Pakistani student Mujtaba Sohail Raja provides a peek into a recent trip to India under the Rotary-Aman ki Asha Youth Exchange programme, following up on the visit of Indian students to Pakistan last year
Feb 2, 2012: We arrive in Delhi where our respective hosts pick us and take us home. By evening we have all settled in and feel quite at home. We eat dinner with our hosts and their families. Rotarians Deepak Talwar and Vivek Nanchal were among the organisers on the Indian side, and also hosted us throughout our trip.
Feb 3, 2012: The day starts off with all of us gathering at a central point where we meet our day’s hosts – Pranav Arneja, Vir Philip, Kalveen Batra and Aman Gaur. They are helpful and entertaining, giving us the historical background of the landmarks we visit that day.
First we head for Bangla Sahab, a famous Sikh Temple. We participate in some Sikh rituals according to their traditions and customs which is in itself a unique and wonderful experience for us.
Next stop: Connaught Place – Delhi’s largest financial, commercial and business districts – and then onwards to Central Park for shopping. By now we are hungry, so we stop for lunch at Haldirams – a famous south Indian restaurant where we have a delicious and filling lunch.
The icing on the cake of the first phase of this day is Emperor Humayun’s tomb. Many of us had read about the Mughal king in history classes so it was most exciting to actually see this place.
The second phase of the day is a dinner at Ashoka Hotel, to join the Rotary District 3010 International Conference. Rotarians at the conference greet us warmly.
Feb 4, 2012: Off to the Rotary Blood Bank of Delhi – we meet Chairman Emeritus of Rotary Blood Bank Mr Sudarshan Agarwal. He tells us about the tremendous services that the Rotary Blood Bank provides in giving blood, without any discrimination, to people suffering from diseases such as Anaemia, Thalassemia and dengue.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Anju Verma of Rotary Blood Bank takes us round the hospital. We are joined at lunch by our hosts, Rahul Chawla, Tanuj Kumar, Karan Gupta and Tarun Monga. Then it’s off to picturesque Qutub Minar – another historical experience that none of us will ever forget. In the latter part of the day those of us who loved shopping head off to the Ambience Mall, while the rest could enjoy bowling. This is followed by an amazing experience at the second day of the Rotary International Conference where we are treated to some dazzling speeches delivered by the Rotarians running for District Governor (DG) in the coming elections.
Feb 5, 2012: We have to introduce ourselves to an audience of a thousand Rotarians on the last day of the Rotary District Conference, where we also share our experiences in India so far. Our team leader Mrs Tahira Khan also gives a brief speech about our visit to India and commends the efforts of Rotary Pakistan towards eradicating polio – something that India has just achieved.
We show the official video of a song composed and sung by our delegate member Salar Khoso, who also sings another song about Rotary-Aman ki Asha that he has composed. His stirring performance brings tears to the eyes of many of those present. Some tell us later how it left them surprised, giving them ‘goose bumps’.
Another member of our team Syed Absaar Hussain sings the title song of Aman ki Asha. As we leave the stage we are overwhelmed by the love and affection shown to us by numerous Rotarians and senior heads of different Rotary Districts. So many approach us and ask if we can join them at their respective clubs for a meal. We also meet members of the Indian youth delegation who visited Pakistan in December.
After the conference we all go to the residence of Vivek Nanchal, from where we are to leave for Agra early next morning.
Feb 6, 2012: We’re off to Agra at about 7:00am. The city of the iconic Taj Mahal is about a five-hour drive (some 200 kilometres) from New Delhi. The journey passes quickly, and we have an amazing time with our day host Karan Raghav (one of the youth delegates who had visited Pakistan), who is himself from Agra.
At the Taj Mahal, our guide tells us how Taj Mahal was created, and the technologies and optical illusions used in its construction. One of the wonders of the world, it is indeed a head turner. After exploring the Taj Mahal, it’s time to hit the shops in the neighbourhood.
Karan and later his family who also join us are amazing people who treat us like a part of their own family. We have lunch in Agra, roam around the city and then head back to Delhi. It is late when we reach back; all of us are tired like anything.
Feb 7, 2012: We are picked up and taken to New Delhi’s Akshardham Temple, a religious centre of Vedic traditions and one of the new wonders of the 21st Century. No photography is allowed inside the temple. Rotarian Vivek Nanchal shows us the norms and traditions and provides us with special treatment. The boys get to meet the Swami of the temple who gives us a bag of small gift tokens. We eat dinner at the temple and then head home.
Feb 8, 2012: We gather at the Red Fort in Old Delhi, where our day hosts Gautam Ragav, Aman Shrivastaw and Gaurav Rajhav as well as Vivek Nanchal and his wife accompany us. We explore the old fort and then head over to the High Commission of Pakistan for hi-tea with the High Commissioner Mr Shahid Malik, Counsellor Imran Haider, and other members of the High Commission. We have a stimulating discussion with the High Commissioner who is keen to hear our views and suggestions.
Next stop: Jama Masjid, Old Delhi and then shopping at the legendary Chandni Chowk. Dinner is at the famous restaurant Karim’s of Old Delhi. And then, it’s back to the homes of our respective hosts…
It’s been a packed few days, a real learning experience in more ways than one.