The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Notes to share, snaps to take

The quirky, curious and quizzical of Calcutta came into focus last weekend. Through the lens of professional photographers and the guitars of school and college students, the city’s lighter side was explored in a two-part event, Mojaru Kolkata.

Hosted by Prayasam, a Salt Lake-based NGO that works towards the “betterment of the city and its residents, especially children”, a photographic exhibition, coinciding with what some claim is Calcutta’s birthday on August 24, was held at the Asutosh Birth Centenary Hall, Indian Museum. On Saturday, the spotlight found school and college students singing original compositions reflecting their take on the city.

But “the fast-paced life” is fast overshadowing the “wit and culture” the city is known for, according to Amlan Ganguly, project director, Prayasam. The theme was chosen with the primary objective of showcasing the humorous side that sets the city apart. “We wanted to open the eyes of the present generation to see and hear correctly and know the city better,” he added. No less than 250 entries were received, with 75 being short-listed in the first round of elimination and then further cropped to 50 in the final selections.

Well-known photographers S.R. Mondol, Bikash Das and Sibnath Basu judged the entries primarily on the element of joy or humour, beside composition and framing. From Kumartuli to Kudghat, from Burrabazar to Ballygunge, there was something to smile about, everywhere. Inaugurated by ‘everyday people from prominent areas’ — Salauddin Gazi, a constable in Lalbazar, singer Madhuri Debi and Nidhulal Bhattacharjee, a priest of Kalighat — the exposition lived up to its promise of fun.

Dish Cleaning, by Ashok Banerjee, which caught a man cleaning a satellite dish atop a highrise, bagged the first prize of Rs 1,500. The second prize went to Masti, a frame that froze workers celebrating Holi in Burrabazar. Another interesting piece was Baby’s Day Out, with a mother negotiating rush-hour traffic, carrying her toddler piggyback.

The setting, too, was refreshingly different with the photographs mounted on life-size collages tracing the NGO’s work and development. The campaign to better the city by the Prayasam kids from various city schools, as well as children from the Rishi Aurobindo squatters colony over the past few years, formed the backdrop for the pictures.

The music competition saw student bands, for the first time, creating original instruments to sing original compositions. Four bands sang two songs each, one on the city and the other on how child-friendly Calcutta is or is not.

Apart from a guitar, the bands were not allowed to use any traditional instruments, so the four in the fray were armed with cooking utensils, tins, powder cans and other everyday items. From the Calcutta Film Fest to child labour, varied themes made their way on to stage.

El Dorado from Scottish Church came in first; Prateek from Jaipuria College ranked second, with a second team from the same college, Silent Zone, bagging third place.

The only school team, Mirage from Calcutta Boys, also found special mention from judges Rupam and Deep from Fossils and Upal from Chandrabindoo.


Changing course

It is the season of surprises for the 44 new undergraduates in the English department of Jadavpur University. The old curriculum has gone into the shredder and its substitute incorporates current ideas to expand horizons. Bob Dylan rubs shoulders with Shakespeare. Doublet and hose sit snug with acid-washed jeans.

But there is more to it. The change had been contemplated since the time the syllabus-revising committee felt that modern themes, especially those of post-colonial discourse, ought to be brought into the course. The ‘history of literature’ paper (Paper VII) has been done away with and 15-mark segments on literary history inserted into each of the other papers. The new Paper VII is dedicated to American and Post-colonial literature.

While the ‘American’ section puts more stress on nationalistic writings of leaders like Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr, it also gives a choice of classic works by the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James and Arthur Miller. The post-colonial section brings together writers of African, Caribbean and Indian origin. Girish Karnad jostles for space with V.S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie and Chinua Achebe. The ‘Brit Lit’ mould has been broken by a whiff of damp, tropical earth. In comparison, the CU syllabus is yet to cross the English Channel.

Space has also been created in the ‘literary theory’ paper for practical work on editing and writing footnotes. And then there is ‘Para-Literature’, an interesting section including screenplays, pop fiction and song lyrics (from opera to the Beatles).

As the stiff upper lip loosens at JU, the American drawl and Calypso drums can be heard distinctly. Times surely are a-changin’.

— Satadru Ojha

Jadavpur University


Progress report

One month may not sound like long to some, but for the District Interact Council 3290 (DIC) it’s long enough to make a mark. The Council will be completing one month of service on August 28, but it has already plunged headlong into a host of projects.

The desire to bridge the gap between the well-to-do and the children of a lesser god is the Council’s driving force. This was evident from its first day in service when Samrat, a 10-year-old suffering from thalassaemia, was given a chance to display his vocal skills at the installation ceremony. The year formally kicked off on August 4, when the DIC celebrated Friendship Day with the orphans at Ashadeep, the Don Bosco Ashalayam in Hastings. With fun, food and friendship bands, the boys had a marvellous time.

The cause of child literacy was taken up on August 7 with a Bollywood bang. District Interact secretary Rishabh Bapna helped bring Shah Rukh Khan to a show at Netaji Indoor Stadium, where the star gave away stationery to underprivileged kids living with thalassaemia. This project, in association with Don Bosco Park Circus, was a roaring success.

On Independence Day, the DIC organised a food-distribution function for slum-dwellers at Majerhat Bridge. At the initiative of District Interact Representative Iqbal Singh Saini, schools like St Thomas’ Girls and Boys, Don Bosco Park Circus, M.P. Birla, Mahadevi Birla, South Point, Assembly of God Church and Welland Gouldsmith pooled in their efforts.

For “personal development” of its members, a debate and panel discussion was organised in association with Rotary on August 18 at the Children’s Theatre Group. The debate, on “Quality and not quantity is needed to improve the present scenario”, saw schools like South Point, St Thomas’ Boys, Mahadevi Birla and Don Bosco Park Circus participate with vigour.

There were less public initiatives too. Rs 1,000 was donated to the mother of a boy suffering from polio. A poor but promising footballer Zia was given sports shoes, and plastic sheets were distributed among slum-dwellers across the city.

Madhumita Das


A decisive do

Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta will represent eastern India in the finals of the AIMA (All India Management Association)-Infosys Student Management Games (SMG) to be held in Delhi in the last week of September. They will compete with the three other regional champions for the prestigious all-India title.

The four-member team from IIMC emerged winner out of 14 B-schools at the regional championships held at the Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management (EIILM) on August 20 and 21. The team from the country’s oldest B-school, Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management (IISWBM), bagged the second prize, with EIILM being named second runner-up.

Infosys and AIMA launched the SMG in 1997 to impart business and entrepreneurial skills to management students and sharpen their decision-making abilities. Chanakya, a software especially developed by Infosys for SMG, was used to simulate real business scenarios and the participating teams were asked to show their decision-making prowess to maximise gains in a challenging business environment.

3Cleanliness begins in class: To change the perception that menial labour is dirty work, the Interactors of Welland Gouldsmith organised a “Clean Up The School” project on August 17. The Interact members were divided into groups and allotted classrooms to clean up.

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