Rotasia 2018 was an amazing whirlwind of activities,” says an excited Rachel Jayaseelan from D 3190 who was crowned Miss Rotasia 2018. “We saw the Rotaractors reaching across ethnic, religious, cultural and political divides to create a more peaceful and inclusive world. And I see Rotasia as the unifying force.” Hosted by D 3131 in Pune on Feb 22–25, the international conference of Rotaractors in South Asia provided the youngsters an opportunity to exchange information, enhance fellowship, build a network and develop ideas to work together.
A delegation of over 1,000 Rotaractors and Rotarians from 25 districts including those from Australia, Kenya, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka took part in the gala event which got off to a rollicking start with an all-women band playing the swasthik dhol and tasha (drums). It was followed by a Marathi cultural extravaganza against the backdrop of Shaniwar Wada, a historical fort and capital building of the Peshwa Empire. “The women playing the drums were partially blind and came from underprivileged families. This was a wonderful way to encourage them and it was great entertainment for us,” says Rachel.
Just a week prior to the event, communal riots broke out in Pune leading to the Municipal Corporation restricting the entry to the Shaniwar Wada fort with the threat of cancellation of Rotasia. “We met various officials at the Corporation and also contacted the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis. We finally got a green signal, but not before enduring some chaotic and suspense-filled days,” says Prathik Joshi, the host DRR.
We saw the Rotaractors reaching across ethnic, religious, cultural and political divides to create a more peaceful and inclusive world.
– Rachel Jayaseelan
“There were many firsts at this Rotasia,” says Joshi. Thirty DRRs visited an orphanage for special children in Pune and made handcrafted articles together which were later displayed for sale at the Rotasia carnival. “We wanted something unconventional, and not common, but with loads of fun at Rotasia. So, we decided to include sports, community service and showcased the events at iconic locations and that worked wonderfully for us,” he adds.
The Rotaractors took on each other in various sports events at the Balewadi Stadium even as they were cheered by teams cutting across district loyalty. Rachel supported teams from D 3220 (Sri Lanka) and her home D 3190. “In fact, every Rotaractor out there knew this wasn’t about his or her team winning it, but about sportsmanship. Just as in Rotary, we too did not want to observe any borders or divisions.” Cricket, football, basketball and carrom were few of the games that were on offer at the meet.
A district parade showcased the sartorial elegance of the delegates as they were led by their respective DRRs. “Waving hands to the audience, dressed in traditional attire, the march past was a moment of pride,” she says.
Mr & Miss Rotasia 2018
Through an online screening, nearly 20 boys and girls from various fields were chosen to compete for the Rotasia title. “Walking the ramp and the talent rounds were easy. But the Rotaract quiz and rapid-fire round were difficult.” All the stars aligned in the final Q&A round for Rachel “because I spoke clearly about what I felt. As a psychologist, I believe that if you care for others a bit more than for yourself the world will then be a better place.”
Finding the right way to join a Rotary club isn’t as easy as a ramp walk. But, I have been lucky as my district has invited me to join Rotary
For an active Rotaractor like her, Rotasia “was all about meeting old friends and making new ones.” She looks forward to her journey in Rotary too, but “there is a perception gap that needs to be addressed first.” Most of the time Rotaractors don’t understand how to join a Rotary club. “Finding the right way to join a Rotary club isn’t as easy as a ramp walk. But, I have been lucky that my district has invited me to join Rotary,” she adds.
Goa will be hosting Rotasia 2019, though it has to face a stiff bidding challenge from Mysore and Chennai, all of which had come up with concessional offers on food, accommodation and grand venues. However, Goa won the bid to host the offer being a zero pay for DRRs if they registered a minimum of 25 Rotaractors from their districts. “I think that helped them win the bid plus their presentation was fantastic,” adds Joshi.