This blog has been contributed by Sreelaxmi Gururaja and Gautam Banerjee
UNICEF Seniors Check into Ever Ancient Ever Modern Karnataka
XUNICEFers Reunion 2018, November 8-14, 2018
It started in March this 2018.
The organizing team of Padmini, Seenappa and Sree sent out their first invitations. Xunicefers.com received memos and attractive bulletins on the programme.
In response, some 60 XUNICEFers and their families joined the Reunion 2018. They came from 19 countries* and travelled across several time zones.
- explored Karnataka
- reconnected with former colleagues,
- revived friendships from the past,
- made new friends
- tasted new foods and
- created unique memories.
For many it was a dream-come-true to visit and experience India first hand.
We came from Armenia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Senegal, Switzerland, SriLanka , Tanzania, Thailand, UK, USA, India .
The first evening began with the introductions.
Yasmin Haque, took us through the brilliant presentations on the India Country Programme . She also took us through the the priorities set for Karnataka.
Meital Rushdie prepared us for what to expect in our travels. She opened the window to the diversity and paradox that was India.
In many ways it set the trend for the Reunion. We observed the people all around us, the unrelenting traffic, the food, the shopping. .
We visited the new and old monuments. They bear testimony to the past glory and new developments in Karnataka.
Karnataka moves through modernity as a leader in Information technology and Biotechnology. It is replacing old images of adulation and worship with new structures. Yet it respects and preserves the symbols of its past.
The second evening belonged dance, music and culture. It was our exposure to mythology, the legends about the deities and demons and philosophy. Karnataka has a rich and diverse culture.
It alerted us on what to look out for in our visits to the temple monuments and palaces.
Each of the places we visited reflected this rich heritage. Her checkered history comes through. Here is a kingdom conquered and ruled by several dynasties since the sixth century. . It is fascinating.
- The Bull Temple of Bangalore,
- the Mysore Palace,
- Chamundi Hill in Mysore,
- the temple complexes in Belur,
- Halebid ,
- Hampi ,
- the Badami caves and Pattadkal,
- the Tipu Sultan Summer Palace
were all living affirmations of this past.
We visit the tribal areas. We observed the work of the NGO, Sri Vivekananda Youth Movement(SVYM). We saw the present realities. The dedication and extent of the voluntary efforts was inspiring.
During our travel to Mysore and beyond, we crossed the venerated Cauvery. We crossed its tributary the Kabini. We passed by the legendary Tungabhadra and Malaprabha rivers. These are the lifelines to green fields of rice, sugarcane, millet and maize that we drove past.
At the famous Krishnaraja Sagar dam, we waited at dusk. The illumination of the fountains in the picturesque Brindavan Gardens came on.
We took boat rides on the Cauvery and explored the Ranganthithu bird sanctuary. Some of us ventured further to the wild life sanctuary at the Jungle Lodges in Kabini. They stayed overnight at the edge of the thick forests and the lake.
Another group travelled north to UNESCO Heritage Site of Hampi, the cave temples of Badami and Pattadkal. to visit the rock-hewn sculptures and temples.
Many of us departed on the seventh day of travel, with much to remember and cherish.
We shared many ‘wow’moments as
- when 100,000 bulbs of the Mysore Palace came alive at exactly seven o’clock. This transformed the place to fairyland ;
- when a group of elephants chased our jeep in Kabini ;
- when we were awestruck with the detailed stone sculptures in Belur and Hampi ;
- when we shopped frantically in the emporium. Their shelves overflowed with shelves of colourful silk fabric and sarees ;
- when overwhelmed in the Fabindia stores with 100% cotton readymade garments that we wildly boughtt for all seasons to come ;
- when fascinated by the overpowering fragrance from sandalwood handicrafts and
- when drinking fresh tender coconut water on Chamundi Hill avoiding the curious monkeys.
On the whole, it was an amazing experience. The‘India trio’ made it happen with help of an excellent tour operator. We now look forward to the next XUNICEFers Reunion. There are many positive experiences to carry through from Bangalore. Once again, thank you all in India for this memorable adventure with a difference.
Gautam and Sree
Before you go please lread to one of the many appreciation emails.
From Mary Racelis
Dear Sree, Padmini, and Seenapa,
“What well-deserved accolades you three together have been receiving.
Although slightly belated, let me join the waves of Bangalore retirees thanking and praising you for having organized the marvellous 2018 reunion.
Daughter/granddaughter Susi and Ramona were similarly thrilled with the sights and sounds of Karnataka and deeply impressed by the participants’ accounts of life in and after UNICEF.
They marvelled, as did I, as to how each one had a different set of stories, yet underlying all of them was the caring and determination to act for children and women that is UNICEF. “
Are you ready for Armenia, the next destination?