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A month at Mallory Towers
Aparna (third from left) outside Clough House at St Felix’s with new friends

Aparna Chaudhuri of Class VIII, Calcutta Girls’ High School, spent a month at St Felix’s School in Suffolk, one of Britain’s top-bracket summer schools, as one of the three winners of the ISC Scholarship Scheme 2003. This is the first time that a Calcutta student made the cut for the award instituted by the British Council, in partnership with the Independent Schools Council.

The bustle of Heathrow airport overwhelmed me immediately as I stepped off the plane at 2 o’clock on a Friday afternoon. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that I had chosen, with unerring precision, a trolley that steered obstinately to the left, endangering life and property. However, my cousins managed to rescue me before it did any serious damage and swept me off to their home in Reading, a quiet town full of quaint red-roofed houses, and to my inexperienced eyes, the very quintessence of English life in the suburbs.

Saturday and Sunday passed in a whirl of sightseeing and I wasn’t disappointed as London and Oxford unrolled before my eyes. Apart from my image of British civic sense being completely destroyed on seeing the fountains at Trafalgar Square treated as large shower-baths, I left for Southwold, the seaside town where St Felix’s School was, convinced that Britain wasn’t as unlike storybooks as I had been afraid it would be.

St Felix’s would be a bit of a shock to any not-outrageously-unconventional Indian schoolgirl fed on a diet of Malory Towers and St Clare’s. Though saying I had expected to find people consuming pork-pies in the “dormy” spouting words like “spiffing” and “wizard!” would be demeaning myself too much, I certainly hadn’t predicted the bedroom ear-piercing sessions, the bleeping of mobile phones in maths class, the weekend sunbathing and the flaming orange tresses of my roommate.

But, together with ear-piercing (I forgot to mention navels) and hair the colour of the setting sun, I had found a formful of new friends, who never hesitated to sneak up to my room for a chat after lights out. If I was shocked at my friends’ carting mobile phones around, the same mobiles afforded us countless hilarious prank calls to unsuspecting victims. If my Indian taste buds were sorely tried by the blandness of school food, the deliciously messy dessert-eating race at the restaurant our form-tutor took us out to, was, I quote the amused waitress, “chicken soup for the soul”.

There was a great deal else that kept us busy in the Upper Fourth. The day began with a House meeting, followed by assembly. We had lessons till afternoon — French and Spanish as well as the history, geography, science and maths I had expected — and an hour’s prep in the evening. I enjoyed the creative approach to learning, encouraging us to write book reviews and explore streams to their sources (as a geography lesson!). The library contained some of Tagore’s books, presented by the poet himself on a visit to the school.

The Rounders matches were great fun, and I discovered an unexpected batting talent. I cheered loudly for my friends at the tennis matches and swimming competitions, and let myself be roped into carrying round the tea. On weekends, we went for walks on the Southwold pier, and I insisted on exploring the beautiful 15th century church. St Felix’s itself is set in acres of green playing fields, bordered by a wilderness of gorse and brambles where hedgehogs and rabbits scuttle about.

But above all — and that includes the weekend excursions, the drama lessons, Art Week and making a cartoon strip of Macbeth — I enjoyed the constant companionship of boarding-school life, always being part of a group who wanted me to share in their fun, who didn’t mind if I didn’t tidy my room for three weeks running, who welcomed me into their midst and made me feel at home.

 

Rise in rhythm

The North Calcutta Jaycees organisation staged Oorja-’03, an inter-school song and dance competition, to provide a platform for students to exhibit their musical talents. Held on August 10 at the Vidya Mandir auditorium in front of an 800-odd audience, the categories included solo and duet singing and group dance, and saw the participation of 15 schools who made it to the final round.

The topic was up to the participants to select, who brought some innovative ideas on stage. In the dance category, the fusion performance by Bhowanipur Gujrati Education school mesmerised one and all, winning the first prize, followed by Julien Day and Daulatram Nopany School. The singing competitions were dominated by Julien Day School. After the show, guest performer DJ Akash made the crowd dance to his tunes. The event was organised to recognise young talents, who were honoured at the event.

Nihar Jain,
Class IX, Lakshmipat Singhania Academy

 

Patriotic hues

Education should be all round and not restricted to the privileged only, according to the founder of our school. So, Don Bosco Park Circus runs a free night school, on weekday evenings, for the education of underprivileged children in the locality. The Interact Club of Don Bosco Park Circus has also helped organise innumerable extracurricular activities for these students.

The club held a sit-and-draw contest for over 200 LKG and prep students on August 13. The theme was Independence Day and the event was a roaring success.

Children between four and six participated in the competition with all the stationery provided by the Interact Club. The works of some of these talents were surprisingly good, with one potential M.F. Husain winning the competition. Ironically, this creator of beautiful things shared his name with Saddam Hussein.

Names notwithstanding, the patriotism was praiseworthy. The prizes were handed over by vice-principal Father John. The delighted prize-winners of each class got Faber Castell gifts and stationery, and we left them with a smile on their faces and a ‘nationalist fervour’.

Karan Arya and Ronak Ajmera,
Interact Club, Don Bosco, Park Circus

 

Students of South Point in a walk from Gol Park to the school to raise ecological and environmental awareness on Friday. The Independence Day walk was followed by a pet show. Both programmes were organised by Naturally Ours, the school’s nature club. Students from Sandipan, the South Point free evening school for underprivileged children, attended the programme. The action ended with distribution of prizes among winners of inter-house contests.

Words and ware

Dristi, the La Martiniere sub-chapter of SPICMACAY (Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth) organised their annual festival, Drishtikone (DK), on August 14 and 15. Schools like Modern High, La Martiniere for Boys, Don Bosco Park Circus, Loreto House and South Point took part in the fourth edition of DK at the La Martiniere for Girls auditorium, with the theme being Reflected Dreams.

DK commenced with a debate moderated by Barry O’Brien. The topic was ‘Indians today are non-Indians’. Team Loreto House emerged the winner, while the audience thoroughly appreciated the speech by Gautam Bajoria of South Point. Rhythmic Dreams, the classical music category, clay-modelling and creative writing were also held on Day One. The lead singer of Frank Anthony Public School stole the show, while her team won the top prize in the singing category.

A 16-round quiz on India began Day Two, with some really tough questions. After a nail-biting finish, Don Bosco Park Circus and the hosts emerged winners. Dream the Theme, or Thematic Representation, was up next, where teams presented a skit depicting the Indian state that fell in their lot. Dreams in Motion, the dance competition, was the last event. Modern High swept both categories.

The prize distribution ceremony wrapped up DK 03, where Modern High and La Martiniere for Girls stood out. But the star attractions were the stalls put up by the artisans of West Bengal Crafts Council. Most students were spotted at the potter’s wheel or learning block-printing, wearing organic jewellery or making palm leaf artefacts, besides weaving cotton by spinning on the charka.

Sangeet Shirodkar

 

Question hour

It was brain-racking time with a goal in mind. The St Xavier’s College auditorium buzzed with excitement as ‘whiz kids’ from city schools assembled for an enthralling display of knowledge. The inter-school Xaverian Invitation Quiz was held on August 16, with 15 schools participating in the preliminary round.

The schools selected in the battle of wits included La Martiniere for Boys and Girls, Birla High School for Boys, St James’, Don Bosco Park Circus, Lakshmipat Singhania Academy, Calcutta Boys’ and hosts St Xavier’s Collegiate School. The quizmaster was Soumyadip Bhattacharya, an open quizzer and a BBC Mastermind participant.

After a nerve-racking eight rounds of quizzing, St Xavier’s and Calcutta Boys’ were tied in the first position with Don Bosco coming third. A tie-break followed and eventually, Calcutta Boys’ emerged victorious as the deserving champions of the Alphage Rozario trophy.

Sourya Majumdar,
St Xavier’s Collegiate School

 

Coming up

Enquiry, the Jadavpur University Quiz Club, is organising Qriosity 2003, a quiz competition open to all school and college students, on August 23. It will take place at the JU Indoor Stadium from 12.30 pm.

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