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Glimpses of Nippon up close
Shovik delivers the team leader’s speech at the reception. (bottom) With his Japanese hosts and other delegates on a train

Four Calcuttans were amongst 30 students from Saarc countries who travelled to Japan for a cultural exchange programme. Shovik Banerjee, a student of Class XI (who recently wrote about his trip to Pakistan), writes about his latest trip with fellow students of La Martiniere — Ravi Bhushan, Ipsita Chakravarty and Madhuri Karak:

It was opportunities all the way with a few surprises thrown in as well... Opportunity to know a country admired by the world. Surprise at how easily friends can be made and how within a few days, relationships can bloom that may last a lifetime.

La Martiniere Schools in Calcutta had been nominated to send representatives from India for the South Asian Cultural Exchange Programme in February. The scheme, sponsored by the Japanese ministry of foreign affairs, is to promote the understanding of Japan, its people and culture amongst the youth.

So last month we set off, accompanied by ma’am Bhaswati Banerjee. We met the other contingents from South Asia at Bangkok airport, before heading for Narita Airport, Tokyo. There we were greeted by our escorts Watanabe San and Sato San. After checking in at the Tokyo Prince Hotel, we attended an orientation and dinner hosted by Ms Itakura, programme coordinator from the ministry.

Over the five-day stay in Tokyo, we did everything we could have imagined — picking up basic Japanese, visiting a broadcasting studio and the National Diet, taking a boat tour around Tokyo, being overawed by the hi-tech Panasonic Centre, trips to the Central Breakwater Reclamation Centre, Koutou Recycling Centre and singing karaoke with our new friends... But the high points of our stay in the Capital were the reception hosted by parliamentary secretary Eisuke Hinode and a trip to Sumidagawa High School. For the reception, we got dressed in traditional Indian clothes and I was asked to give a speech along with other team leaders. The visit to the school, where we interacted first hand with Japanese high school students, was an unforgettable experience.

Next stop: Hiroshima. After an eventful plane journey (when we caught a glimpse of Mt Fuji!) we were amazed to see the way it has developed over the past 50 years, though the scars of the A-bomb still remain. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, a museum trip and an interactive session with a survivor were moving experiences. The home stay with a family was what we enjoyed most, as it gave us the chance to closely study the Japanese way of life.

It was a thrill to move on to Kyoto aboard the ‘Shinkansen’ (Bullet Train). Travelling at “modest” speeds of around 300 kph, we soon arrived at what is considered the centre of Japanese culture. At a Kimono factory, we tried our hand at the ancient Japanese tradition of dying. We also witnessed the famed tea ceremony and visited the serene Kiyomizu Shrine.

Our hearts grew heavy as we set forth for Osaka. The next day, we departed from the imposing Kansai International Airport.

Japan left us with the impression that despite so much development, it had tried to hold on to its culture. Yes, there was a language barrier, but who needed language to interpret the radiance in Ms Kiso’s face as she dished out a traditional Japanese meal' Or to soak in the thrill of the Japanese schoolchildren we met' Or to feel the emotion in the voice of Ms Yamayoka, an A-bomb survivor'

Remarkable people, simple people combined with the glitz of the Panasonic Centre to the serenity of Kyoto, overwhelming highrises to humble homes… The 10-day trip was an eye-opener. Even the teams visiting Japan, despite so many differences, got along so well.

As we said goodbye to Rushna, Maliha, Saira, Mahvesh, Tanzeb, Samera, Raseen and Ruhina, we pledged to go back to see the places we did not find time to visit and meet friends with whom a week had not been enough. It was sayonara for now, but the land of the rising sun beckons again and again… with arms wide open.

 

Picture of passion

The Jadavpur University Photography Club wears a Spartan look. Apart from a couple of age-worn cabinets, the spacious room is strewn with a few tables and chairs. Despite its modest appearance, this club has a passionate past. For over 40 years, the club has allowed innumerable amateur lensmen to fine-tune their art, seeing snapshots come to light in four dark rooms tucked away in each corner.

Students of all faculties are welcome but, somehow, budding engineers rule the roost. The main activity of the club is obviously mastering the art of photography. The members go for two field trips a year and classes are conducted regularly by seniors. It has an impressive collection of books on the subject, which are regularly read and discussed. Professional photographers like Tushar Kanti Dutta, Shubhamoy Mitra, Benu Sen and Bikash Das are associated with the club and they often drop in to interact with members and share their expertise. A photography salon is held every alternate year.

Club members often land assignments, like shooting models’ portfolios, events, marriage ceremonies and even restoration and preservation of old photographs. The university, which supports the shutter-happy students with grants, also commissions them to cover on-campus events like departmental seminars and convocations. Profits are used to upgrade equipment such as cameras, lenses, stands, darkroom machinery and chemicals.

The JU Photography Club has created a niche for itself on the national circuit through salons organised by the Photographers’ Association of Bengal. The club is also organising its own exhibition at the Gaganendra Pradarshashala in April “to kindle the interest of the subject among the youth”. Club members are hoping it will swell their ranks, standing currently at a modest 50.

— Aritro Ganguly,

Jadavpur University

 

Festive flavours

JU’s Faculty of Science Students’ Union went into top gear with its most happening annual event — Sanskriti 2003. The curtains went up on March 10 with a performance by Mantaj, a band of JU students. The Serampore Mime Academy followed. The “violin brothers” Dev Shankar and Jyoti Shankar also took the stage that evening, lending their distinctive beat to the usual musical routines.

March 12 onwards, various inter-college competitions were held, like the Bengali solo competition where Soumyajit Das from St Xavier’s College came first. Antakshari, usually one of the most-wanted events, was lively with hosts DJ Christopher and Mithun. Jaipuria College sang their way to success with a team from the JU engineering faculty close behind.

The second evening saw Kutty, the dancer, on stage with his vibrant moves to Indian folk music and film songs. Anjan Dutt, the next guest artist, had music-lovers asking for more from his soulful voice.

“World Cup 2003 — who is playing' Cricketers or sponsors'” was the topic for the creative writing competition. On March 13, the Hindi solo and duet competitions were the first items of the day, with Soumyajit of St Xavier’s bagging first prize once again. Students of JU and others performed a shrutinatak. Everyone’s favourite event — the choreography — took place at 4.30 pm, which saw Jania Nandi from the geology department leaving the competition far behind.

On public demand, the Violin Brothers were back on the final night. Sanskriti 2003 came to a close with Chandrabindoo on the evening of March 13, keeping 7,000 pairs of legs busy in the packed stadium.

— Anisha Baksi,

Jadavpur University

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