The city of Cupertino is welcoming Bhubaneswar, India, to the family, after the city council unanimously voted Aug. 16 to take on another sister city relationship.
The cities will spend the coming year working to foster a relationship and prepare for visits and cultural exchange. The 2,000-year-old Indian city shares a lot of similarities with Cupertino, as it has a rich melting pot culture and a strong high-tech sector in its region, according to Mahesh Pakala, co-president of the newly formed Bhubaneswar Sister City Initiative.
"Bhubaneswar is on its way to becoming a technology hub in eastern India," he said at the city council meeting.
Bhubaneswar is the capital of Orissa, also known as Odisha. It is a coastal town on the eastern end of India. Pakala noted that it is one of the cleanest cities in India.
The sister city plan has been in the works for a while. Over the past few years, community members in Cupertino and Bhubaneswar have visited one another, with Mayor Gilbert Wong being one of the most recent visitors in February. Wong remarked that the city has a small tech center, many universities and numerous temples and businesses.
Last July, a delegation from Odisha came to Cupertino and met with the Chamber of Commerce, the city council, De Anza College officials and Cupertino Rotary.
Whether remotely or face to face, the program will work to pass along information about each city's culture and government structure. Plans to hold exchange programs and have extended visits between the two cities are also in the works, as is an exchange program with the local schools.
The city currently has strong sister city relationships with Toyokawa, Japan and Hsinchu, Taiwan. Those sister city programs see annual exchanges and visits from residents of their respective cities.
Committees in both cities are made up of volunteers drawn from all sectors of the city. City manager David Knapp reminded the public and council that the sister city relationship will thrive if it is well maintained by community members in both cities. The city used to have a relationship with its namesake city of Copertino, Italy. However, with little activity that relationship has been dormant for years.
Initially, there is no plan to spend city money on the program. The coming year will be devoted to getting the program off the ground.
Mahesh Nihalani, co-president of the initiative, told the council that there will be increased community awareness about the program in the future. The sister city group will have a presence at the upcoming Fall Festival, Diwali Festival of Lights and other events.
Other sister city pairings in California with India include Jaipur with Fremont, Mumbai with Los Angeles, Pune with San Jose and Bengaluru with San Francisco.
Members of the public and from the initiative came out in strong support of the new relationship at the Aug. 16 meeting.
"I think it will be a wonderful cultural exchange and great to see more of what happens here and happens there and be able to present the two cities in a different eye, and bring more culture to our city and bring some to Bhubaneswar," said Anjali Kausar, a member of the Cupertino Union School District board of trustees.
Fellow board member Ben Liao said many of the school district's students are from India or have parents from India. A stronger bond with the nation could prove beneficial to students, he added.
"For our students to learn effectively, our teachers need to learn more about the background of the students so they can deliver the instruction efficiently. The heritage of the student will enhance their learning, not only academically, but socially," Liao said.
Council members praised the sister city initiative, which already has approximately 20 members.
"This group has definitely stepped up to the plate," Councilman Orrin Mahoney said. "Every time there has been a hurdle or a step to take, they have gone above and beyond."