|Ananya Ghosh receives a certificate for The Surrendra Paul Memorial Award for Courage on behalf of her daughter Samridhi Roy; (above) Barun Biswas’s family receive The Dr Mrs NB O’Brien Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award, given posthumously to the brave teacher. Pictures by Rashbehari Das
Calcutta, Aug. 31: The story of teenager Samridhi Roy’s fight against deadly disease stunned the Science City auditorium into silence. That of schoolteacher Barun Biswas’s war on rape brought a standing ovation.
Samridhi had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in January last year, the audience at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence 2013 heard.
She underwent four cycles of chemotherapy, missing six months of school. It didn’t stop her from taking her ICSE exam in February this year and scoring 92.4 per cent.
On August 11, Samridhi lost her battle with the disease in Delhi.
“When she heard about this award in Delhi, she had said, ‘I’m sad that you can’t be there to receive the certificate’. I want to tell her ‘I’m here on the stage taking the award for you. I love you’,” said Samridhi’s mother Ananya Ghosh while collecting The Surrendra Paul Memorial Award for Courage.
As the mother fought back her tears, a hush fell on the audience at the awards, presented by Peerless Developers in association with Parle and powered by Adamas International School.
Spontaneous applause greeted the family of Biswas, a 39-year-old murdered in July last year for helping put behind bars four rapists who had been terrorising the North 24-Parganas village of Sutia.
Today, Biswas, who had formed the Sutia Ganadharshan Pratibadi Mancha a decade ago to resist rapists, has become a byword for bravery.
“I am the hapless father of a son who died too soon. But I want to say that if we are lucky and a Barun Biswas is born in every household, we will be able to abolish injustice from this country,” sobbed 75-year-old Jagadish Chandra Biswas as he accepted The Dr Mrs N.B. O’Brien Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award.
In keeping with this year’s theme of “performing arts”, the awards ceremony kicked off with a rendition of Raybeshe, a martial dance from Purulia showcasing a series of intrepid moves.
The event saluted the “VVIPs in uniform” — school students who have excelled in various fields, from sports to studies, especially those who have displayed courage in the face of challenges, economic or physical.
“Everybody involved in what we call the mini-movement, which is causing mini-ripples in some people’s hearts, is grateful to all those who have touched our lives and inspired and motivated us,” said Barry O’Brien, the convener of the annual awards organised by The Telegraph Education Foundation.
The tales of grit, however, weren’t the sole province of the young who received the awards.
Manjusri Banerjee, 68, who had taken up sports after retirement and represented India in the Veteran Olympics, gave away scholarships. Among the recipients was Subhadra Bhowmick, a Bagnan College student who writes and paints with her feet.
Sabita Das had instilled the winning spirit in her daughters Tusi, an egg seller who scaled Mt Everest, and Suparna, a black belt in karate. Sabita handed over The Surrendra Paul Memorial Award for Courage to champions like Sneha Ghosh and Md Azhar Khan.
Sneha of Grace Ling Liang School is a thalassaemia patient who “doesn’t believe in using her health as an excuse for not educating herself”. Azhar, a Class XII student at St Joseph’s College, Bowbazar, does odd jobs to fund his education and feed his family.
And then there was Rasina Bewa, a 60-year-old wedding singer from Murshidabad who battled religious fundamentalism to take the traditional Muslim art form beyond the village and use it to educate and empower women. For this, she was inducted into The Telegraph Hall of Fame. (See Metro)
“I feel proud to be among so many people who have so many extraordinary stories. I am honoured that I could be part of a programme that recognises people from all backgrounds,” Rasina said.
Sukanta Chaudhuri, chairman of the Foundation, said: “There are two aims for The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence. One is to reward and support achievement wherever we find it. That is one part. The difficult part is to ensure the possibility of achievement among those who, for events that are by no means their fault, find themselves in a position where it is difficult for them to achieve even a fraction of their potential. It is the mission of The Telegraph Education Foundation to do whatever little we can to just help a few to achieve what they are capable of achieving.”
The Telegraph School of the Year award, given to institutions that have excelled in all spheres, had joint winners this time: La Martiniere for Girls and MC Kejriwal Vidyapeeth.