We flew to Chennai and traveled from Chennai by car and arrived in Pondicherry late the evening of 18 Dec 2016.
The next morning we discovered we were at the luxurious
Windflower Resort and Spa. Very nice.
Mr. S.Venugopal, the personal assistant of our host, MLA Mr. Danavelu, took us on a sight-seeing tour of Pondicherry the morning of the wheelchair celebration and distribution.
Pondicherry was settled by the French and is still one of seven Union Territories in India. Most of the streets and many of the historical monuments and buildings have French names and heritage. Many of the local Indians speak French as well as Tamil.
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral (top right) has a 300-year history. It was built in 1692. It was demolished by the Dutch a year later and rebuilt by the local French people. In 1761 is was burned to the ground by the British. The French people rebuilt it again.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (top left) has become one of the famous pilgrimage spots for Christians in India. It was built in 1902.
The nativity shown at the bottom above is in the courtyard of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The figurine of Baby Jesus is absent until Christmas Day--according to local custom.
We stopped at the seashore of the Bengal Sea.
We sipped lemonade at a local seashore cafe.
Then it was time to make our way to the wheelchair celebration and distribution in nearby Bahour Village. As we approached, we began to notice many large billboards with the names and faces of important people who were going to be at the celebration...
Then we saw it...a very large billboard with our photographs--over 20 feet tall!
Here is another billboard at a different location. The other embarrassing thing is that they referred to us as "Dr."--both on the billboards and, we found out later, on the full-color 8 X 10 glossy program:
We did not notice that until someone on Facebook pointed it out to us. So, we decided to go with it:
We have decided that we have earned--
Honorary Doctorates of Humanitarian Services
And...it has been quite a ride!
When we finally arrived at the celebration site, we went out into the crowd of over 5,000 people and began to say "hello" and "Namaste".
We love to talk to the people.
One lady saw me in the car on the way to the celebration and smiled and pointed at me. She recognized me from the billboards.
Here we visit with some of the recipients of new wheelchairs.
Just before the celebration began we found ourselves walking through the 100 chairs and marveling at the number of beneficiaries whose lives will be changed in the next hour or two.
The celebration began with some excellent professional dancers and drummers. It was loud and VERY Indian!
A young and budding photographer tried to get his best shot of the dancers!
Well done, young man!
Then it was time to distribute the wheelchairs!
Smiles of anticipation.
Chairs lined up and ready to go!!
As the wheelchairs are distributed to the recipients, you can see the faces of appreciation.
Another NGO provided some people with new hearing aids.
Elder Newton was able to present one set to a man--and show him that he had hearing help as well.
The faces of happiness and new found mobility.