|A student ziplines at Mahadevi Birla school.
Picture by Sanat Kr Sinha
Muskaan Banthia’s heart skipped a few beats when she glided 50ft down a thin wire from the fifth-floor terrace of her school building.
She was one of the 600-odd students of classes IX and X at Mahadevi Birla World Academy who experienced the thrill of ziplining and rappelling. The school offered these adventure sports as part of its life skills training programme for the students.
“Adventure sport teaches survival skills. It teaches a person to overcome fear, negotiate and not give up. Instead, one tries to find ways to come out of a crisis,” said Chhanda Gayen, the second civilian woman from Bengal to scale Mount Everest.
Mountaineers and adventure sports experts feel that such activities should be part of the curriculum.
The students accepted the challenge when the school came up with the zipline idea and brought in Himalayan Trailways for the logistics. The enthusiasm, evident from the growing enrolment for the course — 60 to 600 as the programme progressed — forced the organisers to extend the two-day event by a day.
The open-to-all session proved a hit and cheaper too.
“Normally, an adventure sports company is hired and it conducts such sessions away from the city. Students have to go out of station for three or four days. But these excursions are expensive and not all students can afford them. I didn’t want to restrict it to a select few. When organised in the school, the cost came down too,” said Anjana Saha, the principal of Mahadevi Birla.
The school will organise such sessions for the students of classes XI and XII, too.
The programme on the school premises helped students shed their fear of heights as they queued up for their turn to swoosh down a zipline or learn to rappel down a wall.
Muskaan had seen how it was done while on a vacation in Ooty two years ago but didn’t dare to try it out. In school, when she saw her friends rappel down the five-storey school wall, she was at ease.
“The height was daunting but I felt confident afterwards. In school, it seemed much safer and we were given instructions of the safety measures such as the maximum weight the harness could carry,” the Class X student said.
“The toughest moments were those few seconds when you have to let go both hands from the ropes and trust the instructor’s remarks…that the harness can hold your weight.”
Ayushi Shah, another Class X student, had a taste of rappelling in school before a three-day camp in Panchlingeswar as part of the International Award for Young People. “Unlike the straight wall in school, the one at the Panchlingeswar camp was rugged. I wasn’t afraid of heights having done it once,” she said.
Mountaineer Gayen said artificial walls take away the pleasure and, hence, such activities should be conducted “on the field”. “There’s no harm though if a school is doing it on its premises. This will help build interest in areas otherwise neglected or ignored,” she said.