As Ravindran mentioned, for 51 weeks Rotarians work through their clubs in their towns and communities (“though our work is international, our experience of Rotary is local”). But this one week, the Convention week, they leave their homes and board flights with anticipation and excitement … knowing that they will be meeting new people, making new friends and cementing new partnerships to do even more good in the world. Well, that journey is over. A new Rotary year begins … bringing in brand new teams across the world — at RI as well as Clubs — brimming with ideas, and encouraged and emboldened by the outgoing leaders, whose work they hope to continue. Change is great, change is inevitable, but the change which doesn’t guarantee and deliver continuity of good work and great ideas, is not worth making.

Good luck to all new leaders and teams across the Indian Rotary world!  Do great work, but keep us informed at Rotary News … so that we can take your work to the entire Rotary world.


Rasheeda Bhagat

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