A passage to India

Dr. Sheni Meghani has a new cultural immersion project in the works, and it involves taking people to her homeland.

Sheni Meghani, Tour planner and co-founder of the Strategic Community Alliance, grew up in Gujarat, India. [File photo]

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Posted May 4, 2023 | By Julie Garisto

Imagine spending some quality time at the Taj Mahal before watching Indian artisans weave a traditional Gujarati patola sari and taking a boat ride on the Narmada River.

Dr. Sheni Meghani is making these visions of India a reality for a select group of lucky travelers by way of her nonprofit’s first tour of the nation in January 2024.

Through her art-and-culture collaborations at the Marion Cultural Alliance and elsewhere in the community, Meghani has fostered an understanding of her homeland and helped build connections between people from different backgrounds and nationalities Meghani cares passionately about empathy and global consciousness for people from all cultures. She is unique in how she gives her undivided attention while talking to you and doesn’t hold back her enthusiasm. And, of course, Meghani has also clocked in countless hours as a board-certified physician in internal medicine, geriatric medicine, palliative and hospice care.

In the latest chapter of her life’s work, she has teamed up with her husband, Cain Davis, to form a nonprofit called the Strategic Community Alliance Inc. Their motto: “Promoting and empowering communities as one.”

In recent weeks, Meghani and Davis have met with community organizations, coaching leaders and stakeholders on how to address challenges around diversity and inclusion, helping everyone they talk to learn how to build connection and understanding through engaging workshops and other projects.

The couple’s new fundraiser for the Alliance, “Experience India,” is a more high-flying project. Literally. Meghani, Davis and 30 participants will board a plane and fly halfway around the world to raise funds for the Strategic Community Alliance next winter.

Meghani, who grew up in Gujarat, the western part of the central Asian nation, calls the two-week tour a fantastic opportunity to travel to India, one of the most revered parts of the world.

She and Davis went to India together a few years ago and made sure to visit destinations of historic importance and lesser-known places off the beaten path. Gathering all she and Davis learned from those experiences, she planned “Experience India” as an intimate immersion into the country’s multifaceted societies, regions with their own distinct languages and customs, historical landmarks, and the nation’s richly varied cuisine and arts.

“You will see, explore, and experience the rich culture, inspiring history, vibrant arts, architectural marvels, traditions, and breathtaking sites of historical India,” the tour brochure reads. “You will fall in love with the hospitality, humility and generosity of the people of India.”

Tour highlights include the assistance of American travel buddies (similar to chaperones) who know the languages and culture of India; an opportunity to see the Taj Mahal, one of the world’s most famous structures; a visit to the Statue of Unity, the world’s tallest statue, with a height of nearly 600 feet, located near Kevadia in Gujarat — the landmark portrays Indian statesman and independence activist Vallabhbhai “Sardar” Patel, the first deputy prime minister and home minister of independent India and an adherent of Mahatma Gandhi.

Also on the tour, the world’s tallest statue, India’s Statue of Unity, which boasts a height of around 600 feet, of Indian statesman and independence activist Vallabhbhai “Sardar” Patel, the first deputy prime minister and home minister of independent India. [Wiki Commons]

The itinerary also features a stop at Delhi; the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Ahmedabad, Pavagadh-Champaner, Patan and Delhi; places related to Gandhi and Patel.

Opportunities to meet local artisans and learn about an array of Indian arts, handicrafts and handwoven fabrics will be featured, along with a cultural program and a variety of Indian foods.

What doesn’t the tour include? International airfare and flights. According to Meghani, travelers tend to have very different international flight preferences, so tour participants must schedule their own flights, which vary in price, times, airlines, etc. They can also take advantage of their frequent-flyer programs. Also not included are tips and gratuities, lunch and dinner (food is inexpensive, approximately $10 a day, according to Meghani), visa fees (Strategic Community Alliance representatives will facilitate meetings with their visa expert to assist the tour participants with completing all required paperwork for visa application).

It all starts in Ahmedabad on Jan. 16, 2024, and ends in Delhi on Jan. 28, 2024. A maximum number of 30 people can sign up.

“These limited seats can fill up quickly due to the quality of the tour, which includes staying in five-star hotels, transportation in a luxury air-conditioned coach, and no additional fees for access to numerous site-seeing venues. The cost is $2,200 per person for two people per hotel room, and $3,200 per person for a single person per hotel room.

Also included will be free information sessions to help participants prepare for the big trip.

“We are going to have a series of meetings where we can help people learn how to get a visa, what it requires, what to pack or what to think about such as, ‘What credit card I should take?’ or what kind of mosquito equivalent, what kind of clothes to pack,” Meghani said.

The Taj Mahal is among the many stops on the Experience India Tour planned by the Strategic Community Alliance for January 2024. [Creative Commons]

A nonrefundable deposit of $900 each is required per person for those traveling in pairs, and $1,300 per single traveler is due, both before June 5, 2023. Full payment can either be made on the initial reservation or must be paid no later than Oct. 31, 2023.

The cost of the tour includes the domestic flight from Vadodara, India, to Delhi, India; 12 nights in five-star hotels; all breakfasts served in the hotels.

“You are going to have a nice breakfast, and you’re going to have a super nice shower,” Meghani assured.

“You’re also going to have a nice gym, so when you are inside, you might forget that you are on another continent,” she said. “We are not taking you to a place where you are going to rough it. It is more of an exercise for our minds and hearts.”

For more information about “Experience India,” email shenimeghani@yahoo.com

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