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At the Gurukul Resort & Tennis Academy, Mendhasal. With Chinmay Pradhan and his cute buddy Battu.

I believe, travel is the best form of ‘informal’ education. Being an avid History lover, I get fascinated while reading about travels done by ancient & medieval explorers and scholars. My favourite travellers being Marco Polo, & Chinese travellers like Hiuen-Tsang & Fa-Hein, who travelled far and wide to experience the geography & cultures of the visiting lands. Thus, whenever I get an opportunity to travel, I look forward to holistically learn from the experience. My recent visits to Orissa (Odisha) have layered my mind with enriching experiences regarding areas of education, sports and tourism.

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Sports Management based workshop at XEBS- XIMB Campus, Bhubaneshwar

Firstly, it was nice to interact with the students, faculty and management of Xaviers Emlyon Business School (XEBS) at Orissa’s capital city- Bhubaneshwar.  Recently Indian government has designed policies that encourage foreign educational institutes to collaborate with Indian educational institutes. The French business school- Emlyon Business School is among the first to have made the best of the policy by collaborating with Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneshwar to create international level courses for B.B.A and M.B.A programs. More about XEBS courses in this link: https://xebs.edu.in/index.html

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Ashley Fernandes, Chairman of XEBS & me at the SPORTS IT’2020 event

One exciting educational program that XEBS management has been curating since a year, is a post-graduate degree course in Sport Management.  Last November, Mr. Ashley Fernandes, the Chairman of XEBS, invited me to conduct a workshop on the behavioral & organizational aspect of Sports Management for the 1st ever batch of a short-term Sports Management program conducted by XEBS. Ashley, earlier had met me in Mumbai where I got to know about his vision towards blending the best of Indo-French educational initiatives here in India. Being a staunch promoter of education myself, I could relate to Ashley’s intention & zeal to cross-fertilize talents & experts of various domains of knowledge, which he believes will bring about a positive change for the society in which we live. I could actually witness Ashley’s vision being executed in ‘SportIT 2020’, India’s First Ever Sports Innovation Festival which was organised by XEBS in association with Sports and Youth Services Department, Government of Odisha at Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar, on January 18th and 19th 2020. Besides, this, it was a pleasure to be a mentor at the Hackathon which was organized as a part of this event. It was fun mentoring both Indian & French students who participated in this event. More about this event in this video: https://www.facebook.com/XEBSINDIA/videos/2284145561687311/

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Sports Hackathon teams, mentors and judges at XIMB Campus

On the penultimate day of my stay in Orissa, I was invited to see India Vs. Netherland Hockey match at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar. This was made possible by the efforts of Mr. Shaikh Abdul & Zainab Tashneem. Both of them had attended my workshop and also were part of the Hackathon. It was fun to watch the match on a Sunday evening along with people of various origins. It was a great feeling to see India finally won the match with a score of 5-3!

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Sand Art displayed at the Bhubaneshwar Airport, Odisha

Finally, on the last day of my stay I visited Gurukul Tennis Academy which is situated on the outskirts of Bhubaneshwar in a village called Mendhasal. The academy is established on the premise of Gurukul Resorts, which is India’s first ever lawn tennis-based resort. Spread over an area of 1.45 acres, it comprises of three international-standard tennis courts with floodlights, 10 cottage rooms, a restaurant, a cafeteria, and an open gym overlooking lush green trees and a natural pond in the vicinity. It is the brain-child of Chinmay Pradhan, a young entrepreneur, who himself was once an ATP ranking international tennis player. Chinmay and his team won at the Sports Hackathon organized by XEBS. Chinmay had invited me to have a look at his Gurukul Resorts and the Tennis academy that runs a unique program for physically & mentally challenged individuals. Over the years, Chinmay, along with the head coach & Director of the academy, Mr. Santosh Kumar Mallik, have been training many tennis players. More about the resorts and academy in this link: https://www.mycitylinks.in/india-s-first-tennis-based-resort-instated-in-the-state The philanthropist in me was impressed and inspired when I heard that, Chinmay and his team wishes to launch a program where he wants the game to be inclusive of players who are physically and mentally challenged too. Also, he wishes to take the game to the rural parts of India and with his innovative ideas thereby wants to take the game of tennis to the door-step of people who cannot afford the expenses of the game at the clubs! More details in this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7brUxFbQ9E. I urge all with a big heart who are reading this article, to donate generously to Chinmay’s initiative so that he and his team can achieve their objectives. Email Chinmay at this id: c.pradhan.samprass@gmail.com

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Mr. Shaikh Abdul, Zainab Tashneem & buddies, mentors Pranav & Vaibhav, Ashley & the French students attending the SPORT IT event

After taking a tour of the Gurukul Resorts and Tennis Academy, as requested by Chinmay, I offered few guidelines as to how he can improvise his vision to make tennis more popular in India, just the way he would want to see.

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Mr. Shaikh Abdul, Zainab Tashneem & buddies, mentors Pranav & Vaibhav, Ashley & the French students attending the SPORT IT event

As I boarded my flight back to Mumbai, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction of having travelled to the ancient land of what was once known as the Kalinga Empire. Like a traveller from the History books I too was returning back to my native land full of experiences, knowledge and beautiful memories to share with my people here in Mumbai and with the world beyond!

Photo Courtesy: Shraddha. C. Sankulkar