|stationary bus spares star...
||...ride through city’s shame
|Lewis Hamilton on board the CINI Asha mobile school for underprivileged children at St. James’ School on Monday. The British F1 star interacted with the kids with the help of a translator.Picture by Nischay Nathani, Class X, St. James’ School
||Luckily for Hamilton, he was on a stationary bus that didn’t need to go through this 2ft deep chasm on the road opposite the Esplanade tram depot, the result of subsidence triggered by a leaking 75-year-old water pipeline. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton set pulses racing in a city school on Monday afternoon, driving a cause close to his heart before doffing his hat to the “amazing drivers” who steer through congested Calcutta roads “without touching one another”.
The British driver, who landed in town on Sunday within hours of finishing fifth at the Indian Grand Prix, had been the talk of St. James’ School all morning after the vice-principal announced in the assembly that an “eminent personality” was on his way.
Hamilton, in the back seat for a change, arrived in a blue Toyota Innova around 1.15pm to a deafening welcome that would have drowned the grandstand roar at the Buddh International Circuit.
The Mercedes star alighted from his car near the playground and walked straight into a bus parked by the basketball court. He spent 10 minutes aboard the CINI Asha mobile learning centre, interacting with a group of underprivileged children with the help of a translator. “You draw really well, I wish I could read what you have written,” Hamilton later told 16-year-old Rakhi Naskar, a slum dweller from Majerhat.
Rakhi was among the group of children he spent the next 45 minutes with, making himself comfortable in a plastic chair in a corner of the basketball court. Before coming to St. James’, Hamilton had visited a brick kiln in Barasat to meet underprivileged kids.
“A champion like Lewis Hamilton is a role model for our students and I hope his visit inspires the youngsters to engage more with society and help in its development,” Terence Hamilton Ireland, principal of St. James’, said.
The CINI Asha mobile learning centre that houses a library drives into St. James’ School for an hour every Wednesday for a group of senior students to teach the underprivileged children.
While Hamilton was admiring the artwork by underprivileged children, Class XI student Saahil Singhal stood barely 10 feet away, waiting for his chance.
Saahil, a self-proclaimed “car freak”, had come to know of Hamilton’s schedule on Sunday evening through a friend and brought along his thick F1 scrapbook, meticulously put together over the past two years. “I just want Lewis to get a glimpse of my dedication to his sport and give his autograph,” he said.
Half an hour later, Saahil was jumping for joy at mission accomplished.
Cameras went click-click around Hamilton as the teachers and prefects struggled to prevent many other excited fans like Saahil from getting too close to him. “I still can’t believe my eyes he is right in front of me. Whoa!” exclaimed Aman Sharma.
Vying with the boys for Hamilton’s attention was a contingent from La Martiniere for Girls and three students from Modern High School for Girls.
The groups from La Martiniere and Modern High are part of the voluntary teaching programme run by the NGO.
Seated on the floor of the basketball court, the girls would break into giggles and sighs every time Hamilton cast a glance at them.
When Hamilton got back into the Innova to leave, the La Martiniere girls shouted out his name and handed over two blue scarves with the crest of the school embroidered on them. The F1 star signed one of the scarves and handed it back to the students; the other one he took with him as a memento.
“We designed this scarf as part of our 175-year celebrations and are really touched that he signed one and kept the other,” said 17-year-old Anooshka Choudhary .
Hamilton’s car left the south Calcutta campus at 2.15pm.
“It is the energy of the children that I am going to take back with me. It has been an education for me to be here today,” Hamilton, global ambassador for education for Save the Children, said at a news conference later.
And what about memories of a drive down congested and cratered Calcutta roads? “Surely you have some really amazing drivers here. There are just so many cars and yet they all manage to drive without touching one another. I wouldn’t have been able to do that,” he told Metro.