Videsi Sentiments

Videsi Sentiments

"Teel Gul kha, aani good-good bola", said Stephanie in a typical American accent as the audience burst out laughing. About 350 people spent their evening chuckling and giggling, and occasionally applauding, four American women attempting to speak Marathi and Hindi, as they related their experience of staying in Thane. The foursome who are the members of the Group Study Exchange (GSE) programme team from Colorado, were attending an event that was organised by the Rotary Club of Thane to felicitate them. The programme was held on Saturday, January 18, 2003 at the Maa Kripa Banquet Hall.

The GSE programme of The Rotary Foundation is a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for young business and professional men and women (non-Rotarians) between the ages of 25 and 40 and in the early years of their professional lives. The programme provides travel grants for teams to exchange visits between paired areas in different countries. For four to six weeks, team members experience the host country’s institutions and ways of life, observe their own vocations as practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas. For each team member, The Rotary Foundation provides the most economical round-trip air ticket between the home and host countries. Local Rotarians in the host area provide for meals, lodging, and group travel within their district.

This year, the incoming team for Mumbai & Thane comprised of four ladies from Colorado: Sophie Faust, Jacinta "Jacy" Montaya, Stephanie Palm Neves and LaShanta Ratise Smith. The team was led by a German-American professor Hans Peterson. The GSE team arrived in Thane on Wednesday and spent four days staying with five different host families and enjoyed Thane’s hospitality.

Judging by the fascinating accounts that each of them related while on the dais, the group seemed to be delighted with their sojourn in Thane, learning about its people and it’s long cultural, religious and political history.

Jacy, who is an urban planner by profession, was particularly impressed by Thane’s wide roads and well-planned infrastructure. Both Jacy and LaShanta said that they felt more at home in Thane because it seemed so much more spread out like towns in Colorado while Mumbai is similar to New York, both being extremely over crowded. All the five members contended that for the first time since their hectic tour began on January 02, they had found tranquillity – in Thane.

Soft-spoken Stephanie had a twinkle in her eyes as she was keenly observing the people around. A "microenterprise program director", Stephanie said she was interested in environmental issues and had spent her time in Thane mulling over these issues. LaShanta, who is a teacher by profession, also doubles up as an extremely sensitive poet. And she convincingly displayed her talent when she read out one of her own poems at the felicitation programme.

When asked about the differences between the two cultures, they said that at heart, all of us are the same. But certainly there were some basic differences – for instance they had observed that the young Indians are "more united with their parents and their families unlike in the US, where children begin asserting their independence and drift apart from their parents as they grow older"

They were also exited about the women’s empowerment movement that they could witness all over Mumbai and Thane – they said they had missed such a movement in their own country as it happened decades ago. They were happy seeing so many Indian women employed in meaningful jobs and enjoying financial and moral independence.

While in Thane, Area Coordinator Sandeep Kadam and his associates escorted the GSE team to a number of social and educational institutes. They went to the University of Philosophy (TatwaGyan Vidyapeeth), where the group was particularly impressed by the detailed explanation of Hinduism in a specially arranged talk given by Vijay Aagwan. They also visited the Institute of Yoga, Jidd School, JK School, Thane College and Vaze College in Mulund. They were taken around the city to see the various lakes and temples. They enjoyed Baggi rides and boating at Masunda Lake.

The team was unanimous in proclaiming that their stay in Thane was indeed very memorable. They were noticeably pleased with the "extremely high level of hospitality" shown to them by the host families and host clubs at every opportunity. They were also impressed with the amount of joyful service extended by so many selfless individuals to the poor and the needy.

After four weeks of experiencing India, the incoming GSE team will leave for USA on February 01, 2003.   In April 2003, a GSE team of four Indian ladies will be led by a senior Rotarian Arrow Sinha Roy to Colorado.

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