What struck us most was the warm hospitality and the grandeur of your celebrations,” said Isabel Regina Scheid, a visitor from Brazil. I am chatting with a four-member Friendship Exchange team from District 4670, Brazil, hosted by D 3000, on the sidelines of their District Conference in Madurai. While Isabel, the lone English-speaking visitor of the team is a veterinarian, Egidio Dallagnol, the Youth Exchange Chair, is a mechanical engineer, Cleiza Maria Alfaya is a teacher and Cristiane Dias a psychologist and an avid yoga trainer. The three women — Isabel, Cleiza and Christiane — are traditionally dressed in blue silk-cotton saris, replete with jasmine flowers on their hair and a bindi adorning their foreheads.
At Pudukkottai, the Jallikattu event during the Pongal celebrations, fascinated them. “It was interesting to watch the wild bull being tamed by men and we found it somewhat similar to the Spanish bullfight,” said Isabel.
After ten days of soaking up the culture and traditions of Tamil Nadu, Egidio left for Brazil, while the three women proceeded to Delhi where they were received by DGE Subhash Jain. They visited the Taj Mahal at Agra after touring Delhi and got some lessons in yoga in Rishikesh before leaving for their country.
“Throughout their sojourn across various small towns, the visitors loved the varied experiences; the temples, the local folk programmes
and the grandeur of the Chettinad Palace hotel where they stayed,
amazed them,” said
P Kumarappan, District Friendship Exchange Chairman, who accompanied the foreigners on their tour. Attending his cousin’s wedding in a village and experiencing the Chettinad splendour was an added bonus for the visitors.
They were particularly impressed with the mental health mission project at Dindigul and the vocational training centre in Karur. Isabel recalled the Republic Day celebrations in a school in the small town of Vathlagundu. “We were surprised when the school honoured the Brazilian flag in addition to the Indian flag. These saris are a gift from the Principal to us.”
Cleiza enjoyed the ambience of Kadambavanam (a resort near Madurai) and the folk performances there. “I also loved the plethora of flavours in the Indian cuisine and the experience of eating from a plantain leaf. It required some special skill,” she said in Portuguese, which Isabel translated. The members of RC Madurai Innovators had organised a special programme for the team at the resort.
Snorkelling and kayaking in Rameswaram made their tour more memorable.
A ten-member team led by Kumarappan is all set to leave for Brazil in May to experience their hospitality and culture.