Story last updated at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20, 2002

Indian visitors share culture with Rotarians
By R.J. Kelly
Managing Editor

After a month traveling across much of Alaska, five guests of Rotary International from India wound up in a marathon cultural exchange in Homer last week.

"This is going to be the most difficult place to leave," lawyer and part-time actress Devika Rani told local Rotarians Thursday during the weekly luncheon meeting of the Homer-Kachemak Bay club. Leaving all the other places in the state was only a move toward a new destination in the Last Frontier <> but this time it was the last official community visit of their Alaska trip.

As part of ongoing cultural exchanges sponsored by the Rotary Foundation, the lawyer, doctor, journalist, activity coordinator, and tax consultant stayed with local host families in Homer from Thursday through Saturday.

Like an American group of Rotarians who visited India in January, Homer Rotary spokesman Will Files said the trips aim to exchange vocational information and "good will" between different cultures.

In communities across the length and breadth of the state they had done the same <> explaining their jobs and the problems and successes in health care, wildlife management, the arts and business in their home region of Chennai in southeast India.

Starting May 13 in Juneau, the group made stops in Petersburg, Sitka, Ketchikan, Fairbanks, Barrow, Denali National Park, Wasilla and Palmer, Anchorage, and Soldotna and Kenai before reaching the end of the road in Homer.

They visited 50 host families along the way, according to Thirumalai Chakravarthi Narayawan. The tax consultant, who served as team leader for the group, said he found it easier to call himself "T.C." during his American visit.

According to File, the group had a busy schedule during their Homer stay. Included were a sail around Gull Island in Kachemak Bay and some tidal pool exploring, a couple of pot-luck socials with their host families and a stop at the Pratt Museum.

Homer host families included Files and wife, Mary-Ellen, Clancy and Diane Hughes, Lorna and Curt Olson, Barbara Hill and Denice and Roger Clyne.

In sharing their culture with the Rotarians, each visitor noted similarities and differences between the densely populated south Asian subcontinent and Alaska.

Dr. Sunil Abraham, a family physician from a 2,000-bed teaching hospital, noted that free health care and widespread immunization clinics had increased life expectancy from 32 to 63 years over the past 50 years since India became independent from England.

While many Indian newspapers measure their copy circulation in the millions, instead of a few thousand as do most Alaskan papers, reporter and editor Mary Jemima Raman of the New Indian Express said she "did not see any big differences in newspapers here and in India."

Wildlife preservation, particularly to stem the decline of tigers and the endangered white rhino has also become important, said Pattada Medappa Kavery. Despite the crocodiles and "238 species of snakes, (many) of them poisonous," Kavery urged Alaskans to visit India.