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Rotarians from India welcomed

July 20, 2018
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The international character of this Olympic village was on full display during the Fourth of July holiday week as 10 members of Rotary International visited from India.

Local officials welcomed the five couples during the Lake Placid Rotary Club's breakfast meeting on Thursday, July 5 at the North Elba Show Grounds during the I Love New York Horse Show. Lake Placid Horse Show Association Chairman Philip Richter gave an introductory speech around 7:30 a.m., and, looking out the window, he pointed to the equestrians inspecting the jumps.

"They're mathematically calculating the distance between the fences, and they're converting that math into horse strides," Richter said. "This is a complex thing because every horse is different. ... Trust me, because it's happened to me, if your math is off, the consequences aren't so good."

Article Photos

Lake Placid village Mayor Craig Randall, right, shakes hands with visitors from India on July 5. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

The visitors - Rotary members from District 3040 - live in central India. Three couples came from Indore, the most populous city in the state of Madhya Pradesh, and two couples came from Bhopal, the state's capital city.

Americans know Bhopal mainly for the disaster that killed thousands of people in 1984 during a gas leak at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant. The story was retold in the 2014 movie "Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain," starring Martin Sheen. But there was no mention of the disaster during the Rotary Club meeting. Instead, it was a time to swap stories, make new friends and reinforce the value of harmony in the world.

The Indian Rotarians spent three days in the Lake Placid area, staying with host Rotary families and touring places such as the Olympic ski jumps, Whiteface Mountain Ski Center and the John Brown Farm State Historic Site. It all began with a Fourth of July barbecue supper at District Gov. Jenn Grisi's house in Saranac Lake.

The Lake Placid trip was part of an 11-day tour of Rotary District 7040, which includes northern New York, southern Quebec, eastern Ontario and the town of Iqaluit in the Canadian territory of Nunavut. A similar number of District 7040 members will be visiting India in November or December.

After introductions from Lake Placid Rotary Club President Susan Friedmann, Mayor Craig Randall welcomed the Indians with a speech about his village, home of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games.

"If that were all we did, that would be quite an accomplishment, but the fact of the matter is Lake Placid's legacy in sport and tourism and people has been continuous ever since the beginning of Winter Olympic activities," Randall said.

The mayor explained some of the historical events in Lake Placid, with roots deep in the world of sport and a permanent population of 2,500 residents.

"In the summertime, that grows very quickly to 20,000 to 25,000 people, depending on the events that are going on," Randall said. "You are seeing us in one of our more robust times."

By comparison, Bhopal and Indore have populations of about 1.8 and 2 million residents, respectively. The United States, the third most populous nation in the world, has about 328 million residents, and India, the second most populous nation in the world, has about 1.3 billion.

During the Indian presentation, Sukhvir Mahal explained that India is the world's largest democracy (by population). There are almost 30 major languages spoken all over the country, with more than 200 dialects, and people practice different religions.

"We all live together," Mahal said. "We all love each other. And this team is a perfect example of the harmony, what we have in India. We have the team consisting of Hindus, a couple from Islam. We are from Sikh. So it's a unity and diversity, a perfect example of harmony. That's how we live in India."

The five couples were Sukhvir and his wife Harinder Mahal; Sanjeev and Archana Gupta; Tajwar and Rubina Khan; Lokendra and Sunita Papalal; and Santosh and Kumud Tiwari.

The Rotary meeting was highlighted by a presentation from all five couples, whose stories about their hometowns, jobs and lives were accentuated by images of their homes, children, pets and special Rotary projects.

Sukhvir Mahal showed slides of monuments in India, including the Parliament House, Red Fort in Delhi and Taj Mahal. He noted some of India's most popular festivals: Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights celebrated every year in autumn; Holi, a Hindu festival of colors celebrated in the spring; and Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday celebrated at the end of Ramadan.

Lokendra Papalal explained that his Rotary district includes 95 clubs and 2,750 Rotarians, and that 70 percent of the economy is dependent on agriculture. He showed slides of Rotary projects, including an eye clinic, the construction of a pond and a graveyard, the donation of furniture to schools so students don't have to sit on the floor, and the transportation of 400 tankers full of water to the city of Indore during the summer, when the water level goes down.

"Being a civil engineer, I designed and then I constructed and supervised this dam in 2006-2007," Papalal said.

The presentation ended with all five couples clapping while singing a combination of four songs about friendship and love.

"The last song says that we will never break this friendship," Sukhvir Mahal said. "We will never break this friendship. Until the end of our life. Until the last breath of our life. We will never end this friendship."



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