On the inaugural day, following a nicely done interfaith service, leading a grand march, RI President Mark Maloney inaugurated the House of Friendship, headed by PDG V Raja Sreenivasan, in a colourful ceremony with music, dance, and all the senior Indian and international leaders dressed in colourful, traditional Indian pagdis.
The HoF, with over 110 stalls, and the colourful adda, put up in a sprawling space within the Biswa Bangla Convention Centre, replete and resplendent with lifesize cut-outs of senior RI and Indian leaders, was buzzing with activity on all the three days. Bearing images of famous Kolkata icons such as the Howrah Bridge, the Victoria Memorial etc, it gave India’s picture-loving Rotarians enough scope for selfies and group photos.
The food stalls, which had delicacies ranging from Kolkata’s famous puchkas (pani puri) and other chaat to South Indian staples such as the dosai, and a variety of the city’s famous finger-licking street food, at affordable rates — you could get a delicious satiating meal for around ₹200 — were a big hit. My favourite stall, to which I kept returning, was the one dishing out chicken egg rolls at a staggering pace. Costing between ₹100 and ₹130, it had on offer delicious and juicy chicken rolls made at a live counter, complete with veggies, and a tangy sauce.
It was so popular that many a time you had to push and shove, or get pushed and shoved, in order to get one! But it was worth fighting for! More precious than the tingling taste buds was the tip you picked up to get the egg coating, always a tricky bit, right on the roti/paratha. A confession to make — I even picked up an extra one on two days, and even though stone cold, it made the perfect midnight snack in the room, as I banged away at the keypad, sleepy and tired. And yes, it woke me up!
A nice touch from the organisers was the water bottles — and small ones at that, so that this precious commodity was not wasted — were available free of cost. And there were servers going around carrying water bottles, and clearing the used ones, in large circular trays. In which part of the world do you get service like this? Full marks to the person who thought of adding this gesture.