Class of 2014 at Calcutta International School.
Picture by Anindya Shankar Ray
They came dressed in formal trousers, shimmering gowns and high heels, giggled as they remembered the pranks they had pulled off and the laughs and lunchboxes they had shared. Speeches were made, Auld Lang Syne sung and nostalgia given free rein at the formal graduation ceremony of Calcutta International School.
The Class of 2014 walked up to the stage dressed in black overalls and hats as their parents and teachers looked on with pride.
The outgoing batch also got to hear some words of wisdom from author Amit Chaudhuri, the chief guest at the event. “I always feel intimidated when I return to school,” began the author of A Strange and Sublime Address and went on to elaborate on the term “international” and how global Calcutta truly is. “Calcutta came on its own in the 19th century. It is a city shaped by global changes. I am not a true-blue Calcuttan. Since I grew up in Mumbai and came here in 1999, I can look at Calcutta both passionately as well as objectively as an outsider should,” said the author.
Chaudhuri described how Calcutta had been “international” in many ways since a very long time. He described the old houses in Bhowanipore, complete with slatted green windows and kharkhari, red-stone floors and open terrace.
“They are all European features. I have seen such red floors in Brussels and Marrakesh and similar windows in France. Calcutta is not just London, it has evidences of many parts of Europe. Colonialism cannot explain the mix of culture that make up the city. Globalisation is often connected with the economy these days. But being international is different….The Bengali house with French windows and red floors is not quintessentially Bengali but more international,” said Chaudhuri.
He rued that old buildings were disappearing from our city, with no one to protect them, when other places are making efforts to hold onto their heritage. “How can we engage with the space we live in when we are all set to leave? There has to be an engagement for us with our own city if we want to be truly international. I am talking about enriching our perspective about the history of internationalism of our city. Nevertheless I always feel good when I see Calcutta becoming global in new ways,” concluded the author.
The introspection was followed by some light moments as the director of CIS, Satyajit Banerjee, who also taught the outgoing batch chemistry, shared some anecdotes about the class. “I am sorry to bid farewell to this colourful batch… I still remember their sudden visit to my house in Santiniketan. How they whipped up mashed potatoes and barbecue chicken was a very pleasant surprise,” he said, before advising the boys and girls to always keep in touch with their parents and listen to them.
It was time for recognising talent. Sehmat Suri and Pratyush More were honoured as valedictorians while Siddharth Dey and Avishek Ganguli were honoured as salutatorians.
“Our college placements for the graduating batch have been good. One of our students has secured 100 per cent scholarships from the University of California at Davis & Santa Barbara and another has secured a generous scholarship from Carnegie Mellon. Besides that we have admissions from Georgia Institute of Technology, Urbana Champaign, University of California, Los Angeles and San Diego, London School of Economics and other universities,” he said.