In Chennai the YMCA is called Madras and in Mumbai the YMCA is called Bombay. This is the case in several other cities also. The reason is that many Indian cities have changed names to more original Indian language and naming, away from the colonial past. In many cases the YMCAs have decided to keep their old names. This is why we are now on our way to visit Bombay YMCA in Mumbai.
Beautiful Mumbai in the late afternoon, just before the beautiful bridge goes to rest for the evening. An architectural masterpiece! I found Mumbai a very beautiful city, very much a city to return to, and maybe to do as many tourists do, according to General Secretary Simeon: “They stay at Taj Mahal until they have spent their money. Then they come to the YMCA to stay!”
This was one of the two hotels attacked by terrorists in 2008. Also the famous Trident Hotel was attacked. Taj Mahal was partly burnt. Melvin took us to Taj Mahl late in the evening for some refreshments – really an exotic experience. Melvin Louis, Assistant General Secretary, Bombay YMCA, told us that some Australian youth had escaped from the hotel and took refuge in the YMCA building close by. Melvin had received a boomerang from Australia with inscription from thankful parents.
Melvin showed us the youth hostel and the swimming pool. It was all very well maintained and taken care of. It struck me all of a sudden that I have seen literary hundreds of very attractive swimming pools during my many visits to YMCAs around the world, but never had time to use a single one of them. I wonder if they are wet or something? They look cool, anyway, these pools, and one day I will try one of them!
In the harbor together with Melvin and Jose. We had an excellent tour of the city and visited several YMCA programmes. Opposite of Taj Mahal was the Gate of India, raised to commemorate the visit of King George the V and his Queen Mary. The Queen, not the ship.
Melvin Louis picked us up at the airport and took us to the down town YMCA where the whole Board was waiting for us. Below you can see the President of Bombay YMCA, Dr. J. Arthur Prem and the General Secretary, Ebenezer Simeon. We were received with all honors and gifts and beautiful welcome speeches, and Arthur and Ebenezer and Melvin really made us feel very welcome to Mumbai. I was given the floor to address the Board, and I shared with them first of all the gift of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, how this liberating message is giving us a new and fresh perspective avery morning, and how it enables us to reenergize when we are tired and makes it possible for us to invest all our energy and all our love and strength in this important work of the YMCA. Then I talked about he visions of the World Alliance, that I had come to listen to their stories and learn from their experiences and that we needed to stay and work and walk together if we shall have any chance of success in our important challenges. Several questions and comments followed from the Board members and staff, and we had an excellent exchange of opinions and thoughts.
From the Board room we were taken to the dinner hall where a good group of YMCA members and leaders had gathered together. A beautiful cultural programme was performed by the children and then we were served the most delicious meal and I could talk with many of the leaders present. These visits are immensely important for me. I learn a lot, and I know how little I would understand if I were not to participate in those conversations and listen to all those experiences. It widens my horizon and expands my mind and it always makes me very, very proud to belong to this great movement of YMCAs. We are blessed with so many competent leaders of integrity and values.
A beautiful photo of the Board and staff of Bombay YMCA. They all made us feel like in a family gathering, and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening. And when it was all over, Melvin took us in his car and drove us on a night tour of the city and told us many a tale. Thank you Melvin, you made our day!
The General Secretary, Ebenezer Simeon. I have met Ebenezer several times, lastly in Melbourne, Australia, where he impressed us all at the World Urban Network meeting with his key note speech on the YMCA experiences in Mumbai. A great leader of the YMCA and a very pleasant and friendly colleague. Thank you for all your great hospitality, Ebenezer!
Paul George of Bombay YMCA
Some people call him Santa Claus in a business suit; a Santa Claus who is visible all through the year and not just around Christmas time. Others say that he reminds them of a benign uncle with a beatific smile and a benevolent mien, who has a sharp memory and loves to spread laughter and joy. But did you know that Paul, who joined the YMCA movement at the age of 22 (he’s 51 now), is an all-out Mumbaikar? Yes, he was born and brought up in Bombay.
Paul is also the President of Mumbai Rotary Club, and together with Rotary the YMCA is running this vocational Training Centre with provisions for many different age groups and interest groups for young people.
Another highlight during my Indian journey – meeting with Mr P.M. John. He has served the YMCA worldwide in almost all possible capacities, he was the President of Bombay YMCA at least several periods, he is the Honorary Treasurer and he has served the World Alliance of YMCAs over many years as a member of the Executive Committee, the Finance Committee, the Investment Committee and he is still a member of Secoure Speciaux. P.M. John invited us for breakfast in his beautiful house in the middle of Mumbai, where he funds his own business together with two sons and another partner, as accountants. Both his sons were present and we enjoyed a warm and friendly encounter with good old friends. With leaders as P.M. John the YMCA has developed in very healthy ways both in Mumbai locally, in India nationally and in the world, as the World Alliance. I used the opportunity to again say a warm thank you to P.M. John for all his services to the global YMCA movement.Below the YMCA logo on one of the historical buildings of the local YMCA.
Below the staff and lay leaders of the Boys Home, a YMCA programme for boys living on the streets and having been picked up by the YMCA to receive education, food, clothes and a perspective for the future.
Look at some of those shy smiles and tell me what you think of the importance of social outreach programmes of the YMCA? We left YMCA Bombay with a feeling of having witnessed a very well run YMCA with impact for thousands and thousands of young people. I am proud!