WASITRAC’s delegates to India's state of Orissa left Seattle on Nov. 11th with high expectations for developing more formal trade, education and government-to-government relations with this important region of the world.
The long flight gave us ample time to get to know each other and review the different activities in our revised - and now very active - mission itinerary. WASITRAC’s chair, Mr. Debadutta Dash, continually kept the delegation together and informed.
The delegation arrived in Mumbai, India and was greeted with 80 degree temperatures at 2 a.m. as we boarded our bus to the hotel. The blast of warm air was a not-so- subtle reminder that we were no longer in Seattle. India had just finished celebrating Diwali, a Hindu festival that recognizes the triumph of good over evil and our hotel was still decorated in the festive and flowerful dress of that celebration.
Our delegation was now complete, with the exception of Congressman Jim McDermott who traveled in advance of the delegation and would meet us in Orissa's capital city, Bhubaneswar. We gathered for a breakfast meeting, photo opp, and were then off to the domestic airport of Orissa.
A two-hour flight took us to Bhubaneswar. We were greeted at the airport by Orissa government officials, members of the press, and about one hundred onlookers. All the delegates were given bouquets of colorful and aromatic flowers, followed by brief press interviews with some of the delegates, including the lieutenant governor.
The drive from the airport to our accommodations in Bhubaneswar gave us a good perspective of this vibrant and active Indian city. This was my first brush with right-side driven cars and the journey through the maze of continually honking automobile traffic, sacred cattle, busy pedestrians, and lack of defined lane markers made for a truly interesting experience.
|Streets of Bhubaneswar show a vibrant, active city|
Once at the hotel we again greeted by some of the Indian delegation who had formerly visited Seattle, along with hotel staff and other local officials. Each delegate was offered a young coconut drink in its original shell, presented with a bouquet of flowers, and given the traditional symbolic welcoming red imprint on their forehead, called “kumkum” or “sindoor.” This symbol is given to remind the wearer to put god before them and to receive the blessing given by our Hindu hosts. Also greeted in the lobby was Congressman McDermott, with his usual wide Washington smile and reassuring handshake. The congressman seemed at ease and at home, this being his 23rd visit to India but his first to Orissa.
Congressman Jim McDermott is met in the lobby of the Crown
Hotel in Bhubaneswar by members of the delegation.
He is flanked by Debadutta Dash and Ina Dash, with Itu Mohapatra
After getting refreshed changed in our rooms, the delegation made its way to the welcoming reception dinner, hosted by the very well known international film celebrity, Mr. Prashanta Nanda, the delegation from Orissa and Indian Rep. Mr. Akshay Parija.
(Dr. Antonio Sanchez is director of international relations for the Office of the Lt. Governor. Ina Dash is a 17-year-old student at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle and an intern for WASITRAC).