Monday, December 20, 2004

Spanish National Congress, Zaragoza, 19-21 Nov, 2004

January 2003, World Congress – Summit of Joy, Kolkata – Day 2 – Home Hospitality – the largest foreign delegation from Spain. For most members of the Organising Committee it was difficult to accommodate so many at home. With the approval of my better half, Sangeeta, I invited home the 25 member Spanish delegation as well as members of the Ahmedabad delegation.

After the gruelling and hassled travel due to flight disruptions, the Spanish delegation ascended to a welcoming home with traditional Indian hospitality. Most could speak only in Spanish. But the communication through gestures and emotional expressions transcended the language barriers. And after a while they were singing and dancing and having a jolly good time with the guitar. For many of them it was the first time they had partaken of such spicy vegetarian fare. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The following day, they were in an enchanted swoon, offering gifts and pamphlets of Spain to delegates from around the world. The closing night saw them joyously singing and dancing and swaying to the music.

They went back and sent photographs remembering the lovely times they had in Kolkata. In March this year, they sent an invitation to attend the 4th Spanish National Congress in Zaragoza. Their eagerness progressed in May, July & September. We were apprehensive what with language barriers, cultural differences and gastronomic distances. However, these were dispelled with the camaraderie and fellowship witnessed at the 4th Indian National Congress at Jamshedpur. The reminiscences of the emotional bonding between the people of the 2 countries came to the fore and the decision to attend the Spanish Congress was made.
The President of the Spanish Federation, Goncal Fabregas was so excited with the news that he took it upon himself to suggest various itineraries to visit all the regions of Spain, book the flights and arrange accommodations at the various places.

Accompanied by my wife, I arrived at Zaragoza to a lovely inauguration of the 4th Spanish Congress. The Spanish Federation warmly accepted the messages of goodwill from the President of the Indian Federation as well as the Indian members of the World Union. They were touched with the symbolic gift from the Indian Federation of an exquisitely carved Elephant with a Mahout and 2 riders sitting on the howdah - the elephant symbolising the Alumni movement, the Mahout symbolising the office-bearer giving directions and the 2 riders symbolising the members of the two Federations.

There were 115 delegates from 16 Associations including Rev. Fr. Salembier who is now Father Kolvenbach’s delegate to the W.U. The topic of discussion at the Congress was Rev. Fr. Aruppe’s 4 C’s – Alumni: Persons who are Conscientious, Committed, Compassionate and Competent. Good speakers deliberated on the topic and members tried to find ways to live the 4 Cs in their lives. They had deputed a member who speaks both Spanish & English to translate for us.

The fellowship and camaraderie was fantastic, the warmth overwhelming, the hospitality immense, the sightseeing superb, the meals impeccably stylish with different wines and different courses. They presented us with locally produced Rice, olive oil, food and wine, a beautifully printed memento and replica statuettes of the Mother of the Zaragoza Basilica.

The President of the Spanish Federation, Goncal Fabregas was most enthused with the Student Exchange Programme (SEP) and the Essential New Born Care (ENBC) projects that are being supported by Alsoc. He wanted to explore ways that the two Federations can join hands to share ideas, thoughts and experiences to make the Alumni movement more vibrant and meaningful.

The President of the Portuguese Federation, who also attended the Congress, is planning to come with a group next January / February to travel to all those places that St. John de Britto had visited in India. The President of the Lima Federation presented us with a Silver coin minted for their Association by the Central Bank of Lima and a Pennant of their Association. Copies of the brochure of the 4th Indian National Congress were presented to the Presidents of the Portuguese Federation and the Lima Federation. A copy was also presented to Rev. Fr. Salembier.

On behalf of the Indian Federation, an invitation to attend the 5th Indian National Congress in 2008 in Kerala has been extended to members of the Spanish Federation.

The Alumni Association of Seville extended a warm invitation to their Reunion the following weekend. Roberto, the ever-youthful President and Lola the Secretary insisted that they would make all arrangements. From specially cooked vegetarian fare to traditional Spanish songs and dances in honour of India to the coffee tete-a –tete to the sightseeing of Seville and its surrounding areas, the warmth and hospitality was over-flowing.

Sidharth Dudhoria
E-mail: dudhoria[at]vsnl.com

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