Semester at Sea

March 22, 2010 

Around 800 American professors and students are circumnavigating the globe, exploring the different cultures of various countries in their cruise on 'Explorer.' They sailed to Chennai after visiting Japan, China and Vietnam as a part of their Semester at Sea program. 

A group of 25 professors and students led by their guide Lakshmi, visited historical places in Chennai like Fort St. George, Parrys Corner, Santhome Church and Kapaliswarar Temple at Mylapore. For a cultural and intellectual interactive session, they visited the artistically decorated house of the "Mylapore Trio" on March 11 for an hour. The team hailed from different US Universities - Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana, Colorado - and belonged to various faculties like History, Physics, Astronomy, Economics, Political Science, Maths and Literature. 

They were warmly received by the Trio and members of the Sumukhi Rajasekharan Foundation in the traditional manner with sandal paste, kumkum, rose water, kalkandu and jasmine flowers. The Foundation members were all dressed in traditional South Indian attire - men in dhothi, panchakatcham, kurtha, angavasthram and kadukkan (stone earrings). Women were in colourful and gorgeous Kanchipuram silk sarees, wearing 9 yard saris in two styles (Saivites & Vaishnavites) bedecked with an array of traditional jewels from diamonds to temple jewellery. 

The Trio welcomed the gathering and Amarnath spoke about the importance of history and compared the histories of America and India. Surendranath explained the nuances of south Indian culture in terms of kolam, marriage customs, lifestyles and secular fabric of India. Aparna enlightened them about the significance of traditional silk sarees and jewels. The guests were entertained with Carnatic vocal music, and served with traditional snacks in eco-friendly plates and taamboolam. 

The group was eager to know about India and asked many questions on culture, politics and history. They were impressed with the hospitality, intellectual, cultural and historical input. A Prof. of Physics said, "We travelled to Japan, China and other countries but could feel the real hospitality only in your house" - a great compliment indeed. They also extended an invitation to the Trio and others to visit their respective places in the US for many more cultural interactions.