The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CEOs in vision tourism

Kochi, Sept. 26: One-hundred-and-fifty CEOs, a President, a deputy Prime Minister and a former American Senator to boot.

Political CEO A.K. Antony must be basking in the dust of the VIP stampede to his business-starved state, much to the envy of roadshow evangelists Chandrababu Naidu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Wrong. The Kerala chief minister’s persuasive powers have not brought them here on an investment reconnaissance mission.

Vision tourism with a spiritual halo has. The lofty goal — Vision 2020 — goes far beyond the confines of the state that sells tourism on the label, God’s own country.

The 50th birthday celebrations of Mata Amritanandamayi Devi — known as the hugging saint for her unbridled affection for devotees — have brought to the state that voted in the world’s first communist government planeloads of head-turners that no tourism spectacle has managed to draw so far.

If President A.P.J Abdul Kalam and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani radiated state power, the business flag was flown by Hinduja group chairman S.P. Hinduja and Hotmail founder Sabeer Bhatia.

Led by Kalam, the CEOs put their heads together to make India a fully developed country in another 17 years as enunciated in a document titled Vision 2020.

For cosmopolitan Kochi, which had not slept four days since the start of the birthday bash, the CEOs’ meet brought in a whiff of fresh air amid the smog of dashed hopes following a global investor meet in January.

To the 100,000 youths gathered at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium to mark the culmination of the spectacle, Kalam iterated his prescription to activate the country’s 5,80,000 backward villages through a set of “connectivities”, the chief of which was spirituality.

He said the inalienable spiritual component dawned on him when he first met Amma — an honorific used by her devotees — a few years ago at her ashram on the backwaters of Kollam, 60 km from the capital, Thiruvananthapuram.

During the nearly 48-hour sojourn in Kerala, Kalam attended almost a dozen functions, praying for world peace, chiding officials of an airport for cutting trees to set up a helipad, awarding D.Litts and interacting with thousands of the young as well as the old.

At the CEO meet presentation, Kalam said advance from the ancient to the modern would be possible, if chief executives and planners imbibed the spiritual tradition. Among those in attendance were Bharti Televentures chief Rajan Mittal, BPL’s Rajiv Chandrashekhar and former US Senator Larry Pressler.

Murli Manohar Joshi, who has put in his papers as human resources minister, was also there. No, he did not bump into Advani in Kochi. Advani, who has not yet managed to meet Joshi and persuade him to withdraw his resignation after the Rae Bareli verdict, had left after inaugurating the programme on Tuesday.

The spectacle was organised with clockwork precision, thanks to hundreds of Amma’s volunteers who lined the streets regulating traffic and guiding devotees who came from as many as 191 countries. The trans-national character was held aloft when delegates marched carrying the flags of the 191 countries. Over 100,000 pilgrims were fed every day.

For a change, the bureaucratic brass also helped — by not putting up the usual hurdles and turning up in strength at the venue, virtually transporting the state capital to Kochi.

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