When RI Director P T Prabhakar can’t stop raving about the hospitality of the Pakistani Rotarians during his recent visit to Lahore, I quiz him on how a strict vegetarian like him survived in a meat-loving nation like Pakistan! My several visits to Pakistan are filled with memories of numerous meat delicacies served in extra-large portions!
“You won’t believe it. The gala meal at the inter-city club event was totally vegetarian. I felt sad that they had to eat only vegetarian food because of me and told them just one vegetarian dish would have been enough for us. (Spouse Nalini had accompanied him). But I know they did this from respect and love,” he said.
“The hospitality of the Lahore Rotarians was unbelievable,” he added. Of course he was given an indication by the Rotarians in Amritsar that “you would never have seen anything like this, and will understand what Pakistani hospitality is, only once you go there.”
(Rtn Saleem Ahmad Khan elaborated: “The all-veg meal, with 12 dishes including veg Chow Mein/Noodles and other delicacies, was prepared under the guidance of Mahru Arif Ali!”)
Due to security concerns, the visits of RI officers to Pakistan are limited. But when Mir Arif Ali, DG Nominee, D 3272, found out at the South Asia Literacy Summit in Pune in February that the RID would be in Amritsar on Feb 25, he grabbed the opportunity to invite him to Lahore. “The Wagah border is 15–20 km from where I was going, and Mir’s house is a similar distance from the border,” recalls Prabhakar.
The Rotary network was put in place and visa acquired; there wasn’t even time to get the passport delivered to Prabhakar, who finally got it in the aircraft when his flight Chennai to Amritsar halted in Delhi! “I was invited by RC Lahore Model Town and more than 25 Rotarians from the Club came to Wagah to receive me.” The local Rotarians left nothing to chance and he was given security by four armed security personnel during his 24-hour stay in the Pakistani city.
At the inter-city meeting he complimented the Pakistani Rotarians for carrying on polio immunisation work amidst the toughest of challenges which saw shooting of polio workers.
“The meeting was attended by about 400 people and widely covered by the print and electronic media. I commended their work being done in the midst of such grave challenges and told them ‘you are doing a great job and it’s far tougher job you are doing here in eradicating polio than what we did in India.’ They were working so hard and were bound to meet with success and one day soon polio will be eradicated from Pakistan, which is among the only three countries in the world still facing this challenge,” he said.
RC Model Town President Asif Mazari said, “It was a great honour for us to honour Mrs and Mr Prabhakar. During their short stay we organised an inner city tour of Lahore. At the meeting he shared his vast experience in Rotary with us and we found his talk very interesting.”
Prabhakar returned from his first visit to the neighbouring country with two takeaways: “The incredible beauty of Lahore and the incredible love, warmth and hospitality of the local Rotarians.”