Superstar Rajinikanth is undoubtedly a big hit in Japan, but it did take a little effort on the part of DRR Udhayakumar Srinivasan, from RID 3231, to get Japanese Rotaractors to jive to Rajini’s superhit song Marana Mass from the movie Petta.
Presently in Japan on deputation from his IT company in India, this DRR has bent over backwards to stretch to the maximum incoming RI President Mark Maloney’s theme for Rotary year 2019–20 — Rotary connects the world.
Through email and social media, he has been striving to connect with the Rotarians and Rotaractors of Japan, and one such invitation took him to the annual Rotaract conference of RID 2770 in February. The first thing that impressed him was that “they started bang on time and had so many different and innovative ways to welcome all the people they had invited,” he says.
The theme of the main part of the conference was “Step One for International Service”. The participants were divided into five groups and each group was given the challenge to define and offer constructive and dynamic solutions to solve the social problems of five countries chosen — India, Mexico, Kenya, Germany and Cambodia.
This helped me to connect with various nationalities in one place and experience first-hand the diversity of various cultures.
The Indian DRR’s group — each group comprised Rotarians, Rotaractors and other invitees — was given Cambodia, “and we identified problems such as poverty, illiteracy and road accidents due to poor traffic management. I got a chance to brainstorm with people at an international level on the problems that Cambodia faces. Listening to different people’s ideas, and summarising the solutions was a great learning experience for me,” he says. Later each group submitted its own set of ideas on how to tackle and solve such problems.
The way the dinner was conducted, was another learning; fun games were conducted to make people understand the nutritional value of each item on the menu as well as its importance in the Japanese cuisine.
And then came the dance…. which Rotary/Rotaract event worth its name is complete without dance and music? “I requested them to play Rajini’s super hit song Marana Mass, and while initially only three people joined me on the dance floor, very soon the energy of an Indian film song had 15 Rotaractors on the floor with me, and they totally enjoyed the music and the moves,” smiles Udhayakumar.
He adds: “So far I have visited events conducted by four RI Districts in Japan — 2750, 2770, 2590 and 2840. Every day was a new learning experience for me from the Rotarians and Rotaractors of Japan. What struck me the most was their punctuality and the consideration and importance they give to the suggestions and views expressed by every single
person. I believe that this respect for all is a key factor in their success.”
An interesting meeting he attended was that of the Rotary Club of Tokyo Yoneyama UI, RID 2750, which has members from various nationalities such as China, Korea, Germany, Taiwan, Nepal, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and of course Japan. “This helped me to connect with various nationalities in one place and experience first-hand the diversity of various cultures.” This being the club’s year-end party, it had invited students studying in Japan on Rotary scholarship programmes from Korea, Vietnam and China. “In this trip I got ample opportunity to explore the connectivity between Indian and Japanese Rotarians and Rotaractors,” he says.
The DRR was also invited to the annual Rotaract conference of District 2590, where he was struck by its theme: Enjoy new Experiences. The theme of the main programme was the First Penguin, which is all about change, fear and failure, and how we are meant to fail, but what we do to rise after failing is important. At this session the Rotaractors discussed the problems faced by their members and how innovative ways could be found to address them so that it ensured sustainable membership.
He also had a memorable meeting with a Canadian DRR, Kate Kutzner from Kelowna Rotaract Club, RID 5060. She was also one of the invitees at the International Assembly 2019.
But clearly, the highlight of Udhayakumar’s ongoing Japan experience is the lunch hosted for some Japanese Rotaractors at an Indian restaurant in Tokyo. “I briefed them about the Rotaract activities and projects in India and they shared their memorable experiences at the IA. I also introduced them to some of our traditional dishes and they simply loved Vada, Naan with Chicken curry, Mango lassi and Paruppu Payasam; the last they had tasted for the first time and liked it the most!”
What struck me the most was their punctuality and the consideration and importance they give to the suggestions and views expressed by every single person.
What is more, the Indian DRR had the Japanese youngsters salivating with his description of South Indian meals “served on the banana leaf. They said they want to try it next time. They expressed the desire to visit our mango and cashewnut forests and taste South Indian meals. I do hope I will be able to facilitate that experience sometime in the future,” he adds.
For now he is in Japan till April-end and hopes to use every weekend to connect with Rotarians and Rotaractors in Japan.