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Tipu land to leopard lair
The youth team takes a breather during the journey

The Karnataka State Award Authority of the International Award for Young People, India, organised the first Domestic Youth Exchange in India from May 28 to July 1 in Bangalore. The Calcutta team included Rishav Ganguly, Vikram Lakhotia, Harsh Sharma and Ayan Bose from La Martiniere and Abhijeet De Sarkar, Parthito Chatterjee and Sangeet Shirodkar from Apeejay School, accompanied by Partho Banerjee, award leader, IAYP. Sangeet, a student of Class XI, writes about the trip.

A close encounter with an aggrieved leopard, a restless night trying to sleep atop graves. It was an amusing night trek with no tensions, really!

Exciting it had to be. But our first destination was of a more urban nature. The fun started on May 25, when the East Zone Team boarded the Chennai Mail. Followed by a day frolicking on Chennai’s Marina Beach before leaving for Bangalore, which we reached early on May 28. Madhu Shukla, the state coordinator of IAYP, received us at the station, where we were introduced to our respective hosts aged between 14 and 17. This being a domestic youth exchange programme, we were to stay at our host’s home as a part of their family. Our hosts were all from the Sri Kumaran’s Children Home, Bangalore.

Mine was a Class X student named Pramod Bhargav. He was something of a star in Bangalore, having acted in a Kannada film, besides hosting a show for ETV Kannada. On the way home, we spotted the Vidhan Sabha, Lalbagh and the Chidambaram Stadium. We had the chance to interact with Deepa Shridar, principal of Sri Kumaran’s, and were joined by the boys from Jamshedpur, the other representatives from the east.

A day’s visit to Mysore was scheduled for the first day of the programme. The palaces of Tipu Sultan, his death site, the mesmerising Vrindavan Gardens — much diminished in glory with the Cauvery crisis — were all packed in.

On May 29, we went to the Malvi Tiffin Room — or MTR — factory. One of the leading brands in Karnataka, MTR makes readymade food products, from sweets to ice cream, spices to pre-cooked dishes. The visit to the cool ice cream factory was followed by a delicious lunch. The Bangalore evenings were spent hanging around Commercial Street and Brigade Road. The next day a trip to the British Trade Centre was on the cards, where the officials delivered a presentation on how the British Trade Centre, embassies and councils work in India.

May 31 was No Tobacco Day. We visited Manipal Hospital and were shown how various departments are run, how tests like CT scan are done, how blood samples are taken and read. A session with doctors was organised especially for those who aspired to join the profession. A session on the ills of tobacco was included as well.

In the evening, we were to get down to IAYP business—trekking — the best part. The local chapter had organised an innovative night trek for us. This was new to us, and more difficult, but all the more fun. We were to trek up Antargange, about 70 km north of Bangalore.

We reached the gold mine district of Kolar at about 9.15 pm, where we started the trek to the foothills of Antargange. On reaching the foothills at about 10.30, we took a break for dinner.

A few minutes after we resumed, we had to pause to catch our breath. A bombshell winded us. Local villagers warned us that two wild leopards had been roaming about in the hills, and the male had just died leaving the female ferociously guarding her four newborns. We were scared. Vasant and Bhaskar, our trekking instructors, decided to carry on the quest. We set off again, our hearts full of fear, some of us cracking jokes to break the tension. We reached the peak at about 1.30 am, tired after the eight km uphill hike, only to be greeted by a ghastly sight.

Soon, we realised that we were about to become the guests of the ghosts at Antargange graveyard. We helped the instructors pitch our tents, finally calling it a night at 2.30 am.

The next day, we were up at 5 in the freezing morning, praying for a day free of leopards and graves. Our trek down was to include stops at the caves that dot the hills. The narrow cobweb-infested caves were to prove far more challenging than we expected. Then, as we were rather late for our return journey that day, we took a short cut, which lived up to its name. By the time we made it down, we were all cut up by the thorns.

At 9.15 am, we concluded the expedition, in time to catch the bus to Bangalore. We met our respective hosts, thanking them for the wonderful hospitality. We assembled at Sri Kumaran’s School, before making our way to Yashwantpur station, the scene of a teary farewell.

Now, back to the Calcutta heat — sans leopards, except for those in the zoo — we await the arrival of our friends from Bangalore four months from now, for a Puja visit that is part of the bilateral exchange programme.

Children from SOS Village make merry at Nicco Park on the occasion of the second anniversary of Bowler’s Den, the restaurant at the park beside the bowling alley. They also took part in musical programmes. Picture by Aranya Sen

Plastic punch

“Plastic bags dur hatao” was the cry reverberating in the air from dawn to afternoon on June 5, World Environment Day. But we, the members of PUBLIC, went beyond mere vocal slogans.

Several students from the nature clubs of schools like La Martiniere for Boys, La Martiniere for Girls, Ashok Hall, Modern High and Don Bosco Park Circus participated in the campaign against the use of polythene bags, organised by PUBLIC (founded by green activist Bonani Kakkar).

Carrying vibrant placards made by the students — with “No-Entry for plastic” and “Say No to Plastic” signs dominant — we actually interacted with people at the Dhakuria Lake and Victoria Memorial, warning them about the harmful effects of plastic. We also informed them that plastic bags have been prohibited by the government in certain places and using them after June 15 would make one liable for a fine at these sites.

There were those who co-operated and those who didn’t, clutching on to their plastic bags as if they were the most valuable things on earth! But our plan was foolproof, as we offered to replace their plastic bags with robust jute bags.

The campaign under the scorching sun had its lighter moments, too, like a middle-aged lady crying out: “Take away my plastic bag if you want to, but for God’s sake don’t call me Aunty!”

It was a worthwhile day for us young activists, for with PUBLIC we were able to create quite a stir, if not raise a revolution, among the public. And we sincerely hope that the plastic bag soon becomes an antique object in Calcutta, and, maybe, finds a place in the Indian Museum!

— Inam Hussain Mullick,

Class XII, Don Bosco Park Circus

 

Smoked out

The Rotary Club of Belur, in association with the Interact Club of Mahadevi Birla Girls and the Social Service Club of Birla High (Girls), observed a deferred No Tobacco Day on the grounds of Victoria Memorial on June 1. We conducted a random survey to find out how many people actually know about the ills of smoking and how many continue tobacco consumption despite knowing it all. The three main reasons for the survey were to make people aware of the ill effects of tobacco consumption, inspire young people not to get used to chewing or inhaling tobacco products and to make the best possible efforts to convince smokers to quit.

This year’s No Tobacco Day theme was smoking in movies and its impact on viewers. Our survey revealed how an overwhelming majority feels that films inspire the young to take up smoking as a fad, following in the footsteps of their screen favourites.

The survey broadly revealed the following — 40 per cent of the interviewed consume tobacco, out of which 80 per cent know about its harmful effects; a whopping 90 per cent feels that movies inspire teenagers to turn to tobacco; a good 90 per cent feels that the government has taken inadequate measures to curb its consumption.

Most people quizzed were also of the view that the only way to get smokers to quit would be to impose a ban, with a stiff penalty. An important point that emerged was that smokers were willing to quit if “less pernicious” alternatives were provided. The surveyors also distributed pamphlets among joggers highlighting the ill effects of tobacco, ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) and a few important facts and statistics which people are not commonly aware of.

— Ankita Rathi,

President, Interact Club,

Mahadevi Birla Girls Higher Secondary School

 

Yoga day

Far from the limelight of a big city, a yoga meet was held at the Rabindramancha, in Bhadreshwar, on June 1.

The contest — held six times at the state level and thrice at the Eastern India level — had been founded by Byamacharya Vishnucharan Ghosh, a pioneering figure of yoga in Bengal. The contest got underway sharp at 10, with participants from Bengal, Bihar and Jharkand, under the aegis of Oriental Yoga Gym and the guidance of Debdutta Biswas, who has won the national championship thrice and Sanjukta Biswas, his wife, also a yoga expert.

There were 10 groups (five for girls and five for boys): 5-10 years, 10-15 years, 15-22 years, 22-35 years, 35 years and above. There was a lunch break at 2 pm and the contest resumed again at 3 pm, to continue till 8 pm. Among the youngsters, Shanujit Sikdar was crowned The Talent Bird, while Shusanta Pal, resident of North 24-Parganas, emerged The Yoga Talent of the Year.

Priyanka Neogi

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