By Abhay Shaha, National Secretary, Servas India
To mark Servas Week 2018 and Ganeshotsav (the Ganesh Festival honouring the Hindu elephant-headed god) Servas India invited guests from other countries for the first time in Servas India history. From September 13 to 18 Servas India organised group and individual programmes in and around Pune. The visitors stayed with host families for ten to twelve days. So much happened, making connections before, during and after the Ganesh Festival. We shared fun, dancing and hospitality, and people made friends. Two girls, Mahsa from Iran and Michale from Israel, became friends for life. We spent time with Jain monks, and on meditation, and went on a heritage walk and a walk for peace. One early morning at the Pune Ganesh Festival, 25 000 woman made the atharvashirsha prayer. Visits followed to a food and a jewelry factory with 400 workers, and the Daily Sakal, one of the Maharashtra region’s best-selling newspapers, and two hours appearing on a live news channel. During an outreach programme at the Initiatives of Change (IofC) centre in Panchgani hill station on September 19 and 20, the group visited Jirewadi, meeting local farmers and villagers to share the values of peace and a quiet time together. Sitting under a 500-year-old banyan tree, everyone ate lunch together the Indian way. From September 21 to 23, many Servas visitors took the opportunity to stay with Servas families in other cities near Pune: Baramati, Nashik and Mumbai. Others went sightseeing in Goa, Delhi, Ajantha and other places. After the event Servas India received feedback from the travellers. Mahsa from Iran: “This trip is unforgettable to me. All guests of Servas, I was very lucky to find good and special friends like you.” Shosh from Israel: “I just arrived in Tel Aviv. This trip taught me a lot about India. I hope to visit India again and again”. Maria Teresa from Poland: “I miss India, now it is cold in Poland”. Servas India and the Pune organising team for the Ganesh Festival 2018 wish to thank all the SI Exco, national secretaries and other Servas key people worldwide who sent out the invitation to the Festival. There were 23 guests from eight different countries: Italy, France, Poland, Turkey, Iran, Israel, Mexico and Britain. Hosts from Pune, Mumbai, Nashik, Baramati, Delhi, Jalna and other parts of India helped make this an unforgettable event.
Welcoming the guests at Ganeshotsav celebration.
Visiting Grampari Centre for Rural Development and Technology
Under a 500-year-old banyan tree
Enjoying Indian food and hospitality