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On the streets of Islamabad
Sroyon (extreme right) and Antariksh (fourth from right) with some of the other participants at Jaulian Monastery, TaxilaMichat and Jowita being interviewed on campus. Picture by Pabitra Das

On the streets of Islamabad

Antariksh Das and Sroyon Mukherjee embarked on a multi-cultural knowledge fest last month when they participated in the finals of the SAARC Radio Quiz in Islamabad. Antariksh, a Class XI student of South Point, writes of his experience:

It was the day before our chemistry exam that Sroyon and I heard the news that we would be representing India in the finals of the SAARC Radio Quiz in Islamabad on December 21, 2002. The following weeks passed by in a blur of exams, joyful faces of parents, teachers, friends, and preparations.

On December 15 we were received in New Delhi to collect visas, tickets and loads of advice from Parvesh K. Ankar, programme executive, international relations at All India Radio (AIR) and our escort for the trip. On December 19, from Mumbai we boarded an Air India jet to Abu Dhabi. After a six-hour halt we boarded a plane to Islamabad.

Arriving at Pakistan’s capital at 5.30 am, we were greeted by a steady drizzle. And after a warm welcome from the organisers, I found that my suitcase had been sent by mistake to Addis Ababa. This forced me to spend three days in Pakistan with just a backpack and a few dollars in my pocket.

On the way from the airport we caught a few glimpses of imposing structures like the Supreme Court and the Presidential Residence. After freshening up at the Holiday Inn where we put up, we went to a nearby market. We found kebab and barbecue food stops lining the streets. Fish were draped ornamentally in the shops, just like pictures seen in Oriental stories.

That evening we attended a banquet hosted by the secretary of the ministry of information and broadcasting, where we met the participants from the other countries. We had a great evening, exchanging anecdotes and jokes about our subcontinental politicians and superstitions. Some were surprised to learn that tandoori food and biryani are so popular in Calcutta. We struck up great friendships with Samad from Pakistan, Saekh from Bangladesh, and Nizla and Gimara from Sri Lanka.

The next day found us preparing for the quiz, to be held at the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) headquarters. I arrived at the Z.A. Bokhari Auditorium wearing a borrowed blazer and tie, trousers bought hurriedly the previous evening and a shirt from our local coordinator in Pakistan. The quiz itself was somewhat disappointing as we finished fourth. Sri Lanka emerged victorious with Pakistan close behind.

After lunch at the PBC, we took a bus trip around the city. First we were taken to the Shakarparian hilltop, with a breathtaking view of the city and the lush green surroundings, where we posed for pictures with the sturdy police guards assigned to us. We proceeded to Shah Faisal Mosque, the best structure I had seen till then in Islamabad.

The next day we visited the nearby ruins at Taxila. We were amazed to see the beautiful relics in the museum. We also visited two excavation sites at Jaulian and Sirkap. I was thrilled to walk on a portion of the Grand Trunk Road. In the evening, Samad took us out for a bit of shopping. Being a Sunday, most of the markets were closed. Nevertheless we had fun dashing from one market to another hoping to find a decent souvenir shop. But the most enduring image of that evening was seven people from three nations squeezed into a tiny Datsun taxi, having a great time on the streets of Islamabad.

Early next morning, we made our way to the airport where I had a miraculous reunion with my missing suitcase.

While the quiz did have its importance, participation was, without doubt, the most significant thing. I would also like to thank Mr. Ankar for being a wonderful escort and Mr. S.K. Acharya and all his colleagues at AIR, as well as our parents and teachers.

 

Foreign affinities

Michat and Jowita being interviewed on campus. Picture by Pabitra Das

Aabhawataa khub bhaalo. Boshonter moton… (The weather is very nice. It’s like spring)” smiles Michat. Somehow, shivering on the coldest day in 14 years, we couldn’t really agree, but what amazed us was his command over Bengali.

Michat Panasiuk and Jowita Baramiecka from Warsaw University are two students, part of an entire class of foreign students who come to learn Bengali every year. They have come with a one-year scholarship to Jadavpur University.

Michat developed an interest in Bengali after an initial attraction to Buddhism. “Then, as I studied about this country, I discovered the richness of Bengali literature,” he explains. Now a final-year student, he loves the poetry of Jibanananda Das and is studying 19th Century Bengali theatre, including Nati Binodini and Girish Chandra Ghosh. Jowita, on the other hand, admits that for her it was simply an interest in Oriental languages. Bengali just happened to be chosen for her. Now she’s passionate about the language and for further research has chosen Parashuramer Krishnamangal.

The reasons that propel these exchange students towards India are varied, says Professor Amitabha Das of the Bengali department at Jadavpur University. Some come for business purposes, while others have a genuine interest in the language. Professor Das remembers a Japanese student who had come for a Ph.D in Bengali, and went on to translate the works of Jibanananda Das.

Michat and Jowita — who are looking forward to trips to Victoria Memorial, the Maidan, Nandan and north Calcutta -— never lose an opportunity to converse in Bengali. They also know “thodi si” Hindi, but Jowita admits “Sanskrit is a bit confusing”. Michat’s eyes light up at talk about teaching Bengali in Warsaw — what he intends to do after completing his education.

“The people at the university have been very helpful… Aamaader krityogotar sheema nei,” they sign off, waiting to listen and learn.

— Sreejita Deb and Debjani Bhattacharya,

Dept of English, Jadavpur University.

 

Nod for Nature

The Green Crusaders, as the Nature Club of St Joseph’s College calls itself, organised Insurrections ’03, a school meet for greater awareness on nature, on Saturday, on the school premises. The programme started around 9.30 am. The participating schools were Calcutta Girls, St James, Don Bosco Liluah, Saifee Hall, Park English, Ling Liang, Loreto Bowbazar and the hosts.

The first hour of the morning saw contestants from these schools taking part in the Declamation contest. The topic for the contest was ‘Man and Trees’. The participants enlightened us on various matters in this context. The judges for the contest were Dr U.V. Shambhuprasad and Jiban Sardar, both renowned in the field of nature, and Mrs Fernandes, teacher at St. Joseph’s and co-ordinator of the school’s Nature Club.

During the meet, T-shirt painting was in progress with two participants from each school using some paints and a white T-shirt to show us all their views on nature. Some of the ideas that came out were ‘What God had made the Earth as and what we have made it today’, ‘What will happen by deforestation’ and ‘Let Mother Nature be calm and do not provoke her’. There was a panel discussion between the audience and the judges of the Declamation contest. After the discussion, St Joseph’s very own Trevor belted out a couple of English numbers to get everyone going. The prize distribution was up next.

The Declamation contest was won deservedly by Marfatia Fateman of Saifee Hall, with Arehana Sethia of Calcutta Girls and Bedashrita Chattaraj of Loreto Bowbazar coming second and third respectively. In the T-shirt painting contest, St James took the honours, with Calcutta Girls again coming first runners-up and Saifee Hall taking third place. There was an on-the-spot slogan-writing contest, which was won by Sohail Alam of Park English.

— Akshay Jain,

Class IX, St Joseph’s College.

n Green queries: What creature has blue blood and three hearts' Not only did the runners-up Don Bosco know the answer (cuttlefish) but were able to give the more complex botanical name for it. The questions ranged from wildlife to exotic vegetation and songs about nature. The venue for the Environment Quiz on Saturday was the MacPherson Square, beautified by Hindusthan National Glass. The two-girl team from Modern High School beat the Don Bosco boys, while the two La Martinieres and Birla High were also in the fray. Pranam Roy was the quizmaster.

 

Dramatic moves

Books took a back seat as budding managers at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIM-C), got into theatre mode during a two-day stage fest, Pratyancha.

Defying the tight placement schedule, students trooped into the state-of-the-art auditorium for the first of its kind event in an Indian B-school. Organised jointly by the Dramatics Cell and Parivaar, a voluntary body of IIM-C community dedicated to social initiatives, the two-day meet saw both the best of amateur and professional performances.

On Day One, Janaury 24, the Dramatics Cell staged 9 Jakhoo Hill, by Gurcharan Das, while the next day saw Rangakarmee staging Shobha Yatra, a political satire by Usha Ganguly.

Both plays revolved around a common theme and highlighted the various social issues that confront managers in India. The janta at the Joka campus enjoyed “every bit of the performance”.

Enthused by the success, the organisers have decided to make it an annual event.

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