The recently concluded 36th National Congress and 3rd International Conference of the IATF (Indian Association of Teachers of French), held on the premises of the iconic and historic St. Xavier’s College, from 4th to 6th November, was a grand event –and a memorable experience for all those delegates from India and abroad who attended it.
The main theme of the Congress was: French – Choices for tomorrow. All the three days were packed with activities for the delegates, ranging from panel discussions to workshops, paper presentations to video conferences, reflecting on the importance, teaching and impact of French in India in a contemporary, multilingual and multicultural context. The Principal of the College, Dr. Agnelo Menezes, and an army of Xavierite students were omnipresent throughout the Congress, as helpful volunteers, to ensure that nothing was lacking
The inaugural function of the Congress was held in the hallowed precincts of the Mumbai University Convocation hall – one of the finest 19th century Neo- Gothic Victorian structures in India. A host of dignitaries were present, to grace the opening ceremony and to release the Souvenir brought out to mark the occasion. These included the Vice Chancellor, Dr Sanjay Deshmukh; the Consul Général of France in Mumbai, Mr. Yves Perrin; Madame Mme Marie Doublier – Attachée of Cooperation for Education ; francophone Commissioner of Police, Dr. Datta Padsalgikar, who delighted the august audience with a pithy and succinct speech in French; the Deputy Director of CIEP in France, Mr. Stéphane Foin and the keynote speaker Dr. Dileep Padgaonkar , an eminent francophone journalist of international repute.
The IATF felicitate several Indian luminaries, who had been bestowed with honours by the French Government for their services in promoting the French language and culture and to present them with a scroll.
These included Mr. Nadir Godrej, Managing Director of Godrej Industries; Dr. Dileep Padgaonkar, Rashmi Uday Singh, author, television host and Gourmand World Cookbook Award winner ; the former President of the IATF, Dr. Anuradha Wagle, Dr. Vidya Vencatesan, Head, Department of French, University of Mumbai, Rahul Vohra, noted actor and theatre personality and Mr. Dara Mehta, the President of the “Cercle Littéraire”, the oldest Library of French books in India, among others. The day ended with a gala dinner at Flamboyante Restaurant at the World Trade Centre, where the delegates were regaled with songs in all languages by the winner of last year’s Idole Indienne competition, – Anvesha Mitra and Dr. Sharmin Bala.
The Soirée Culturelle or the Cultural Evening organised on the second day of the Conference, was a beautiful multi-layered affair held on the lawns of the CSMVS Museum.
The Maharashtra show-case performances, included a mind-blowing Mallakhamb demonstration, given by students of the Shree Samarth Vyayam Mandir, Dadar under the tutelage of Mr Uday Deshpande which held the audience spell-bound. A spirited ‘Mangalgaur ‘ performance by the Parampara group, Dadar was followed by the last performance, a “Lavani (Maharashtrian folk dance) by Aditi Bhagwat who is a renowned Kathak dancer and Lavani expert.
The evening was thoroughly enjoyed not only by the 250 odd French Teachers from all over the country, but also by all the French dignitaries present, which included visiting diplomats from France, representatives of the Embassy of France in India as well as the French Consulate in Mumbai. The cultural evening came to a close, followed by a lavish dinner on the Museum Lawns.
Day three of the Conference brought the Congress to a close, with the General Body Meeting where the new Office Bearers were elected, followed by the closing ceremony. Mrs. Anjali Lokur – the President of the IATF, Mrs. Amrita Raghunandan – Vice-President; Mrs. Jaya Gadgil, – Secretary and Mrs. Anita Patel – Treasurer were unanimously appointed. And thus came to an end a wonderful event which will linger on in the memories of the participants for a long time to come.