The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Strait way of making waves

Swimming against the tide may be a frightening thought for most, but for Pinakesh Das, the challenge proved irresistible. The “adventure” of crossing the Strait of Gibralter was what lured the 22-year-old to take the plunge in the chilly waters on September 22, 9 am, Spanish time.

Four hours and 55 minutes later, the boy from Chetla hit dry land in Morocco, making him one of a select few from this part of the world to have accomplished this feat. It also put the competitive swimmer on the road to his bigger ambition — crossing the English Channel.

“Many people think that since the distance covered while crossing the Strait is shorter, it is easier. But the conditions are similar to that of the Channel,” explains Pinakesh, who completed his graduation in mathematics at Jadavpur University in 2003 and has just enrolled for his masters. Though the shortest distance from one shore to the other is 15 km, because of the prevailing conditions in one of the “busiest maritime zones in the world”, swimmers have to cover 21 km. Pinakesh set off from Tarifa, an island off the Spanish coast, ending in Punta Cires in Morocco.

“The main problem of the journey is the cold water,” he recalls, returning on Sunday from his trip, for which he had been supported by his university. At around 15 degrees Celsius, the strait is far colder than what he is used to swimming in. Combined with the currents and waves around halfway through, Pinakesh’s practice, largely restricted to the Calcutta Sports Association swimming pool, could have proven quite inadequate. “For every 10 metres you swim, you are pushed eight metres back by the waves,” recalls the boy, who had to increase the fat content in his diet to pad up against the cold of the waters he braved.

Though Pinakesh considers swimming a hobby (as well as painting, though he had to abandon that a few years ago due to mounting pressure), he has devoted much energy to it since he was just five years old. He started representing the state in 1993, ranking in the 50 and 100 m freestyle and 50 m butterfly at the state level and the 400 m nationally the first year, raising his rank in consecutive years to include breaststroke as well.

It was in 2002 that Pinakesh took the long-distance plunge, crossing the Hooghly four times in competitions held between October and December.

With a packed daily schedule starting at 5.30 am in the swimming pool and ending late at night after teaching high school students mathematics and catching up with his own studies, the English Channel challenge is not likely to materialise before he completes his masters degree. But with mentor Masudda (physically challenged swimmer Masudur Rahman Baidya, who has already conquered the Channel), his parents and coach behind him all the way, this young swimmer never loses sight of the shore.


Battle of wits

Fun and funda ruled Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. Between October 10 and 12, the Joka campus saw budding managers slip into the Intaglio gear. It was a war of wits with over 150 participants from 20 premier institutions across the country, including all the IIMs, XLRI Jamshedpur, SP Jain Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, and NITIE, trooping down to IIMC for one of the biggest B-school fests in the country.

Cicero’s Senate, one of the major attractions of the meet, saw a distinguished panel comprising Kuldeep Nayyar, former Rajya Sabha MP and eminent journalist, H.F. Khorakiwala, chairman and MD, Wockhardt Ltd, H. Khusrokhan, MD, Tata Tea and professor Surendra Munshi of IIMC. Expressing their views on the evening’s topic, ‘We are just too big, too diverse, too emotional… we cannot make it’, the speakers highlighted the need for economic growth coupled with welfare. The programme ended with a lively Q&A session that saw students seeking “uncensored” answers from the panel.

And not just hard talk, the meet saw lots of hi-funda events. Shastrarth, a prestigious paper presentation contest received entries in all functional areas of management. From energy security for India in the 21st century to commodity derivatives and their prospects in the country — the future managers presented their views on a spectrum of issues.

Being the hosts, the IIMC team participated in almost all events. From quiz to marketing games — the boys and girls from Joka proved their prowess at the meet, organised in association with The Telegraph and Businessworld. The meet also saw the introduction of a new event — Empires of the Mind — a case analysis contest testing the analytical skills and business acumen of the participants. The honours at this competition went to the team from XLRI.

In between the grilling and gruelling management contests were a whole host of lighter events during the festival. The B-school boys and girls freaked out during the JAM sessions, karaoke singing, dumb charades and the popular dance competition.

Game for a good cause

We, the Interactors from Don Bosco Park Circus, were having a great time this Puja, enjoying pandal-hopping and dandiyas. But when we heard the crew from the film Khel was coming to Calcutta on October 2, we had an idea…

The actors, we came to know, were going to attend a dandiya on Park Street. So why not use the opportunity to take some children from Don Bosco Ashadeep to meet them there, we thought.

So, 17 orphans of Ashadeep trooped off to see a few pandals, before heading for the dandiya. But huge crowds had gathered there to see Ajay Jadeja, Celina Jaitley and Sunil Shetty, and the meeting was not to anyone’s satisfaction. When Sunil Shetty heard of the disappointment, thanks to his local coordinator, he invited the kids back to the Hyatt, where he was staying, to meet him there instead.

It was almost midnight when we reached the hotel with the children. Sunil Shetty chatted with them for around 15 minutes, asking them about their lives, while the kids shot off question after question to their hero. How he fought so well and how he maintained his muscles were their main concerns.

— Navneet Tibrewal & Siddhartha Saraogi,

Interactors, Don Bosco, Park Circus

Back on stage

Theatrecian is taking the stage again. The theatre group, mainly comprising faces from city colleges, is staging Zoo Story at Gyan Manch on October 30. The Edward Albee one-act play is being staged for the first time in the city, and will feature Debarshi Barat, a student of NUJS, and Tathagata Choudhury. It is directed by Tanushree Das.

The young group has another play lined up this winter, titled U. Written by Tathagata, one of the founders of the group, the script is meant to be a reflection on the world, and the people “gradually becoming machines”. It is scheduled to hit the stage on January 2. A screening of the company’s maiden film venture Hi Mom! is also being planned, supported by Spandan.


Figure it out

After the “overwhelming response” to the first Vedic maths workshop during the summer holidays, Padatik Dance Centre has decided it’s time for another. The chance to learn the method that promises to solve all mathematical problems by simplifying the process and cracking the complicated codes is up for grabs once again in November.

The tutor this time is Kenneth Williams, a schoolteacher from the UK, who has written numerous books on the subject and has lectured at conferences and university seminars in Oxford and Cambridge to Sweden and the Netherlands. Next month, he will be revealing the essence of numbers and ways to play with them by doing calculations in different ways for the first time in the city.

Although Vedic maths originated in India, after its popularisation in the 1960s the subject was besieged by controversy. It is taught in countries like the UK and Singapore. However, it has started gaining significant support in India recently, with efforts to spread the word of its simplicity and logic in working with numbers, using ways other than ‘long’ multiplication and ‘long’ division to come up with quick answers to complex puzzles.

The course is open to all. Contact 22476087/22404426/22813189

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