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African safari in UN heartland

He was spotted as a future star in these columns three weeks ago. At the time, Sabyasachi Mukherjee was off in Kenya. Now he’s back to share some glimpses from his sojourn, from deepest jungles to the UN:

A trip to Kenya conjures images of wild beasts roaming the open savannahs and Masai tribesmen performing a victory dance after a successful hunt. I saw all this, and more. But the first stop on the tour was civilisation…

I had the rare opportunity to visit the United Nations complex in Gigiri, Nairobi on October 18. Spread over a massive 46 acres donated by the Kenyan government, landscaped gardens with springs and fountains, as well as geraniums, roses, lavenders, lilies and lotus sprinkling the greens in a splash of colour, surrounded the 24 offices on campus.

I was part of a group of 26, and we were welcomed at the UN headquarters by Arnab Roy, director, UNHCR, who had organised the visit for us. He introduced us to Carol Andeoe, librarian and public relations officer at the UN, Nairobi. In addition, Nairobi hosts the headquarters of two global programmes — United Nations Environment Program and United Nations Center for Human Development. I moved around the United Nations Information Centre, too. After lunch, we went to a gigantic auditorium, with the UN symbol inscribed in copper and wood taking centre-stage. This was the general assembly room… a piece of history.

It was then time to bid the civilised world adieu and hit the road to the jungle. Our first destination was Lake Nakuru, a five-hour drive from Nairobi, passing through some spectacular locales that the rift valley had to offer. Home to flamingoes and pelicans, the lake was a treat to the eye. When we left Lake Nakuru Lodge for our first game drive, the sky was heavy with clouds and it had started drizzling. But the rain proved to be a boon when just a few metres from the hotel, a group of impalas, a kind of antelope, greeted us. Adding a backdrop to these lovely creatures were the skyscrapers of the wild — the giraffes —- munching on their evening snacks from the acacia and yellow fever trees. A kilometre or two later, we were stopped in our tracks by a family of rhinos who refused to let us overtake them! They kept lumbering down the road with what must have been a kid chasing our combi-van.

As we headed out for Masai Mara next morning, a leopard on a tree bid us farewell. In Africa, the concept of ‘the big five’ is very popular. A tourist is said to have a successful safari if he has spotted a lion, an elephant, a rhino, a leopard and a buffalo. The target was in sight!

In the sun-dappled golden savannah grasses, a lion was crouching, watching silently, stalking a herd of zebras in the distance. It moved, stopped and in a burst of speed, sprinted towards the zebra. The zebra did not have a chance. Exhausted, it fell prey to the big cat. This was life in the wild, of the hunters and the hunted. And I was right there — in the midst of all the action.

We had put up in the resplendent Mara Simba lodge. A lazy swim in the pool was no ordinary experience, with gazelles running around beside us. We were in time to witness the last batches of over a million wildebeest migrating back to Serengeti after plundering the rich grasslands of Masai Mara. Just as the ungainly animals with whitish beards (known as the clown of the plains) had trekked in, the lions, leopards, hyenas, vultures, cheetahs and other predators follow in leisure. Mara was pulsating with life.

From raw animal instinct to complete serenity, our next stop was the residence of Joy and George Adamson of Born Free fame, on a hill overlooking Lake Naivasha. After the gruelling game drive through some of the toughest terrain, Elsamere was heaven on earth. Countless colourful birds kept hopping around us on the lookout for a few morsels of food while we tucked into some ourselves. We were shown a documentary on Joy Adamson and saw portraits of tribesmen from the different tribes in Kenya, painted by her. We could not, however, venture out on to the lawns after 8 pm, as this was the time the hippos, busy in the lake during the day, come out to graze.

Our final destination was Amboseli. At twilight, just as the sun is about to set, it fired the sky one last time. The rays caught the vast expanse of the dry salt lake, tinting it copper bronze. The mighty Kilimanjaro stood tall and imposing, watching the flat lands below. Its snow-clad peak holds the magic that gives Amboseli life.

The animals in the plains quenched their thirst in the swamp created by melted ice from Kilimanjaro while the mighty elephants soaked themselves…

 

Fashion action

A week of action is in store for the city, courtesy the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). Fashion Spectrum 2002, organised at all NIFT chapters round the country simultaneously, kicked off in Calcutta on Monday. The weeklong activities started out with a seminar on ‘Fashion apparel manufacturing – a global perspective’ at The Park, featuring industry professionals on the panel.

From Tuesday, the focus is on the students, with Sampark, or the alumni meet, scheduled for 12 noon at the NIFT auditorium. A day of career-counselling will follow on November 13, to guide wannabe designers through the hows and whys of pursuing a career in fashion.

Trivia and style will meet in Brandomania, a quiz stressing the knowledge of brands, on Thursday, but only after a ramp show displaying some lines of leading brands to the audience. From 7.30 pm, student designs will rub shoulders with those of leading city designers at The Park.

Friday will start off with a Fashion Clinic open to all, where counselling on creating the right look through make-up, garments and accessories will be in progress. Finally, Tantu will showcase the work of the first graduating batch of textile design and development course at The Park, 4.30 onwards.

 

Jars of fun

The first fundraiser organised by Rotaract Club, Chowringhee, on Sunday afternoon turned out to be a lip-smacking hit. The Rotarians had invited Lovey Barman of Kookie Jar for a talk about her sweet path to success.

The Phoenix Room at the Saturday Club was crammed with youngsters and adults, who all wanted to get a sneak preview of what goes on behind KJ’s factory gates. Barman started by recalling her early days, when cooking was just a hobby for her, till the time when, buoyed by encouragement from family and friends, she opened shop in 1985. According to Barman, the secret behind any successful business is to think and act small, initially. She urged young entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams and aspirations. When asked about her future plans, she said that opening a coffee shop was on the cards.

Her expert chefs then gave a live demonstration of how to create some of the scrumptious delicacies she is famous for. An interactive session followed and pastries were handed out to the eager participants. All the proceeds of the event will go towards charity.

—Amrita Bihani,

IInd yr, J.D. Birla College

 

Yesterday once more

AIESEC, a student organisation spanning 85 countries and 12 cities, including Calcutta, organised an alumni dinner on Saturday to celebrate its National Alumni Day. The evening saw over 50 alumni reliving their most cherished memories from their days as members of the cultural exchange organisation. The alumni was brought up to speed about the organisation’s new programmes and global position, and had the chance to meet the current members — all students from the city’s leading colleges.

— Anamika Gupta,

AIESEC in Calcutta

 

Career queries

The 10th Career Fair organised by a’fairs was held from November 8 to 11 at the Ice Skating Rink. The fair not only featured some of the top institutes of India but also those from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. Interactive seminars were held on management, medicine and engineering, options abroad for studies and career. One of the most attractive features was the Jobs4u stall where career aspirants could drop in two copies of their CV. The solitary career counselling booth drew a large number of students.

— Suchi Arya

Class XII, Modern High School

 

Walk for rights

To put an end to commercial sexual exploitation of children, students, activists and concerned citizens are taking to the streets this Children’s Day, led by Bianca Jagger, a prominent human rights activist (and Rolling Stone Mick’s ex-wife).

Starting out at 11.30 am on Thursday from Victoria Memorial, students from city schools and colleges, shelters and campaigners will make their way to Sahid Minar, where Bianca will address all assembled. Finally, a few children will leave to present a charter to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. All are welcome.

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