February 27th - 7:20 AM

February 27th - 7:20 AM

A Chapter by Jim Parson

India National Immunization Day 2005


February 27th - 7:20 AM - India NID 2005

This morning the generator kicked in at 4:00 AM instead of 4:30.  Who needed that extra half hour anyway?

Today is the big day - the reason we are here.  We will be traveling through the city visiting the polio immunization booths.  I’m looking forward to it, but want to finish my story of last night’s visit to Aligarh City’s club.  We arrived at the meeting, held in a large banquet hall, at 8:30 PM.  The Rotarians were all welcoming and most spoke at least broken English.  We weren’t aware that it was going to be a Centennial celebration and their wives and children were also there.  It was good to join the celebration since we had missed Rotary’s Centennial entirely - on its anniversary on February 23rd, we were in the air and lost most of it to the time changes.  We left L.A. on the 22nd and arrived in India on the 24th.

The first thing I noticed was that all the women were seated on the right side of the room and the men, on the left.  We were invited to sit in the front row on the left and Linda sat with us but then moved to the other side of the room to sit with the women.

When the meeting started, it was very formal and began with the MC inviting us and other visiting Rotary dignitaries one at a time up to the dais.  It included the four of us, their club President, our host Ashok Saxena, who is their District Governor Nominee, and a couple of others whose position I don’t remember.  It continued with a ceremony very similar to a Hawaiian lei ceremony.  Rotarians from the hosting club were formally invited by the MC to bring garlands of flowers to put around our necks.  This same thing had happened earlier in the day when we arrived at the public meeting with the Muslim community in Shahjamal.  I guess they are big on garlands in India.

After this, their children presented four programs of entertainment with singing and dance in traditional costumes.  I was sitting in the first position on the dais and the entertainment was at the other end of the stage, so I was blocked from most of it by all the people sitting between me and it.  That was sad - I would have enjoyed it.  I did catch occasional glimpses.


The next thing was very interesting.  They had a table set up with pictures of Paul Harris and a Hindu god, Vishnu, I think.  We were invited to the table where we each lit one wick of an 8-wick candle and then presented a flower garland to the pictures.  It was a fascinating ceremony, but I wish I knew the significance of the candle.  I meant to ask, but by the time the meeting had finished, I’d forgotten.  [Author’s note: I didn’t get a picture of it.  This picture was from the 2nd Rotary club meeting we went to and they did the same thing with the garlands but didn’t have the candle or the picture of Vishnu.]

Following this, we were introduced and each of us came up to the lectern to say a few words.  Anil gave a brief presentation about polio eradication, which I would have had to do had I not asked him to replace me as Team Leader.  We were each presented a Rotary trophy that was kind of cool.  We also presented the club with our club banners, although they had none to give in return.  Then Ashok talked for a bit and their President talked for a bit and the meeting ended.  We were invited outside and fireworks were set off - the kind that shoot straight up in a stream of sparks and then pop at their pinnacle.  One came down a little low and popped very close to my ear.  I can still feel a little discomfort from it today.

We went back inside to enjoy the traditional Indian food (why did I say enjoy?  I’m not fond of Indian food.  Well, most of it anyway).  We stood around and talked with the hosting Rotarians for about a half hour and then left to head back to our hotel at about 10:45.


The thing about the evening was we were treated like such dignitaries.  Everyone showed such extreme respect, almost admiration for us.  It felt really good.


A little side note to the evening:  when we were ready to leave, we came out to find our driver asleep in the car.  Anil could not wake him up and when he finally did wake, he was completely disoriented and had no idea where he was.  At that point, Linda and I rode back to the hotel with Ashok and Mr. Gulati and Jay and Anil rode with our driver.  I guess he was completely drunk and was all over the road.  Jay said that after all the crazy driving we have witnessed since we’ve been here, he was most frightened tonight and there was no one else even on the road.


Jay told me the next day that Anil refused to give the driver any money for food because he said he would just spend it on alcohol.  Jay took pity and gave him some money for lunch.

© 2011 Jim Parson

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I guess the drunk driving laws are a little lax there, huh? And how can you not like Indian food? It's da bomb. The spicier the better. I'm craving a good curry now, thanks!

Posted 9 Years Ago

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Added on April 10, 2011
Last Updated on April 10, 2011
Tags: India, Rotary, travel, polio, immunizations


Jim Parson
Jim Parson

Los Angeles, CA

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