The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On a different song
Schoolchildren participate in a dance and drill routine as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of Loreto Day School, Sealdah. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
A scene from the St James stage production Hirak Rajar Deshe. Picture by Anindya Shankar Ray

Over 120 children — most of whom work as domestic labourers across the city — participated in a joyous dance and drill programme as a part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of Loreto Day School, Sealdah, on Thursday evening. The show, organised at Netaji Indoor Stadium, brought together 250 children from varying economic backgrounds to offer them a common platform, aptly named “Sanjog”.

In the chief guest’s address, governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi likened the participanting children to “a rainbow; so full of colour”.

Students of Loreto Day School performed dance routines with folk music and to the tune of Vande Mataram. Karate and yoga demonstrations showcased the skill and strength of the participants.

Students of the Rainbow School for underprivileged children, a project started by the Loreto Day School, Sealdah, dressed up in lively costumes to present classical dance forms from across India.

Students from the Shikshalaya Prakalpa centres, run by several NGOs to help out-of-school children in Calcutta, also participated in the programme. For those belonging to the Hidden Domestic Child Labour programme, taking out time for rehearsals was tough. But no one complained. The smiles on the faces of these students said it all.

Also on display were handicrafts created by these students. Fishes, horses, stars and lotus flowers outlined with matchsticks on paper, leaf-printing and hand-printing were used creatively to design crocodiles and butterflies.

An excited Anindita Jha, a 16-year-old domestic help, could hardly contain her excitement. “With only a few hours of practice, we have managed to put up such a magnificent show. Words cannot describe how I feel!” For her friend 17-year-old Anjali Haldar, Thursday evening was like no other.

Doel Bose

IInd year, BA (English), St. Xavier’s College


Twist a classic

St James School presented the Bengali musical Hirak Rajar Deshe at the GD Birla Sabhagar on November 20. Students of the school — right from the junior school batches to Class XII seniors and even former students — put up a splendid performance for the audience.

The plot of the play — based on the screenplay for the cult Satyajit Ray film — saw a smooth transition onto the stage by the St James students. A sequel to Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, Hirak Rajar Deshe talks of the kingdom of Shundi, 10 years on. Goopy and Bagha have married the princesses and each has a child, but they have become bored with their lives. An invitation arrives from the state of Hirak, inspiring them to pay a visit to that land. The ruler there, Hirak Raja, is a despot, exploiting his subjects in his diamond mine. The king’s primary henchman is an evil scientist, who plans to build a brainwashing machine — the infamous jantar mantar where people undergo a magaj dholai. The only form of protest comes from the teacher Udayan, who tries to incite the people to rise up against this tyrant. But the king closes the schools as the machine invented by the scientist begins its work. Goopy and Bagha arrive bang in the midst of all this and join forces with Udayan to overthrow Hirak Raja.

On film, the tyrant was a loathed character. On stage, Ryan George Freedom, an ex-student of the school, did justice to his role as Hirak Raja. Directed by Indrashish Laharry, 57 students and their mentors added colour to the St James production of Hirak Rajar Deshe. Teacher Arnab Banerjee played Goopy Gyne, while Paul Avjit Mondal played Bagha Byne. St James principal Terence Ireland produced the play, while theatre veteran Chandan Sen was associated as a technical director. The contemporary flavour came through improvisations in the script; there was a bhooter rani alongside the original story’s bhooter Raja — a brainchild of the director — and the characters mouthed words like “sorry” and “problem”.

Right from the stage management to the music, songs, the lighting, costumes and make-up, the St. James production was impeccable. It’s rare for teachers and students to perform on the same platform, but when the end-product yields such creative results, one can only hope for more such endeavours.

Debangana Saha

BCA 1st year, Techno India (Salt Lake)


New learning

“Learning disguised as fun” is the formula for a novel attempt to train kids through an enrichment programme, called FasTracKids. Launched in Calcutta by US consul-general Henry V. Jardine on Wednesday, FasTracKids is designed for toddlers to eight-year-olds. Through the once-a-week classes of the programme, children can sing songs, jive to musical rhymes or grab the microphone and speak on a topic. The FasTracKids franchisee in Calcutta isPeach Tree Enrichment Centre at 37A, Garcha Road.

With headquarters in Denver, FasTracKids has spread its creative learning curriculum over 40 countries. Not an alternative for regular school, the pre-designed course is divided into three separate modules — FasTracMusic, FasTracTots and FasTracKids. These span 12 traditional areas of study, including astronomy, biology, mathematics, earth science, economics, creative literature, life science, drama and art.

FasTracMusic is a one-year course with group activities that involve story-telling, imaginative plays and singing, designed for children between 6 months to eight years. FasTracTots, for three to five-year-olds, is a simplified version of the core programme, aimed at developing a child’s knowledge base and personality. FasTracKids is the core programme with interactive sessions and guided discussions, including hands-on activities to nurture speaking and leadership skills. The faculty comprises teachers trained at the FasTracKids Academy in Bangalore.

One of the highlights of this programme is the process of video-taping the children during their weekly classes in order to motivate them, help them overcome their inhibitions and make them think before they talk.

“Children love to see themselves on a large screen, so it would help build their confidence. There is no grade-wise evaluation system,” informed Vishal Shroff, one of the directors of FasTracKid in Calcutta. Fees for the course vary from Rs 800 to Rs 1,100, with a one-time registration fee of Rs 1,500 depending on the programme.

Mohua Das

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