Missing the magic of a conventional Convention

After joining the Rotary News Trust as Editor over five years ago, I have covered from ground zero only three conventions — at Seoul, Atlanta and Hamburg — and enjoyed the colour, vibrations, energy, passion, vigour, an eclectic mix of cultures and regions and so many other dimensions that a Rotary convention brings to the table. So I can imagine the disappointment, and even pain of those veteran Rotarians who have made it a point over long years, some of them even decades, not to miss a Rotary convention. For so many people it is carnival time, and for so many Rotarians, at least from India, who are not comfortable travelling alone or just with their spouses, it is the perfect opportunity to join a group from their club, region or district. And then of course there is the enchanting prospect of travelling to nearby destinations to experience a group holiday along with your own Rotary fraternity. But it is admirable the way in which Rotarians across regions and spectrums have responded to the challenge of a pandemic that has made travel both impossible and unsafe. So it was a virtual convention this time, and RI left no stones unturned to ensure that Rotarians across the world got a taste of it. The flip side of this contingency plan was that thousands more Rotarians were able to get a taste of what a Rotary convention has on offer. As incoming President Holger Knaack said, hopefully the Taipei convention next June will be in person, but several sessions of it will be virtual too so that a much larger group of Rotarians can enjoy it.

The last month has unveiled a few more tragic moments for the global Rotary family with the passing away of a giant of giants among the Rotary clan, Sir Clem Renouf, who has been remembered by two past RI presidents — Rajendra Saboo and K R Ravindran. Saboo’s obit gives us a glimpse into Renouf’s colossal contribution to the genesis of the 3-H programme, his robust defence of it against initial opposition from a section of RI leadership and later the effective implementation across the world of the polio eradication programme. Nearer home, in Ootacamund, past RI director P C Thomas, an educator with a rich vision, passed away, leaving behind memories of his dynamism, compassion and generosity.

On the corona pandemic front, India, as well as rest of the world, continued to grapple with the dangers to not only people’s health and wellbeing but also grim prospects of economies across the world, and along with them, livelihoods, being hit severely. This is clearly due to the adverse effects of a series of lockdowns that have devastated businesses, trade and commerce. Our mammoth population — 1.35 billion — has compounded the complex issues involved in dealing effectively with the pandemic, and millions of underprivileged Indians have been hit hard by Covid-19. Both the Rotary India leadership as well as individual Rotary clubs and districts have led from the front in helping both the Central and various state governments provide help to the
worst affected.

The times are tough; the tough have got going, but the grim reality is that the silver lining in the cloud remains elusive… millions of hands have been raised in prayer for the finding of a vaccine that works. And it’s a matter of pride for Rotary, that one of our major partners in the fight against polio, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is leading this drive to find an effective vaccine against Covid-19.

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Rasheeda Bhagat

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