The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Budgets burgeon and hit the stars for student events

The mantra is ‘mega’, for work and play. But for the far-from-dull Jacks and Jills of Interact, big time has never meant big budgets. Not till now.

Today, the emcees are VJs Yudi and Shruti. The guest performer is KK. The set design has been aided by the man who dresses up Asha Bhonsle concerts. Trophies in bronze have been cast by the man behind the BusinessWorld awards for the top corporates in the country. Eight video walls, one giant screen. Tote bags with gift vouchers, giveaways from the top labels in street fashion... All at a price inching close to the seven-figure mark. The District Interact Council Conference, Manzil, to be held on June 20 and 21, has broken all records in the city fest genre. With budgets of most fests hovering around Rs 1-3 lakh, Manzil is set to rewrite the rules. Organised by members of Interact clubs in Classes XI and XII, and some who have just cleared the final exams, this is student event management on an unprecedented scale.

“It is really something for students to be organising something at this level,” feels Amrita Mukherjee of Don Bosco, one of the teacher coordinators of the school Interact club. “The kids learn how to work together, which is, today, one of the most important skills a student needs to pick up.” But Mukherjee believes that the budget could be trimmed a little, so the funds could be put to better use. “There is a middle path. They could have their fun and still cut down on expenses.”

Not that Interacting is just one big party — there is a cause behind it all. The District Interact Council has “20 active schools”, including Don Bosco, La Martiniere, St Thomas’ and Mahadevi Birla, whose main work is organising social service projects. The conference is the annual presentation of the work done by each club, followed by the award ceremonies for the best performing chapters and members.

“Over the year, each club was asked to adopt an NGO, so their work would have a focus and results would be more tangible,” explains Rishabh Bapna, district secretary. Ashalayam and Ashadipti will be presented with a fridge, music system and TV at the Kala Mandir conference. Projects have included footing a year’s school fees for two under-privileged schoolchildren — Rupa Mandal and Praveen Kaur — and one man’s chemotherapy cost. Even some service events have gone glam, with members organising meetings for “less fortunate” kids with stars as bright and big as Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar.

But fun fests — like La Martiniere’s Karma Yatra and Mahadevi Birla’s Zenith — have become the showpiece. “It’s a matter of prestige… It has to be a gala affair,” explains Ankita Rathi, 15, president of the Mahadevi Birla club. The big-budget trend is here to stay, with more meaning more when it comes to food, décor and lights. The money is raised in cash and kind through sponsors. For Manzil, the 1,100 delegates are to pay Rs 200 each as well.

Some students have expressed reservations about the amount spent on a two-day event, but the consensus has tipped the scales in favour of the budget blowout. “Parents usually do not complain about the costs, though in the past one or two have complained about late nights,” says Mukherjee. “But we make sure students have their parents’ full permission before joining the club.”

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