It was an awesome journey of bonding and fun. Lifelong friendship beyond boundaries and ethnicity is our cherished takeaway,” said PDG Subodh Joshi of District 3131.
He led a 30-member car rally across all the 36 districts of India covering 10,000 km through 21 days. The journey was flagged off on Dec 10 in Pune by DG Abhay Gadgil and as the convoy passed each district, the team got a rousing reception. PRID Ashok Mahajan flagged off the rally at Mumbai, while TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta did the honours in Delhi. In Chennai, they were felicitated by PRID P T Prabhakar. At the end of the journey on Dec 31, the team basked in a hero’s welcome in their home district in Pune and were the star attraction at the District Conference.
It was basically a public image enhancing exercise; “We propagated the message: My Rotary One Rotary; it was an exhilarating experience being received and hosted with such warmth by the Rotarians and the general public in each district. We carry heartwarming memories from all the places we visited,” said Joshi.
It was an exhilarating experience being received and hosted with such warmth by the Rotarians and the general public in each district.
Besides image-building, the team sensitised people on road safety, Rotary’s literacy programmes, sanitation and polio eradication initiatives. “Wherever we stopped, on wayside tea-stalls or dhabas, we put up Rotary posters. As we passed through small towns and villages, we spoke to people on importance of literacy and urged mothers to continue administering polio drops to infants. We stuck headlight stickers on trucks and talked to drivers to stay alert while driving, to avoid accidents,” he said.
The highlight of the programme was that each participant personally contributed ₹1 lakh to meet the costs. It was not a club-sponsored project.
The rallyists were from different clubs of District 3131, and included an Ann and three Annettes. Rakesh Monga, son of Kailash Monga of RC Poona, had specially flown down from England to be part of the rally. “These 21 days have been so much fun and a great learning experience,” said Deepti, spouse of Ajay Chitnis of RC Pune Central, while Smruti Joshi who, “loves to be behind the wheel”, said she enjoyed every moment thoroughly. Smruti is the daughter of PDG Subodh Joshi; she has participated in several rallies.
“We are an adventure-loving family,” said Joshi, who is also a mountaineer, recalling his recent trek to the Himalayas, where he led 2,000 Rotarians as part of the Walk for those who can’t initiative, a fundraiser to aid polio victims.
Most of the rallyists were meeting for the first time. “We’ve become so close. We now have friends everywhere from Jammu to Kanyakumari,” said an excited Joshi, relating how the Lucknow Rotarians helped speedy repair of the car of Pradeep Mulay (RC Pune Pashan), which was hit by a truck at Pathankot. The vehicle was delivered to him in Visakhapatnam within three days. When Joshi’s car was involved in a minor accident in Guntur, two local Rotarians there “scouted for a mechanic’s shop, since it was Christmas and most of the shops were closed; I was pleasantly surprised when they delivered it at 11 pm in Nellore. This is the power of Rotary fellowship and we experienced it in full force throughout our journey.”
The Rotary convoy with eight cars, adorned with various Rotary logos, attracted attention everywhere. “People stopped us at traffic junctions and toll gates to ask us about Rotary. We were interviewed on TV channels and news about the rally was published in newspapers too.” The district website updated the whereabouts of the rally team on all days.
Pictures by K Vishwanathan
Visitors at RNT
In Chennai, the Rotary News Trust office welcomed the team, on their 16th day of the rally. PRID P T Prabhakar, PDG C R Raju, DGE Babu Peram, DGN G Chandramohan and Rotarians from various Rotary clubs of D 3232 were present to greet the team.
PRID Prabhakar lauded the initiative. “We’re arguably one of the biggest service organisations. Yet not many people know what we stand for. Show the Nike or Mercedes logo to a common man, and he’ll easily identify them. But show Rotary’s wheel, not many people will be able to answer.” He commended the team for the causes they had chosen to highlight and the fact that “they spent their personal funds for promoting Rotary’s public image.”
Joshi was full of praise for his batchmates of 2015–16. They helped him identify accommodation facilities for the team in each district. “In Udaipur (D 3053), we were floored by the 16-bedroom palace they had arranged for our stay. In Bikaner, PDG Arun Gupta welcomed us with 100 cars and it turned out to be a mega rally as we went around the city, waving the Rotary flag.” In Jodhpur, PDG Anil Beniwal gave them a grand welcome, while PDG Sattish Singhal offered them his college hostel for overnight stay at Sonepat.
Joshi is now on the job to publish a coffee table book showcasing the top 100 projects that impressed him and his team across the country. He plans to “give it to all the clubs that hosted us and also place it in libraries so that people can understand what Rotary is doing.”