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Since 1st March, 1999
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Seven-hour run of airwaves

Vande Mataram. Akashvani Kolkata. Shuru holo Kolkata Ko o Kho er prothom odhibeshan ebong FM Gold prochar toronger aajker odhibeshan…

Words that ring in All India Radio’s daily transmission at 6 o’clock sharp in the morning. But on Sunday, the announcement was made by 13-year-old Sanchari Pal. And not just that. The programmes that rolled on — Shubhashito, Chashi Bhaider Bolchhi, Pratyahiki, Sangeetanjali, Deshbandana… — had children in the driver’s seat. For Sunday was International Children’s Day of Broadcasting.

“This is a special day, conceived and partially funded by the Unicef, on which we let children take over. For seven-and-a-half hours, they do everything from compering shows, taking interviews and even handling console operations like fade in and fade out between programmes,” said Sriparna Acharya, programme executive, children’s section.

So the ground floor of Akashvani Bhavan, housing the studios, were full of little legs running up and down the corridors. “This is like an annual festival for us,” smiled transmission executive Jayita Verma Sarkar, seeing the tots and teens hurry by.

Though most were auditioned junior artistes of AIR, for some it was a novel experience. “On the first day, a kid had marched into a studio during a recording,” laughed Acharya.

While most of the programmes were aired live, some were recorded earlier. The interview with 22 children from red light areas or rescued from trafficking, for instance. “Since this was a sensitive proposition, we recorded it on Friday so that we had the scope to censor in case something went amiss,” Acharya explained. The four interviewers — Urbi, Jayeeta, Mahima and Dipendu — were briefed on trafficking and allowed to spend some time with the children, who had been brought over to the studio by the NGO Sambed. “This way they could become comfortable with each other and open up during the programme.” While the experiences varied, some having been lured by food while others were sold off, the voice of self-confidence came as a chorus.

The day’s Pratyahiki, conducted by Swarnendu and Moumita, too, threw up cute moments. The theme, Jodi Hotam Superman, brought out the dreams of the little letter-writers. Some wanted to touch the stars, some would smash the skyscrapers into a huge playground while the more practical ones sought to use their super powers to get full marks in school exams.

Among the programmes that went live on air were a couple of interviews. “Once the programme started, my nervousness vanished. But his hand was ice-cold,” 10-year-old Semanti teased her co-anchor Subhojit. The questions to “pishimoni” (singer Nirmala Mishra) were fired thick and fast — what is your favourite dish, do you remember your childhood friends, who is your favourite cricketer... The two even handled the phone-ins, from callers as far away as Midnapore and Murshidabad.

The confident cruise was the result of days of rehearsals. “We have been waking up so early to reach here,” said Aaheli, a GD Birla School student. Dipendu, a veteran with the microphone since age six, brushed aside the preparation factor, though. Having recorded an interview with streetchildren earlier and with hours to go to don the compere’s mantle in Golpodadur Ashor, he was busy cheering his friends.

In the meantime, Mahima had taken over from announcer Joyeeta in Studio 3. In the hotseat was ace swimmer Bula Chowdhury. As the queen of the high seas recounted how a giant sunfish had closed in on her, threatening her Catalina Channel conquest dream, a whisper from AIR staffer Suchismita Gupta alerted Mahima. The 14-year-old deftly rounded off the account at the next pause and switched on the tapes for the advertisement jingle. “More from Bulamashi after the break. Stay with us...”

Sudeshna Banerjee


Words on action

The Interact Club of Apeejay School held its annual installation ceremony and partners-in-service meet on December 9 at its Salt Lake branch. The programme began with a panel discussion on ‘Vision Calcutta — Blue Print for the Future’. Journalist Utpal Chatterjee was the moderator. The panelists included municipal commissioner Debashis Som, Barry O’Brien, Ashok Bhattacharya, controller of West Bengal legal metrology department, journalist Sumit Das Gupta and tabla player Bikram Ghosh.

The discussion began with a short talk on the city. O’Brien set the ball rolling with snippets on Calcutta. He also suggested that teachers from English-medium schools visit Bengali-medium institutions to teach English.

The municipal commissioner, while complementing interact clubs’ efforts in making the city a better place, invited other schools to join hands in auditing all services provided by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. Bikram Ghosh spoke about the culture and heritage of the city.

An interactive session followed, with the audience, comprising students from various interact clubs and schools, parents, teachers and concerned citizens, grilling the panelists on the basic infrastructure in Calcutta.

Most present believed in the need for a better future, keeping in mind the city’s past. The consensus was — we all need to act as responsible citizens, and to perform our civic duties. After all, everyone can make a difference in his/her own capacity.

Next, the fifth executive board of Apeejay’s interact club was installed. A slide presentation on ‘Children of Conflict’ by theatre personality Parnab Mukherjee followed, explaining the role of interact clubs in working towards improving Calcutta.

— Sangeet Shirodkar,
Interact Club of Apeejay School


Carnival time

Celebrating the beatification of Mother Teresa, Oxford Bookstore had organised a Christmas Kids Carnival, on the Apeejay House lawns, for about 100 children from Shanti Dan, Nirmal Hriday and mainstream schools. An atmosphere of fun pervaded the greens, decorated with balloons, streamers and a giant Christmas tree.

The carnival was inaugurated by actress June Maliah and tabla player Bikram Ghosh, who also spent time with the youngsters. To add to the festivities, a magic show had been organised, followed by dance and singing competitions, game shows and other activities. Red FM played foot-tapping songs for the kids, and distributed memorabilia and goodies among them.

June Maliah distributed lunch boxes among the children, while artist Suvaprasanna inaugurated the scribble board with a special drawing and a message for children. Bikram Ghosh was at his best, playing the drums for the young audience, after which was a performance of Christmas carols, hymns and popular tunes by city-based band Span.

Usha Uthup, who shared memories of her recent visit to the Vatican with the kids and sang a special song she had composed for the beatification, concluded the carnival.


Tips for study trip

Business management is out, biotechnology is in, computing graduates, doctors and nurses find it easier to get jobs in the UK and scholarships are not for everyone. These were a few tips being doled out by Wayne Henry, a representative of the University of East Anglia, Norwich, in town on Wednesday to advise students on the hows and whys of going to the UK for higher education.

After counselling numerous youngsters at a day-long session at the British Council, the word from Calcutta was that increasing numbers of post-graduates are now applying. The hottest subjects were computing, business management, development studies and biological sciences, and there were even some inquiries for environmental studies.

“The number of Indians going to the UK to study has been steadily increasing,” said Henry. “At East Anglia, in 2001, there were 20 Indians. Last year, the figure rose to 40. This year, it is 70.” One area where applicants often “trip up” is scholarships. “They are very competitive and grade-based. Often, students who don’t stand a chance apply for them,” he said.

Choosing the right profession can make all the difference when it comes to job prospects. “You have to do thorough research, before deciding on the career and course. There are too many MBAs. Work experience means a better chance of landing a job.”

Henry added: “For instance, biotechnology-related subjects are increasingly becoming important, and there is a demand for scientists. Also, there is a shortage of doctors and nurses in the UK. As for teachers, there is a need for them in specialised subjects, for the older age group.”

What gives Indians an edge over other international students is their “good English and standard of education”, he pointed out. As for living costs, like accommodation “which is a major concern” for Indian students, “just avoid London” is the advice. “It’s way too expensive,” Henry signed off.

Campus calling: All the action – and the spotlight — will soon be on St Xavier’s College, which has a number of events line up from the weekend. First up, from December 20 to 22, is the annual fest, Xavotsav 2003 – Beyond Dreams…, presented by the student’s union and Hutch. On December 23 is the alumni meet, Beyond Barriers Chapter Five, organised by the Alumni Association and Eveready. Bands Viva and Aasma will perform. Both events are presented in association with The Telegraph.

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