Deepak and Reena Gupta and their two children were world travelers before they arrived at JFK International Airport from India looking for their Rotary Club hosts from the North Fork two weeks ago. But what they learned here in the next 11 days was something they’d never before experienced in their excursions abroad.
“Any Indian would not even know of this part of New York. On our tourist map, it’s nowhere listed that this is such a beautiful place, with such greenery and climate,” Mr. Gupta said last Friday afternoon, as he and his family relaxed on Bernie and Connie Gevinski’s deck in South Jamesport on their last full day in the U.S.
The Guptas are among a group of 18 Rotarians and their families from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, two states in the northern part of India, who stayed with Rotary Club host families in Suffolk County last week.
The couple runs a steel business in Ghaziabad, a suburb of New Delhi, and the family has been active with their local Rotary Club for 10 years. They’ve been to the U.S. several times — to Florida, California and Salt Lake City — but this is the first time they’ve come here through Rotary International’s Friendship Exchange program, which pairs visiting Rotarians with Rotary Club members in other countries.
When the Gupta family arrived on the Gevinskis’ doorstep, they were astounded by the work their hosts had done to help welcome them into their family. They had rented cars and planned a week-and-a-half’s worth of activities: visits to New York City, Montauk and Fire Island and outings to Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Shellfisher Preserve in Southold and Peconic Landing in Greenport. The Gevinskis had learned that the Guptas were vegetarians and decided to not only prepare vegetarian meals for their guests, but also eat only vegetarian food themselves. They even gave up the bedroom in their small home so that the Guptas could get a good night’s sleep.
“There is no day that our hosts have not driven us less than 100 miles. She’s been sleeping in her office,” said Mr. Gupta. “If she has to leave the house, she leaves everything behind with us. This is really astonishing for us. You need a good heart to do that.
It’s as if we’re one family. They have put us in debt. We’ve been begging them, please come to India so we can repay you.”
Ms. Gevinski, who is slated to become the Suffolk County District Governor of Rotary International next year, shrugged her shoulders.
“It’s the Rotary way,” she said, then laughed at the thought of the Guptas feeling comfortable in her humble home.
“Deepak is used to having servants at home. We had him opening wine bottles and serving food,” she said.
Children don’t normally go along on friendship exchanges, but Mr. and Mrs. Gupta had written to the Gevenskis asking if they could bring their 14-year-old daughter, Kusha, and their 13-year-old son, Kritin.
The Gevinskis replied with a hearty “yes,” and Kusha and Kritin were able to join their parents on adventures as diverse as visiting the Statue of Liberty and wandering through sculptor Bob Berks’ studio in Orient, where they were thrilled to see bronze statues of great 20th century leaders up close.
Mr. Gupta was also very impressed with his visit to Peconic Landing.
“You cannot find such a thing in India,” he said. “It makes me feel safe for my old age.”
Reena Gupta said she had heard that family values in America are not as strong as in India. But when her family arrived here, she said, they found that was not true.
“I have not met a family here where the parents haven’t been married 20 or 30 years,” said Mr. Gupta.
The Guptas and the Gevinskis plan to meet up again next May at a Rotary International convention in Bangkok, Thailand, but they’re already planting the seeds to do more work together.
“As personal friends, we’ll start doing joint projects,” said Mr. Gupta, adding that the Suffolk County Rotary district and his Rotary district in India are encouraged to build orphanages and do other community service work using matching funds from both organizations.