During Modi Ji's visit to Paris in 2015, at his public address in the UNESCO, he mentioned that the 21st of June is declared as the International Yoga Day. Thus just after his departure the embassy of India got busy for the celebration of 1st Inernational Yoga day. I had a few meetings with Dhiraj ji where we discussed various possibilities. The embassy of India must have been impressed with IIF's dedicated services during the Prime Minister's visit, and it was reflected when the Cultural divison's 1st secretary Ms Apoorva Srivastava expressed her desire to meet me. She is the same person who later became one of the secretaries of Foreign Minister Shri Sushma Swaraj.
Ms Srivastava was to handle the 1st International Yoga day. Among other things, she wanted the services of our formidable volunteer's team who did a great job during our Prime Minister's visit. We discussed about possible places where this could be held, when the name of Le parc de la Villette surfaced. I have forgotten who proposed that name, but it was not me.
Thus, one fine morning we went to meet the officers of la Villette. We were 4 of us: Dhiraj Ji, Ms Srivastava, Ranvir Nayar of Media India, and myself. We had in depth discussion about the organisation of that morning, the security, first aid services, services they were providing from la Villette, things what we had to take care of, etc. We even discussed the position of toilets for the morning, given that we were expecting over 1500 people.
On our way back in the large black van of the embassy, I was sitting with Dhiraj Ji and Ranvir Nayar. Subject of brainstorming inside the black van was how to get sponsors. Because we thought that we would get more people joining us if we provide the Yoga mats ourtselves. I was getting those zig-zag movements inside of my brain: I wanted to find a sponsor, and I had connections. I made a few calls from inside of the van itself. One of them was towards Jitendra Sahu, the then head of operations at VFS Global.
I knew him as we met for a lunch earlier. Jitendra Sahu was keen to connect VFS to community related activities and that was his reason to invite me for the lunch. I felt that I could count on him. And the reply from his side was positive. He told me that he could try for 6000 euros, but he will need to get it passed from India. Ho gaya (it is done) - I told to Dhiraj Ji. We were getting 6000 euros, and I was deligted.
I contacted the volunteers of IIF who worked during our Prime Minister's visit. Some of them were no more available, but we got new people from the group. We had a meeting all together at the embassy where they were briefed about what is expected from them. I was sitting in a chair along with the Embassy officers facing the volunteers, and I must say, I was extremely embarassed at that place.
Meanwhile, I was contacting Jitendra Sahu to see if he got the confirmation from India. And it was not yet the case. Zut & stress. I remember searching for quality mats in the internet and finally found one company who had mats that looked really good, and they were about 2 hours from Paris. But we were already the 19th of June, and the money has not come yet. I called Jitendra at least 10 times. Finally he got the confirmation from India agreeing with the sponsoring, and it was over 2pm already. That Yoga mat store closes at 4pm. I was sinking in excitement and stress at the same time.
I spent another half an hour in the road looking for a camion driver who could drive me to the Yoga mat store, desperately waving my hands at every little truck which was passing by, and running from one redlight to anther hoping that the other redlight may give better chances to me to get a passing truck. A missed a couple by seconds, when someone just booked the trucks before I could reach them.
And then when I was almost losing hope, a truck stopped at my signal. A pleasant surprise came when I went close, it was a Sardar ji behind the steering wheel. He was going somewhere else, but when I explained him my problem, he promptly agreed. I called the Yoga mat centre, excusing myself for the late and asked if she could stay a little longer. The owner had already left by then, and her employee was waiting for us. However, the employee had to take her child from school, and wanted us to reach by 4.30pm. And this was not possible, as I just got my truck, and the place was about 2 hours from there.
The Yoga mat centre emplyee accepted to send her child to post school child care, and wait for us till 5.30pm, when we were to reach. So far so good, I was happy finally as things were coming in control, and the truck looked fine for my purpose.
However, I did not think about one variable - the friday afternoon traffic. The truck was moving at snail's pace, and the Yoga mat centre owner was harecelling me over phone on when we are reaching, and whether we can make it by 5.30pm. Unfortunately, one and a half hour later we were still one and half hour away from the place. We took one and a half hour, to drive a distance which would normally take 30 minutes. This made the Yoga mat centre owner angry, and she refused to go ahead with the sell, even though we were buying mats for close to 6000 euros. And she was closed on the next day, the 20th of June, which was a Saturday.
Meanwhile, another person was getting impatient to know where I am with the mats, and she was Ms Apoorva Srivastava. And she was angry that I still do not have mats. My Sardarji drove me back to Bobigny to his house, where surprisingly, I met Embassy's regular videographer. The world is small. I paid a part of the money we agreed upon if we could reach there and get the mats, though the honest Sardar ji did not want to take any money as our work was not done.
I requested him to accompany me the next day, as I still had to buy those mats.
[To be continued ...]
Sourav Choudhury is a social entrepreneur working for the cause of Indian community living in France, since 2003. He is founder of multiple projects: the largest social network of the Indian community of France, a French language school for english speaking expatriates, this website, and several other projects.