The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Countdown to a dramatic date

Massacre game. By Eugene Ionesco. It’s a good play, this one is, lots of dialogues, I told my father, who insists on knowing the story of every play I do before hand. This play, I explained, has no definite beginning, middle or end. A town mysteriously caught in the midst of an epidemic without apparent cause, where people start dying suddenly. It’s about violence ‘interiorised’ and solidified, in and around us, from and within the mob.

A freeze frame of one of the early days of rehearsal… A motley crew of 17, ranging from the wary first-year undergraduates to the cocky postgraduates and even a faculty member. The play-reading sessions went on for a week or two. If you spy a girl in the corner looking self-content, that’s Oona. She did the lights. In front of Oona, with a book of French language learning is Aniruddha. He was to push a baby pram and learn to knit along with me in the opening scene. And in the three days of the show he had variations of an Hercule Poirot moustache, while I had Elvis sideburns.

Sitting clustered on one side is the first-year batch — Shunashir, Aritra and Samimitra. See the toothy grin Samimitra has — it was there even when he was playing a murdering policeman. And Aritra got to play an undertaker in a scene where he carries Sunaina, playing a septuagenarian, who dies lovingly in the arms of her octogenarian husband, played by Bibek.

Roles given – 60 or so among 17 people; and our director, Ananda Lal, does a fairly equable distribution. And warns us to get the speeches memorised by the weekend. Three to five, five days a week, we had a date with Ionesco.

Another two frames of the rehearsal in progress… The first one is the two long monologues by Sonali and Surjo. Sonali is belting it out like a true-blue politician; Surjo, gasping for breath, has just finished his speech, with booming voice and incessant stamping. The scene with the mother, daughter and extremely nervous housemaid is just over. Trina doesn’t like this scene much; Raashi, as her daughter, has just had a headache, a body ache and a throat ache for the scene, all in one go. Amrita, after hyperventilating as the nervous maid, now goes back to her friends Arati (with a sprained ankle till the day of the play), Bidisha, Ananya and Sudeshna to submerge in a secretive discussion. And then there is Debjani with her backstage crew of Mou, Sritama (senior) and Aparajita busily readying the prop list. (Incidentally, Debjani fractured her fingers three days before the show). And there is Tintinda (Abhijit Gupta) — our beloved faculty member and co-actor. Here he is showing us how to die in slow motion so that we do not end up hurting ourselves.

Cut to the last week before the show — the director is now this close to bursting a blood vessel. “ Lines, Lines, lines...” he bellows. Dress rehearsal days — Sritama (junior) looks worried. Her nurse’s coat looks suspiciously like something one would wear to the disco.

Final day, first show on in half an hour. The makeup crew, Purbita, Ritu and Misha, get their foundation out, all ready to cake people. We do the customary ‘break–a-leg’. And then we wait for the music cue to start. Let the play begin! Three shows like that and now the first round is done. The snapshots of the play linger— of crumpled costumes and acrid smells, of animated actors and our director’s vision. The faces joyous, oblivious, loving, hunting, hating, dying; of the first uttered word, and the last heaved sigh; of missed cues and broken lines; of dust on stage and the irrepressible joy of theatre in college.

— Prithviraj Choudhury, Jadavpur University


Kids for a cause

On November 30, Swayam held a music concert, Jhankar — Breaking Silence Surrounding Violence at G.D. Birla Sabhaghar. School bands performed original compositions on the theme of violence against women. Bands from Calcutta International School, Calcutta Girls’, Birla High for Boys, La Martiniere for Girls, St James, Apeejay and St Xavier’s participated. The evening was rounded off with a special performance from Definitely Maybe, a group of students from St Xavier’s College and St James’, belting out the likes of Imagine and Two Steps Behind You. The money raised from the event will go to a school in Gujarat promoting communal harmony.

The Youth Action Forum concluded with Sankalp, a rally on wheels from Shahid Minar on December 8, at 9.30 am. Enthusiastic participants of 10 schools took up the challenge to fight violence against women, spread awareness and sensitise people towards the issue. La Martiniere for Girls, Loreto Day School, Sealdah, Baptist Girls’, Our Lady Queen of the Missions, G.D. Birla, Calcutta International School, Apeejay, St James, Birla High for Boys and St Xavier’s were each given a Matador that they decorated to depict issues like child marriage, domestic violence, rape, child sexual abuse, female foeticide, trafficking and prostitution. We all took a pledge -- in English, Bengali and Hindi -- never to commit or support any form of violence towards women or girls.

— Sreyashi Ghosh,

co-ordinator, Swayam Youth Action Programme


Return fest

The Interact Club of St Thomas’ Boys School held its annual fest, Melange, at G.D. Birla Sabhagar on December 8, after a gap of four years. “It’s back with style” was the theme. Most of the city’s leading schools participated. Music, dance fashion and fun flowed, with St Thomas and Mahadevi Birla Girls bagging most of the awards. Guest band Spikes was on hand to rock the auditorium and bring the audience to its feet. The last round of applause was reserved for the coronation of Tushar Malkani and Preety Saini as Mr Melange and Miss Melange.

— Amit Chugh,

St Thomas Boys School, Kidderpore.


Child’s play

National Service Scheme (NSS) of St Xavier’s College had organised Shishu Mela, a daylong recreational fair for under privileged children on December 8. The programme was inaugurated by Rajendra Singh, secretary of the college alumni, followed by a brief inaugural speech by Prof. Abul Kalam Khan, director of our social work department. The occasion was graced by the presence of Fr. Becker, the founder of NSS in Xaviers.

About 450 children turned up with NGOs like Titli, Cini Asha, IPER, Prabartak Sangha, Paribariki and New Light. The first half saw sit-and-draw, sack race, flat race, marble-and-spoon race for girls and other sporting events. The second half had cultural programmes by kids, followed by the prize distribution and the vote of thanks by NSS president Santosh Jaiswal. Special thanks go out to NSS executives Mukul Agarwal and Pawan Dalmia.

— Raution Jaiswal, B.Com, St Xavier’s College


Biz talk

Friday the 13th was Perspective time for the MBA (day) students of the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management (IISWBM). The highlight of the meet organised by the 1st year students in the Institute’s auditorium was a panel discussion. “The Services Sector – Will it lead India towards an Economic Boom'” was the topic. The speakers included Ujjal Ghatak of Tractors India Ltd, Subhashis Ghosh, Om Kotak Mahindra and Sanjiv Nabangul of Aventis Pharma. The moderator was Pradeep Gooptu, resident editor, Business Standard.

The speakers explained the many challenges faced by the Indian manufacturing sector due to increased globalisation and the severe restructuring this sector has had to undergo in the face of the slowdown. They were unanimous in the opinion that the companies in the service sector essentially bank on selling their ‘trust’ and once that is lost, it is almost impossible to stage a comeback (think, Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Andersen…). The panelists called for “visible punishments” and strict regulations against all frauds so that companies cannot play with the stakeholders’ sentiments.

— Prithwiraj Banerjee,

1st year, MBA, IISWBM


Cultural mosaic

Students of the primary section of Ashok Hall Girls’ Higher Secondary School are putting up a two-day exposition at their Palm Avenue campus to portray the evolution of India’s diverse culture. ‘An Indian Tapestry’, scheduled for December 17 and 18, is a “mosaic of the country’s varied strains in architecture, music, dance, cuisine, festivals, handicrafts and language and literature”.

A short multimedia presentation prepared by the kids will orient visitors to the theme of the pageant. While Class V concentrates on architecture, tracing the elements from Harappa to the Buddhist school down to Muslim forms and European influences, Class IV delineates the evolution of language and literature. Students of Class III depict handicrafts and textiles from different parts of India in a riot of colours, while Classes II and I do festivals and food. The girls of Lower and Upper Infant will perform a song-and-dance sequence in different folk forms.


Winter ahoy

If kids are getting bored at home, a winter camp at Lake Gardens provides an escape route. Organised by BVM Montessori, the seven-day camp for the two-to-10 age group incorporates both indoor and outdoor activities. The first day, December 21, has a visit to the zoo lined up while the last day has a picnic to the school’s farm at Baguiati. On Christmas Eve, the kids will bring cheer to an old-age home. Between snacks and lunch on the other days, there will be a lot to do — card-making to western dance, gift-wrapping to flower arrangement... And for cartoon freaks, there will be video shows on Christmas Day.

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