Thursday, November 03, 2011

Visit of our Friends from India (Gujarat) in Leeds

I have been to India twice: in November 2008 and in January 2011. With members of the organisation "The Rivers Movement", directed by Brian Lewis, we had traveled to Gujarat and visited there the Sardar Patel University and other educational institutions, and we had made many friends there. Now the plan was to bring to the UK four of these friends, to facilitate a mutual cultural exchange.

Our four friends who would visit us were: Asha Makhecha, lecturer at Sardar Patel University in Management and Business, Surendra Gohil, lecturer at Sardar Patel University in IT Education, Juhika Bhanjdeo, artist, and Chhaya Uphadya, teacher and educator. A program for their visit was worked out by the local team here in Yorkshire (Gina Hawkins, Deborah Bullivant, Brian Lewis), taking care of the various interests of our visitors, and thanks to donations and fund raising we were able to collect funding for the flights and accommodation. In August 2011, our four friends from India applied for their travel visas. But then in September, we got the news that despite four identical visa submissions, only Asha had gotten her visa. So suddenly, instead of four visitors, we would only have one coming to the UK. The program was changed, and we booked the flight for Asha. In the meantime, the visa applications were submitted again, with additional documentation and with letters from the sponsoring organisations in the UK. And indeed, one week before the planned travel date, the other three (Chhaya, Juhika, and Surendra) also got the notification that they would get the visa. Fortunately the ticket prices at Emirates Airways had not gone up too far, and we could buy the three remaining tickets. However, a few days before the flight departure, they still had not received their passports with the visas in them... and we all got worried. Juhika finally had to fly to Mumbai to the consulate to pick them up herself, and the group only held the passports in their hands just six hours before their departure from Ahmadabad!

They arrived on Thursday, 20.October, and Gina, Deborah and Brian took good care of them, organising events and meetings. The following Sunday I joined the group, and we had a memorable train ride on the Middleton Railway in Leeds and a visit to the Saltaire Museum. Then last Wednesday, they visited LeedsMet, and on Friday there was the "Pockets exhibition" in Castleford, with Juhika's and others' art works.

Then Tuesday evening was their last day in Yorkshire, and we met for dinner at Barnsley Northern College. Next day they would travel to London to spend the remaining days of their stay.

It has been great to see them again during her stay here in Yorkshire, and I am very privileged to know them and count them among my friends.

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