15th July, Somnath Temple to Junagadh (100 km) Motto – Go Green
The morning of 15th July broke dark and gloomy, and an incessant rain soaked the ancient temple of Lord Somnath. The temple was indeed an impressive sight, as Sunita folded her hands in deep reverence. Last year, she had embarked on her trip from Kanyakumari, located at the southernmost tip of India. Today, Sunita paid her respect to the mighty Arabian sea, and sought the benevolence of Lord Somnath before starting out on her ambitious journey across the plains of India. The temple of Somnath is steeped in a history of invasion, vandalism and blood bath across the centuries. But unlike those treacherous invaders, Sunita Singh Chocken vowed to be an explorer who would convey the messages of gender equality and the preservation of the earth’s resources to the people of this great country.
On the 13th of July, Sunita had flown in from Delhi to Rajkot. At the airport, Sunita was received by Rtn. Bhavesh, who took excellent care of her during her brief stint at Rajkot. A group of Jain monks (women) blessed Sunita near the Rajkot airport. She stayed the night over at Rajkot, and on the morrow (14th July, Saturday), she attended a colorful program arranged by the Rotary Club of Rajkot, Midtown. Sunita eagerly absorbed the lessons about serving the society from the learned Rotarians, while she herself spoke enthusiastically about women’s right and environmental issues. The same afternoon Sunita received her sturdy road-bike, and Rtn. Naveen Arora of RC Rewari Main had done his best to arrange for an expedient delivery of Sunita’s vital biking equipment. During evening, she traveled from Rajkot to Somnath, and retired for the night. Many Rotarians came to visit Sunita at her hotel, located near the Somnath Temple. They wished her Godspeed and vowed to render their sincerest support and assistance throughout the journey. Such is the magnificent spirit of Rotary, a club dedicated to humanitarian causes founded by Paul P. Harris in 1905. “Service Above Self” is the motto of more than a million steadfast Rotarians across the globe.
At night Sunita also met Mr. Digvijay Singh Parmar, President of Gujarat State Rajput Federation from Somnath. He has written extensively about Sunita on his official Facebook page.
Thus, the brave girl from Rewari was ready for a fresh conquest. A small crowd of approximately 40 people had gathered in front of the Somnath Temple. A relentless rain and a strong wind blew across the face of the fearless woman of Haryana, as she started pedaling towards the town of Veraval. A group of cyclists and a couple of escort cars followed Sunita along the highways of Gujarat.
A small ceremony was arranged by the Rotary Club of Veraval at Vereval. Rotary Vice President Rtn. J.B. Meheta was the master of the ceremony, while the welcome speech was delivered by the Rotary President Rtn. Dev Nathani. Inner wheel President Mrs. Parul Shah introduced Sunita to the assembly. Sunita was already overwhelmed by the warm welcome and a beautiful bouque of flowers. She spoke eloquently about the necessity of trees to arrest the declining quality of air. “Our parents gifted us a world full of trees and fraught with oxygen,” remarked Sunita. “Let us not compel our youngsters to move about with oxygen tanks. We need to employ all our energy to protect the climate by planting trees.” Sunita’s earnestness touched the heart of those who were present, and would soon stir the conscience of millions across the plains and mountains of India. Rotary Secretary, Rtn. Rajesh Purohit, conveyed the vote of thanks. The flag of RC Rewari Main was exchanged with the flag of RC Veraval in this elegant gathering.
Rotary Club Veraval
Sunita is an alma mater of NCC. The guest list of the assembly at Veraval included Mr. Kuldeep Kouchar, CO, Indian Navy NCC. He was delighted to discover that Sunita was an erstwhile NCC cadet, and possessed certificates from this august institute. He presented Sunita with an epistle of recognition, a powerful evidence which would help the cyclist to gain an entry into the Limca Book of Records, upon the successful completion of her expedition. All along her way, she would continue to receive such tokens of certification from NCC stations. Sunita also received the banner of NCC from Mr. Kouchar. Mrs. Neepa Reji, principal of Aditya Birla Public School Veraval and a guest in the program, riveted the audience with a speech about women empowerment. Her erudite address also touched on the topics of social fairness, gender impartiality and the importance of adventure sports. She wished our hero, Sunita, good luck.
In all the excitement Sunita did not forget her mission to plant and encourage the plantation of trees. The Rotary Club runs the “Project Green” at Veraval, and as a part of that campaign Sunita planted 20 saplings on the soil of the divider, which runs along the road.
Many shops lined the highway, and the shopkeepers avowed that they would sow more seeds, and ensure the survival of the trees. At 10 a.m. Sunita started from Veraval, accompanied by none other than the Commanding Officer of NCC, Mr. Kouchar, and a score of enthusiastic cyclists. They kept Sunita company until the toll plaza.
Sunita cruised along on her vehicle passing along the lush towns and the villages. The moist wind breathed heavily and the distant rumble of thunder portended a tempest. However, nothing could distract Sunita. She observed nurseries along the way, where people were buying seeds. Sunita observed with joy that the roads and the dividers were adorned by an array of ancient trees. The flag of RC Vereval fluttered proudly in the gust and the excellent road bike sped merrily against the strong gale and the driving rain. At 2 p.m. Sunita halted for lunch in a wayside restaurant.
After the repast had replenished Sunita’s energy levels, she resumed her journey towards Junagadh. On her way, she met a Rotarian and his family, who clicked photographs with her.
Sunita kept in constant touch with her friends and the Rotarians, and finally reached Junagadh, where she found refuge and eventual repose for the night. At Junadgadh, the young Rotarians (Rotaracts) run a school for the blind children. Here, Sunita met with the Kishan Yatra Club, who arrange for roadshows to distribute seeds among the common people. The club gifted Sunita with 5 packets of seeds, which she would plant in the next 45 days, as she would travel towards Nepal. Mr. Atul, an owner of a farmhouse in the neighborhood, presented Sunita with a rare variety of red custard apple seeds (green custard apples are more common).
Thus, ended the first day of Sunita’s adventure. Go Green was her motto for the day. Tomorrow at the crack of dawn she would start from Junagadh.Sunita wishes to convey her thanks to the Rotarians, NCC cadets and everyone who have provided her with help, support and encouragement.
Sponsors/Hosts: District 3011 in association with Rotary Club of Rewari Main
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/RotaryClubOfRewariMain
Chief Coordinator: Rtn. Arun Gupta, President Elect - Rotary Club of Rewari Main.