At the Chennai Institute, spouses of incoming governors learnt the nuances of providing support to their partners’ progress in Rotary. Addressing the spouses, Usha Saboo recalled her experience as a DGN spouse in 1976, when she attended her first Rotary International Assembly (IA) at Florida. “We did not get any advice on what to do there. As a timid Indian housewife, I was shocked to see so many people from across the world hugging and kissing each other. I was yet to discover the warm culture of Rotary when I was kissed on the cheek by a total stranger! But you are lucky that you have a training programme and can learn.”
Putting the spotlight on service she added that in Oct 1998 when she accompanied her husband PRIP Raja Saboo to Uganda on their first medical mission, “life started afresh for me. I was only a volunteer at the mission. But I played the role of a mother consoling a child who was crying while waiting for his turn at the hospital; a nurse assisting doctors; and a waiter giving out coffee. This is no place for self-glorification. You have to work for the cause of Rotary.” Amidst great applause and broad smiles, she asked the spouses: “Could I have achieved so much without being a Rotary spouse? So dear partners, prepare yourself for Rotary. Reinvent yourself.”
You are the Shakti
Nalini Prabhakar, spouse of PRID P T Prabhakar, referring to the VHS Dialysis Centre in Chennai, said that as an individual anyone could sponsor the cost of one or few free dialysis. “But with Rotary, we can set up a dialysis unit and provide free dialysis for thousands of poor people. The power of service through Rotary increases and the community at large is benefitted exponentially.” She shared an interesting video of Bertha Benz, the business partner and wife of automobile inventor Karl Benz who had no faith or confidence in his first automobile invention.
Determined to prove to him that his invention, in which they both had invested, would become a financial success, in 1888 she took the first cross-country automobile journey in the same vehicle covering 106 km. Not only did she bring the Benz Patent-Motorwagen worldwide attention, she also strengthened her husband’s confidence that his invention had a future. “Bertha drove more than a car… she drove an industry. Similarly, your spouse may be leading the district but you are his Shakti and it is you who will be driving service through your district,” she added.
Mala Basker reminded the spouses that “your busy time starts now. Participate proactively and don’t miss out on any opportunity to be the inspiration to Rotary partners around the world and within your district. I wish you all the best for your year.” The spouses were then engaged in a day-long interaction and activities for them to understand the Presidential theme and priorities, their role in service and how they could add more meaning to their district conference using the lessons learnt at the IA.
At the Assembly and after
“The purpose of the International Assembly is to impart knowledge and skills to support your spouse and teach you to be effective and efficient,” said Marlene Kamdar, spouse of PDG J B Kamdar, D 3232. Guiding the spouses through the Assembly to Action session, she asked them to share their learning with the first ladies of the clubs in the district. “They don’t learn as much from what you speak but from what you do. They watch you. So, don’t preach. Let your actions teach them.”
Sonal Sanghvi and Dr Madhavi Pandya, spouses of RIDEs Kamal Sanghvi and Bharat Pandya, elaborated on the preparation and participation for the partners’ programme at IA. “This will be a life-changing experience,” said Sonal. Madhavi reminded the spouses that “attendance for all sessions is compulsory and do ensure you download the Assembly App.”
The spouses counter is the most attractive feature at the IA. “Usually our zones’ counter is always packed because we have a colourful display and engage the visitors in some activity or perform one of our traditional dances. So please discuss with the current DG’s spouse in your district and get ideas,” added Sonal.
Ritu Choudhary, spouse of PDG Ravi Choudary; Nalini Olivannan, spouse of PDG G Olivannan and Vidyottama Sharma, spouse of PDG Prafull Sharma, were the other resource persons and the discussions ranged from concession in dues for spouse-members to dual membership in Rotary for Innerwheel members and enhancing communication skills.
Pictures by K Vishwanathan