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Miles biked on mission blood
Goutam and Rupjoy in Kanyakumari. (Top) In Drass sector. ‘You are under enemy observation’ warns a board

Kanpur. Temperature — 42 degrees Celsius. Newspapers here claim that five persons have died of the heat. I have only been baked a golden brown.

June 11, Bhabuwa village, Kaimur, Bihar: Legs aching from some furious pedalling to outrun a gang of dacoits. Thank god the police thought of setting up a station here.

July 19, Kharbu, Drass sector: Caught in heavy artillery fire across the Line of Control. Had it not been for the passing army convoy, the expedition might have met a premature end. Even the snow hut where we had dinner with the armymen has holes from shrapnel and bomb splinters. Soon, I will know how it is to spend a night in a bunker.

Aug 4, Hazratbal zone, Srinagar: Mistaken for a militant. Only some friendly frisking and elaborate metal detecting convinced them otherwise. They were good enough to allow us to spend the night in one of their cabins. This is the softest bed I have slept in, in the past one month.

Oct 31, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh: The police have made us their “chief guest”. My “oriental” looks even prompted them to welcome me to “India”. The embarrassment showed when I told them I was from Calcutta.

There is no shortage of interesting incidents in the log book chronicling the five-month-19 day Calcutta-Kargil-Kanyakumari cycling mission that city slickers Rupjoy Dewan, 23, and Goutam Chatterji, 37, embarked on to spread the message of voluntary blood donation.

“We thought of promoting blood donation because one of my friends suffered when we could not get the matching blood group, even in a metro like Calcutta,” says Goutam. “We wanted people to realise that donating blood should be considered more an obligation than a matter of personal choice.”

Having rats for sleeping partners in Jammu, being invited to a flag-hoisting ceremony in Ganganagar on Independence Day, dining with a businessman in Ahmedabad, sharing a frugal supper with vendors in Rambha… The duo has done it all on its 10,545 km cross-country sabbatical.

Having pedalled and pushed their cycles over the highest and second-highest motorable roads in the world — Tanglang-la (18,051 feet) and Khardung-la (18,380 feet) — and descended into limestone caves in Araku valley, the two are back in the city with memories, photographs and good wishes from friends they made on their way.

“I have read about it in books and seen it on television, but nothing prepared me for the amazing diversity of the country. We met so many interesting people who are, in their own way, contributing towards making tomorrow a better one,” says Rupjoy. “We spoke to schoolchildren and the media, and even delivered public speeches on a couple of occasions to make people aware of their duty to donate blood to save lives.

“When our expedition was flagged off on May 29, we had no idea what the future had in store for us. More than anything, our mission has broadened our outlook, helped us understand the various cultures better and appreciate the little joys of life. And on a more worldly note, all that cycling helped me shed some excess fat and grow fitter,” smiles Rupjoy.

— Sankar Sridhar

 

Alpine adventure

A picturesque setting in the Swiss Alps, a skiing resort, an old-fashioned chalet with a modern touch and an experience of a lifetime. The only requirements for the dream skiing holiday in Switzerland are an enthusiasm for adventure, an appetite for learning and age between eight and 18.

Trailblazers, a Mumbai-based environmental company that conducts adventure and sporting holidays for children, which was launched in Calcutta in July with a trip to a cricket camp Down Under, is back with skiing and snowboarding up north, during the winter vacations.

In town recently was Robert Perris, MD, Viamonde, the Swiss company handling the holiday, to talk to parents, teachers, principals, and students about Chalet Chamossaire, Anzere, in the Valais region, near Geneva.

“The most common question, from both adults and youngsters, anywhere in the world, is food. A primary concern of parents is safety. The children are curious about the kids they’ll meet and what they’ll be doing. And for everyone from warm climates, the cold (it can dip to –20 degrees Celsius) is a big worry,” the 34-year-old Englishman observed. At a price of Rs 1.39 lakh for under-12s and Rs 1.49 lakh for over-12s, clothing, lodging, food, skiing equipment, entertainment, day trips, counsellors and medical aid are covered. The insurance includes treatment after returning home.

“Since a lot of kids have no experience of skiing, we start from scratch, with supervision 24x7, for seven kids per counsellor in a camp of a maximum of 50. Plus, helmets are provided to each child. Last year, with around 2,000 children, we had 15 accidents. The worst was a broken arm,” added Perris.

Apart from about four hours of skiing every morning for two weeks, at the end of which is a slalom race, there are evening activities like indoor games, torchlight walks, ice-skating, sledding, and traditional European Christmas and New Year celebrations. There are trips to a castle and a glacier, a train ride, fun at a water park and visits to a cheese factory and an Olympic museum. For parents tagging along, visiting hours can be arranged outside the camp.

 

Question hour

The zonal finals of the CBSE Heritage India quiz were held at Lakshmipat Singhania Academy on November 19. The quiz, in its third year, was hosted by Savarkar of Quizcraft, Delhi. Six schools made it to the finals. The day started off with three schools, including the hosts, and the round belonged to DAV Model School, Durgapur, which got a place in the next round, to be held in Jaipur. The boys from Ramakrishna Mission School, Deoghar, outdid their opponents in the next section, and will go on to Jaipur.

The fun continued on November 23 with the Alipore school celebrating its eighth founder’s day at Kala Mandir. The chief guest was Bikash Sinha, vice-chancellor, West Bengal University of Technology and director, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics. Principal Anjali Razdan delivered the welcome address, speaking of the school’s achievements over the past year. Students from Classes I to VII presented a dance drama called Khoj.

Nihar Jain,
Class IX, Lakshmipat Singhania Academy

 

Challenge of stage

The Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy organised Ektaa Mail, the centre’s first inter-school festival, on November 18. Around 110 children from 15 city schools took part in this festival, held on the centre’s 29th founder’s day.

A taxi driver refusing to carry a girl in a wheelchair, a guard at a cinema hall denying someone entry… These were just some of the glimpses of Aamader Katha, a play staged depicting the various problems these special students face in our society. It was based on the real life experiences of the actors who were all students of IICP.

— Subhajoy Roy,
Class XII, Mitra Institution

 

Students perform at Patang 2003, a street theatre festival organised by Mahadevi Birla Girls’ Higher Secondary School. Picture by Aranya Sen

Fest fun

The annual fest of M.P. Birla School was held at GD Birla Sabhagar recently. Organised by the Interact Club, the fest had schools like St Thomas’ Girls, St Lawrence, South Point, Apeejay and Don Bosco Park Circus taking part.

Events like Matrix Gaana Masti and Matrix Latak Jhatak (a fashion show) were lined up. The most exciting event of the day was Matrix Sabha, where each school was allotted an Indian political party and the team had to act out a day in Parliament. For instance, Apeejay imitated the CPM, while St Lawrence acted like the Samajwadi Party. On a serious note, the topic chosen for the session was the Babri Masjid conflict.

The fest culminated with performances by a dance group and upcoming singer Samrat. The prize distribution saw South Point come in first, with Lakshmipat Singhania and Apeejay close on its heels. A dance competition and fashion show brought the curtains down on Matrix.

— Asif Salam
Ist year, Asutosh College

 

Word power

Vikramshila Education Resource Society (VERS) and SAAYA (Socially Aware & Active Youth Association) are hosting an inter-school debate on the Common School System (CSS) on November 29 at 6 pm at Birla Academy. School students will have the chance to decide if the implementation of CSS will lead to the solution of social inequalities. A number of city schools have signed up for the event, to be judged by Brendan McCarthaigh and Prashanta Roy. Teams will consist of two members, for and against the motion, and there will be special counselling session for participants. The aim of the programme is sensitisation of students, and even those not participating are welcome. Entries are still open.

Aritro Ganguly

 

Carnival call

St Thomas’ Girls and Boys School (Kidderpore) held a winter carnival at the girls’ school grounds on November 15 and 16. Colourful stalls tempted revellers with everything from books and music, handicraft and jewellery, to games stalls for the young and enthusiastic. The SUPW stall and the Interact Club stall, selling balloons bearing messages, chocolates, roses and jewellery, were swamped with visitors. The proceeds will go towards school projects.

Madhumita Das

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