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"What if – and unexpected opportunities at CHOGM"
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"What if – and unexpected opportunities at CHOGM"

 Mridul UpadhyayAttending the Commonwealth Youth Forum and CHOGM was a roller-coaster of  experiences for Mridul Upadhyay, 22, a Commonwealth Correspondent from New Delhi, India, with unexpected developments that led to even more unexpected opportunities.

“What is the secret behind your healthy hairs even at this age? Please share it with me because I am losing my hairs even at this younger age.” 

What if someone asks such a hilarious question in his first-ever meeting with HRH The Prince of Wales? 

Mr. Jean Paul Brice Affana, a young Commonwealth Youth member in his late twenties, asked this question to HRH Prince Charles at his 65th birthday celebration party at the British High Commission, Colombo. 

“It is your right attitude which glows you from head to toe. If you have the right attitude in your life, and at any time, this will also positively affect your whole body.” 

And what if HRH gave such a genuine answer, for which I owe him my deepest admiration? 

What if you are a piping design engineer by profession but get selected as International Media to cover the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and Commonwealth Youth Forum? You were supposed to write few articles related to CYF and CHOGM, but you end up clicking more than 2000 photographs of the programs. 

What if, after have been received as an International delegate at the airport, you object because you registered as ‘Media’ not ‘delegate’? Thus they leave you at the airport with other officials and tell you that they don’t have enough information to assist because you are the first media person to be received. You neither have any contact person in this foreign city nor anything other than a hotel name in a distant city, and a return ticket booked for a date ten days away. Fortunately, after having random thoughts of ‘what to do now’ for more than two hours and telling your problem to more than ten foreign ministry and airport officials, you end up being rescued by the same designated officers who had met you earlier. 

What if you are running here and there getting your accreditation card but the CYF organizing committee has every card other than yours? And what if they issue you two different temporary accreditation cards later; ‘Media’ and ‘Committee Member’ (with complete access to every venue)? After finishing the complete four-day forum, you get your original accreditation card from CHOGM and then only you realize that you were not originally accredited for the Commonwealth Youth Forum, but by then you had covered it as an international media-cum-delegate and committee member? 

What if people are having wild guesses about you because you do not have an accreditation card with your name and position? You are a Sri Lankan photographer for a few, a delegate from Singapore or a half-European for others. By religion, some guess you a Buddhist and some a Muslim. Then they are thinking, ‘Muslim with a tattoo!’ or ‘A pure vegetarian Muslim!’ And daily you end with getting such random confessions and clarifying them. 

What if you have to spell your name every time in your introduction and even then nobody is able to pronounce it correctly? You end with so many nicknames! 

What if you love dancing yet after long working hours, the beach party was postponed because of rain, continuously for three days? But when you leave the place because of other important work, the rain stops and the beach party goes ahead. You are jealous while flying away from the festivities in a 15-seater aircraft charter. And you end with getting a personal invitation, with a royal stamp on it, to attend 65th birthday celebration of HRH Prince Charles! 

What if you are introduced to Prince Charles as an international photographer covering CYF and CHOGM, when in fact you were just a Commonwealth Correspondent doing photography as your hobby? And then you end with telling him all about the piping design work you do. 

What if you were the only official media person with the youth delegation from the Commonwealth for CYF, and you enter the media center for CHOGM, where there are more than 1000 media persons for different formats from every corner of the world? And what if at a time you had access to cover all of the sessions – and then you are not selected for any media pool for the entire CHOGM. You end up watching all the sessions on TV and reading all the speeches from uploaded documents. 

What if people are having wearying discussions, sessions and management work for long hours – and you bring  the smile back to their face with your photography skills? Thus you end with making more friends than any other delegate by the end of the forum. 

All these  and many more ‘what ifs’ are a part of a real-life wonderful opportunity I got through sharing my experience as Commonwealth Correspondent for ‘YourCommonwealth.Org’.

 Photo: Mridul Uphadyay

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About me:
A thinker, a social volunteer, a mechanical designer, a theatre artist, a guitar player, a lyrics-writer, an amateur sketch artist, a cook, a traveler, a wannabe civil servant – there are many phrases I enjoy trying on me to describe what I see myself as.
Currently I work for the Oil and Gas Pipeline refineries as a design engineer and am studying for Management in Business Administration. I aspire to enlighten society with the knowledge and experience I gain.
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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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