Thursday, May 15, 2008

RYLA part 9

Finally I have come to the very end of my detailed description of RYLA. All the dignitaries assembled on the dais at 2:30 as planned. The camp commandant presented his report. He started with English, but told us he intended to present the report in Bangla. It was the only instance when Bangla was spoken on stage. He said many a nice thing about the participants. There were no complaints from him. He also mentioned that though he had to give more marks to some, the rest were as precious and good (the clichéd comment all judges have to make). After the report, all the dignitaries were introduced and welcomed. Then there was a brief selected presentation called “Recap” by few participants. They asked me to sing, another girl to recite and the green team to repeat their skit, which was on drugs. Thus it became easier to guess the results of the singing, recitation and skit categories.

“Recap” followed an address by the Guest of Honour and another one by the Chief Guest DG. He had been down with heart problems but still came along to join us and delivered a touching speech. “At my age, the only thing I am concerned about is who is going to cry when I die?”, he said. Finally it was time for the awards ceremony. I shall make this short. The first prize for diary writing was for me, so was the first prize for singing. Then I got three second prizes in the categories of recitation, debate and extempore. Then it was time to find out who the most popular girl and boy were. We were asked to vote on pieces of paper and submit it (we were not to vote for ourselves of course). The results were collected and I got the most popular girl award. The green team came first in skit. The red team won the first prize in painting. The yellow team came second. For quiz, the blue team had bagged the first prize, while we, again, were second. Finally it was time for the big prize – the huge trophy for the best RYLArian. The award was based on overall performance that included everything from behavior, personality, punctuality, interactive skills, participation etc. Anyone could win from the 30, but I think only around five stood a chance. They said that there had been stiff competition between the best and the second best. The second best was announced. Then the best was declared. It was my name. I went on to collect my 7th and biggest trophy of the day. We all got certificates as proofs of participation. Then they announced the scores of the teams. The blue team was first, followed by yellow, red and green. Although I did really well for myself and was liked by my fellow participants, I don’t think it helped my team as a whole. The blue team was thus the best team, while I was the best individual performer, as per the results. The winning team members got a medal each. Then we were made to pose with our trophies. I met Rtn Prabir Chattejee, the president of my sponsoring Rotary Club (Calcutta South Extension). He had come all the way to Joka to attend the ceremony and I am glad I didn’t disappoint anyone who wanted me to do well.

5:30 was the time to leave and we had a brief tea and refreshment break before that. The rooms were vacated and the luggage was taken out. I jumped into a Taxi waiting to take us home while my parents hopped in, their hands overflowing with my trophies.

It was a good experience and a nice vacation out of home for me. I enjoyed it immensely. I hope RYLA continues its progress and stays as enjoyable as ever in the coming years.

RYLA part 8

Finally Sunday, the 4th of May arrived. The event would end at 5:30 and we would all go home with or without awards in our hands. The morning was quite similar to the previous day with its tea, PT and then breakfast (the menu was changed to Indian though. So we had luchi instead of toast). Diary submission was followed by the last participatory event for the RYLArians at 9:45. It was an extempore session named “Orators” to be judged by DGN Utpal Mazumdar and Rtn Rajendra Khandelwal. Three participants per team could take part in it. I was one among the three from the yellow team. The topics given were easy or hard. It depended on luck, because we chose our topic from a bunch of papers in a basket. When I picked up my paper I saw the topic scribbled across it – today’s youth needs more patient listening than political slogans. Honestly I did not have a clue about what it meant. But I was determined to speak on it (we were allowed to change once, but I never liked that idea. It’s like failure). So I went up on stage and talked about how political slogans are a jarring sequence of sentences and high ideals that make no sense unless the basic understanding is there. So some patient listening before that is a necessity. Listening should come from both the youth and the older generation. The youth should listen to the elders, and in turn the elders should listen to what the youth has got to say and then only we shall have some harmony. And such a harmony can never be brought about by political upheavals alone etc. I must say my accent helped as I talked and so did my confident demeanor though I was weaving ideas and sentences right on stage without pausing to think. The allotted 3 minutes flew in no time and I finished. In fact I was pretty sure I had bagged a position among the first three as I walked back to my seat. I had happened to mention something like “the youth talks a lot these days, so there isn’t much to complain about. Today if the elders are talking 60 percent of the time, the youth is getting the remaining 40 percent, which is big enough” To this, PDG Amitava Mukherjee(who had joined the panel of judges) commented later that Riya set me thinking. Two years back, I heard a young boy giving a similar kind of extempore, where he had complained that young people get to talk only 10 percent of the time. Now it has risen to 40. Ten years later you will be the ones to talk and we will sit back and listen. Very well spoken. Some of the other topics my fellow participants got were if I were the prime minister..., are looks more important than intelligence?, increase of construction in Indian cities etc.

10:30 was the time for the second last lecture of RYLA entitled “Life Balance and Self Realization” by PDG Amitava Mukherjee. It was one of the best lectures of the entire event, parallel to those by Mr Devadasan and PDG Sekhar Mehta (both discussed in earlier posts). His lecture had the gist that had been told many times before – the necessity of being polite, loving others, caring for others. It was the presentation that made it very different and new. This is how he presented it (exact quotations aren’t possible, but I have stuck to the temperament). There was a man who married a woman when he was very young. She was chaste and spent her time either doing household chores or praying. She was the model wife, but as he climbed the ladder of success, he began to grow bored with her. So one fine morning he left her alone in the house and set off for the bustling parts of the city, where he found a new job, and a new smart wife. He became a very successful professional and his family life grew excellent too. He had children with this second wife and things were going steady till he turned older. He retired finally and realized he wasn’t happy with this family anymore. Then he fell in love with a twenty-something girl who agreed to marry him. So he divorced his second wife and married the young girl the age of his daughter. He was immensely rich due to his successful career and kept his new wife happy with frequent gifts. Then one day he fell sick and the doctor announced that he had a month to live and then would have to walk the path of death. He was devastated. He went to his young wife and asked her “I am going to die in a month. Will you come with me as I walk the path of death?” The girl was rather amused and turned him down immediately. Crestfallen, he went to his second wife and asked her the same question. She said she would love to forgive him and come along, but there were the children to look after, so she could not go with him. Finally, having no choice, he went back to his very first wife. He found her in the ruins of their old house, praying peacefully in a corner. He didn’t even have to ask; she opened her eyes and said “yes I will come with you. Because I am you. I live in you”. This is life. The young wife is money, riches, the Lolita in our lives we feel so attracted to. But the riches never come with us when we die. The second wife is family. They love us and come with us up till a certain point. Then they have to return. And the first wife is our own soul, which is always neglected but ready to help and support us whenever we need it, and walk with us till the very end. I was mesmerized. I don’t want to add anything more to this. I only must mention that he also talked about social issues and told us about the dangers of unprotected sex (I was glad he did. I believe this is one subject that ought to be explained to young people instead of shying away from it. He was the only speaker to do so.).

The last lecture of the event was called “Spirituality and Self Discovery” from a very young Anaya Sinha (she is a part of Rotaract, a youth section of Rotary International, the daughter of the present president of Rotary Club Joka,a postgraduate student and a budding lecturer perhaps). Her lecture was good enough with a presentation to garnish it et al. Unfortunately, there was no Q&A session as she chose to end it by handing us a candle each and lighting them to create this aura of spirituality. Overall, a good effort from someone so young speaking after an older and wiser and fantastic speaker.

At 12:30, there was a panel discussion named “WEBBUSTER”, where the panelists were Rtn Chitralekha Ghosh, Rtn Subhajit Roy (both young professionals), Rtn Sobhan Bannerjee and psychologist Mrs. Suparna Das. We were invited to ask any question to any panelist we liked. I asked two or three questions and so did a few of the other participants, but I will not mention any here, because the questions were asked just for the sake of asking and keeping a discussion alive. It wasn’t a productive session and I feel that I personally handle my life way better than any psychologist in a panel can do (my questions were general and I asked Rtn. Banerjee about their plans for the next RYLA, which delighted him). Strikingly, most of the questions were aimed at Rtn Ghosh and Rtn Roy, who were the younger ones in the panel. At 1:15, it was time for lunch. There was an elaborate menu and ice cream was served for dessert. The Valedictory session would follow and we were pretty excited about it. I had invited my parents over to watch it, and so had a few others. There were only a few hours left of the event now.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

RYLA part 7

The next event was entitled “Art Session – Mind Blog” where each team was asked to separate into two groups of three or four. Then we were given three topics (peace, nature and global warming) and asked to choose one and make a painting or poster based on it. They provided us with colours, brushes, pencils, magazines (for collage) and almost everything one might need for painting. My group chose nature. We made a poster that was decent enough. I dare say no one did really well, but no one did something real bad either. So this was, I believe, harder to judge. At the end of the allotted 45 minutes, 8 pictures were submitted (two from each team). The name of the judge was Mr. Prasenjit Sengupta. His verdict was again not revealed immediately. We were asked to submit the colours . I dare say the number of colour boxes submitted were not equal to the number originally distributed (which is proof of how much colour the people had used. The paintings were colourful enough, so it wasn’t hard to understand).

A fifteen minute tea break followed and then we were back inside the hall at 5:15 for a meditation session. I do not have much to say about it. But to be fair, I must mention a few things. The session was conducted by a delegate from the “Prajapita Brahmakumari Group”. She talked about the necessity of meditation, self realization etc (we got a brilliant lecture on self realization the next day). She followed up her lecture with a demonstration of meditation, by playing a slow tune and asking us to close our eyes and concentrate. That was about it. I woke up at 6 o’clock for the hour long refresh break.

7 o’clock was time for some fun. We were asked to present a “skit”, which is an extempore drama of around 5 to 8 minutes. The general topic was “social and environmental issues”. My team chose cleanliness as our theme. We did a fair enough drama (considering we had 5 minutes to plan it out) about a couple of people carelessly littering the streets and another couple coming to tell them off and reforming them at the end of the argument. The three other teams did their skits on smoking, drugs and polio. The skit was followed by something I could sit back and enjoy. It was a dance competition and the only event where I wasn’t participating (honestly, I am against making a fool of myself). The dances were entertaining to the last degree, but the competition was followed by some lithe steps from the judge, and then the Commandant (with the lady Commandant) joined the dance floor. He also played the mouth organ for us. I can safely call it a party. People danced and sang and chattered till 9:15, which was dinner time. There was a Chinese menu this time, with noodles, fried rice and Manchurian (chicken and vegetable) followed by a dessert of gulaab jamun. The rest of the night was quite similar to the previous one, with the routine diary writing etc. The next day would reveal the names of the winners. I couldn’t help feeling excited as I went to bed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

RYLA part 6

There was not much scope for any post-lunch lethargy. The lunch hour was spent in eating and I changed into a kurta and jeans and arrived on time for the lecture at 2. The air conditioned hall was a respite from the heat of May.

I honestly planned to fall asleep if the proceedings would turn out to be boring. But a good lecturer knows how to keep his audience attentive even when they are lethargic after lunch. At 2, we got to meet such a person. He was Mr. S. Devadasan (engineer and lecturer) and his lecture was named “Time Management and Prioritization”. I am against talking too much about my personal life in a lecture, but this man knew how to carry that off. I do not know how his daughter’s education fit in within a lecture on time management, but I am not complaining, because whatever he was saying sounded good to the ears and made sense. He told us how his daughter climbed up the ladder in her profession and now shuttles from country to country. He even talked about his son-in-law who is a gadget freak and how his daughter and her husband are a successful couple despite their being very different (this could be a comment on how one should keep profession out of the home, but I am not too sure). I have to say something. Among all the lectures, I remember this one most distinctly, despite its diverse contents and digressions from the topic to be discussed. I think that it is an impact any lecturer would love to make. There is one thing he said that I specifically want to mention. He talked about the time when his daughter took admission in a reputed college (he refused to mention the name) for studying economics. He noticed that she was always busy with things other than studying. When he questioned her about whether she found her subject interesting, her reply was that the subject was good enough, but out of her five teachers in college, only one was teaching, while two were sleeping in class and the other two were dictating their 1968 notes. I could give Mr. Devadasan a vote of agreement if he asked for it at this point. I am blessed to be part of a great department in a great university. But I have been unfortunate enough to attend a few classes in school and another few in college (where we do pass subjects along with our major) where I had the same experience. Not that it made any difference to my marks, but the classes were worthless none-the-less. Mr. Devadasan did come to the topic of time management at last and he showed us a nice and colorful presentation on screen about how to handle jobs at hand. Important jobs should be done before they turn urgent, and not so important jobs may safely be left for later. So one has to prioritize and work accordingly, because it is impossible to do everything at once. Thus setting realistic goals is a must. Mr. Devadasan also talked about the position of women. He feels they are still suppressed and preferred in the home as a dutiful wife. I said later that I was under the impression that educated and working women were more popular with men seeking a wife these days, to which he replied that it is true in certain places but not all over our nation. He also thought that the women in Kolkata were doing quite well and in a better position compared to the women in the rest of the country. If this is true, I am afraid I feel quite delighted. The lecture was, for the lack of a better expression, very good. Nobody fidgeted or showed any sign of impatience throughout this long lecture. I loved it. The only irony was that the lecture on time management took up around 20 minutes more than the time allotted to it.

The next lecture had to begin at 3:25 instead of 3, because of the long previous lecture. It is hard to make an impact when you are to speak after a good speaker, but if you are in your element, it becomes easy. The next speaker began in a fresh tone and we were hooked, yet again. The lecture was on “Fundamentals of Leadership and Motivation” and it was by PDG Sekhar Mehta (if you are visiting the link, scroll down to see his profile). His lecture was impersonal and conventional at its best. I would not like to repeat the good things he said about helping people and the human community in general, but the things were touching. I remembered an essay I wrote on “Individual and Community” for my university entrance examination as he talked. He emphasized on the importance of maintaining cordial relations with people and thinking about others. It might have turned didactic had he not resorted to the very aptly thrown-in jokes that made the mood lighter and healthier. He talked about bus drivers abroad who smiled and waved and drove merrily, while those in our country barely smile and are almost always showing a grimace or screaming at other drivers. This got quite a few laughs, but it wasn’t so amusing to me. I pointed out (he had asked us to interject anytime we wanted to) that it is too much to expect from our drivers, because they do not get paid much money and never get to enjoy things like a good house and a car and a proper salary like the smiling foreigners. “You have hit the nail right on the head”, he said and then talked about a project he was part of, which sought to make some provisions for bus and taxi drivers to raise their living standards. His lecture was a good one and it ended at 4:10. I assume that he had shortened it to get us back on schedule as far as he could. The official time to end was 4, but as he had started quite late, I must say that he did a brilliant job of time management while delivering his illuminating speech.

RYLA part 5

3rd May began with morning tea and sports at 6. The PT session was taken by the camp Commandant. It involved a few exercises and then a basketball match. But I escaped before the match and took a long walk around the unexplored parts of the campus. There was an hour long refresh break from 7:30 to 8:30 (which I utilized for a bath) followed by breakfast. There was toast and butter or jam and eggs for breakfast. After submitting our diaries, we went back to Tata Hall for a debate session.

The motion was “Leadership can be cultivated”. Two people were to speak from each team for and against the motion. I spoke against it. It wasn’t hard to make my points. I started with the allegory of fruits that ripen on the trees and those that are artificially ripened – both are ripe but one can tell the difference in taste. Same goes for building leaders. Leaders are born and their qualities are only to be nurtured so that they can excel. Also in the task of cultivating leaders, if we make 20 leaders out of 20 people, they will have no one to lead and hence no job. Also, not being a born leader does not make a person worthless. E.g. Sachin Tendulkar was not a very good captain, but still he is what he is – a great player. Using up the allotted 4 minutes wasn’t much of a task. My opposition spoke well too… with points like no one is born with qualities, qualities are built with time, and it is possible to create leaders with the proper guidance etc. When all the speakers finished, I was given the opportunity to sum the thing up for another 2 minutes as leader of the opposition (talking about leadership). Another guy was chosen as leader of the group speaking for the motion. He would also sum up in 2 minutes. My summing up was again an easy affair by referring to points put forward and refuting them. As usual, they did not announce the results and kept it secret till the prize distribution ceremony. However, the Commandant took me aside and informed me he personally liked my accent and modulation. It made me happy, although the Commandant wasn’t judging the debate. The judges were PDG Swapan Mukherjee and Rtn Ajay Agarwal.

A short tea break was followed by lectures at 11:15. The first one was more of an audio visual session entitled “know Rotary” by PDG Raju Rajgaria. It was good because it was him. I am sure the content would have been extremely boring had he not presented it himself. The content had everything to do with Rotary’s history and how it evolved and what its ideals were. But he presented it with so much humour and wit thrown in between, that it was immensely enjoyable. The visual part included excerpts from the international Rotary conferences and parts of documentaries on the achievements of Rotary.

The next lecture was an amazing one by Rtn Utpal Chatterjee, noted journalist and critic. It was named “Communication and Soft Skill”. I recognized him at once as one of the judges in a WEBFUNA-STATESMAN VOICES-UNHCR debate on refugees I attended around 3 years back. His lecture was interesting as usual. Its all about modulation and presentation I guess. He talked about the necessity of good presentation in this world. A good content has to be accompanied by a good presentation, or else the content does not hold much water. This however does not lower the importance of the content, he said, in response to my question later on. Soft skills are the tactics employed by people to converse with one another. They involve a polite yet firm demeanor and the techniques to handle delicate situations. The lecture was brilliant and I must say the speaker himself is an expert in such soft skills (he allowed us to question him while being seated and relaxed). He punctuated his lecture with stories and allegories that were interesting. I remember him quoting someone describing a critic – critics are like pigeons. Pigeons fly up and rest on high towers and then dirty the towers. Critics do the same, but perhaps then don’t even go so high (I haven’t been able to remember the exact quote, but this is the gist).

The lecture ended at 1 and off we went to lunch. The next session was scheduled to begin at 2 o’clock.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

RYLA part 4

The second lecture of the day began at 3:45. It was by Mr. Dipayan Dey, environmentalist and one of the finalists of Lead India. “Be the change you want to see” was what he chose to name his presentation (it was less of a lecture and more of an interactive session). He chose to walk freely on stage and talk instead of standing at the lectern. A PowerPoint presentation prepared by him was running on screen for all of us to see as he talked. His presentation was rich with quotes and clichés as well as certain very original ideas. He began by asking us what change we preferred to see in the world we live in. My reaction was that I want more originality and less falling back on old quotes. This might have struck him personally because of his affinity towards good quotes. Nevertheless he followed it up with his ideas about helping to build a cleaner and happier world. One of his examples caught my attention. He talked about droplets of water falling on a rock... the first droplets would not make any impression but with time, the droplets would leave a mark on the rock and maybe a hole on it too. I liked this approach, but pointed out that instead of resorting to the droplets, if we only caught hold of a hammer and a screw, creating a hole would be quicker and easier. He acknowledged this as a possibility after giving it a quick thought. I personally believe my viewpoint is an example of violence and power (Netaji, anyone?) while his idea of droplets is a silent way to ask for change (Gandhiji’s non-violence). The presentation was going very well but in the middle of it, Mr. Dey chose to promote his personal feats. Thus we got to see and hear about some social work he and his group did on the east Kolkata wetlands and its poor population. Impressive indeed, the promotional might have been used as a motivation for us. Personally, though I was impressed by his works, I would have preferred a general lecture on change, rather than forty minutes of I-did-this-so-you-should-follow. There was no separate question-answer session as such because we were allowed to intervene at any point within his lecture. And there were many points made and questions asked which he answered most delightedly.

At 4:30 there was a quiz contest named “brain teaser”, where the four teams played as the four groups. It was conducted by Rtn Dr. Subhasish Nag. It was real fun. The structure was conventional for a quiz with rounds like direct question, rapid fire, audio-visual, buzzer etc. There were bonus points as well as negative marking and it was real fun to participate. Questions were asked from all sorts of categories like literature, sports, films, science etc. Questions were a mix of the very easy to the utmost difficult. I remember that I answered the question “On whose novel on the film pather panchali made?” A few participants were discovered to be very good at quizzes. The visual round involved showing pictures of the new wonders of the world and asking us to identify them. We also had to identify songs after hearing preludes and so on. At the end of the quiz, the blue team came first. My team (yellow) came second with a difference of two points. Red team came third followed by green.

The hour long quiz was followed by a tea break at 5:30. Refreshments were served along with tea. The next session was to begin at 7, so I chose to get back to my hostel after tea. The walk to the hostel was very pleasant in the evening. The campus is full of lakes and trees and a sweet breeze completed the good effect. For the 7 o’clock event I put on a flaming red T shirt, jeans three-quarters, black slippers along with beads on my wrist. I dare say no one else dared to dress that casually, but I always go by what I can carry off when there is no dress code.

At 7 began the “talent hunt session”. We were informed that there would be a singing and recitation competition. One of the most remarkable things about the entire event was that they did not give us much time to prepare for anything. I liked this aspect immensely. Lack of preparation would ensure a good judgment as everyone would need to rely on their expertise and originality. These competitions were not in between teams, but were in between individuals. I put in my name for both singing and recitation. Within seconds I decided to sing “just close your eyes” by Westlife and wrote down a short poem to recite. But they decided on a short poem which everyone would recite and the best would win. This was a good decision, for the same poem would mean you have to show your skill in reciting instead of relying on some good content you are reading.

The competitions went well. Around fourteen participants participated in each. They all did reasonably well, though I must say that not more then six or seven people were actually competing for the prizes, according to my personal judgment. To our indignation, the results were not disclosed. They said that all the prizes would be given out together at the prize distribution ceremony on 4th May. Seething under the suspense, we went to dinner at 9:15, where we were finally served chicken. Dinner followed a diary writing session. This was a very interesting concept. All the participants were instructed to write about four pages on the entire day’s events and whatever they felt about it in a personal diary format and submit it next morning. At the end of the camp, the best authors would run away with the prizes under the “writing” category. Writing, fortunately, has never been a problem with me and I wrote out the required pages while relaxing on my comfortable bed in my room. 11 was the official time to go to bed and the commandant came to wish us good night and check whether we were all in the rooms in the process. Finally I had time to get back to certain people I was missing. So I called up my home and my boyfriend and had a couple of nice long chats before finally dozing off at around midnight. The next day’s events were to begin as early as 6 A.M. so I needed some good sleep before that.

Friday, May 9, 2008

RYLA part 3

Lunch was served from 1.30 to 2.30 and the break was till 3 o’clock. We had a good enough Bengalee menu consisting of rice, daal, alubhaja, a very tasty vegetable curry and fish, and mango chutney for dessert. The majority, however, was unhappy with this lunch, since more than half of the participants were non Bengalees and they preferred more vegetarian dishes or chicken. Being a fish-hater myself, I would have been happier with a change in the menu, but the dishes barring the fish didn’t fail to soothe my appetite. One of the most important things I discovered in the camp was my ability to do a lot of things within a short time span. I figured 1.30 to 3 was a long enough break and took not more than twenty minutes to eat. Lunchtime also made it possible for the participants to talk amongst each other and thus I ended up making quite a few friends in the dining hall. However, at 2 P.M., when most of them were still in the middle of their lunch, I rushed back to my hostel and took advantage of the empty toilets to have a long refreshing bath. Then I changed into casuals (only the morning session had a dress code of white formals), and finding that it was only 2.35, I took a walk around the hostel and the adjoining parts of the campus and finally reached the Tata Hall at 2:50. A boy from my team and I were the first ones to turn up for the lectures scheduled to begin at 3. Everybody else turned up by 3:10. I happened to notice that the commandant was taking note of the late comers.

The real fun began at 3, when I started to realize that the event was absolutely worth attending even in the middle of my end semesters. The lectures were delivered by eminent Rotarians, who are successful professionals and many of whom belong(ed) to the IIM faculty. The first lecture was entitled “A Bouquet of Vignettes” by Rtn (Rotarian) Bhaskar Bose. Mesmerizing is the word for the lecture he delivered. It was rich in stories and even old clichés that are superficially very funny but have solemn morals within. We got quite a few laughs because of his jokes that hit the funny bone hard. His lecture covered a wide area ranging from relationships at the personal level to the public level. In the middle of witty one liners, he told us a story I remember still. It was about a boy who wished to marry his lover, but the girl said she could only marry him if he got her his mother’s heart. So he killed his mother and cut out her heart and set off for the girl’s house. On the way he stumbled upon a rock and fell down, and the heart called out “are you hurt, son?” An immensely touching story no doubt, but at the question-answer session I pointed out that the boy probably did not know the difference between metaphorical and literal interpretation. Rtn Bose agreed, but said that when he read it at a very young age, all he felt was a deep sense of hurt and the importance of different relationships. He also mentioned the role of media and the commercial attitude of the media in present times, which however is not the fault of anyone in particular, and which is not bad either, if exploited correctly (e.g. the news that do not have the glamour like the IPL, say, but the similar or more importance, should also make it to the drawing rooms of houses). The half an hour lecture was followed by a 10 minute Q&A session. Unfortunately, I fail to remember most of the questions asked barring a few, one of which was about Rtn Bose’s opinion about Reliance World. He was pretty positive about it, although I might have missed skepticism in midst of the optimism.

The lecture that followed deserves to feature in the beginning of a new post, not because it was one of the best, but because there is a lot to say about it. So stick with me. RYLA part 4 is coming up soon.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

RYLA part 2

The proceedings were supposed to start at 10:45. Although we were running late by about half an hour, it did not call for a change in the schedule. Thus we had almost no time to change (into whites as per the instructions) and get ready. I had around a couple of minutes to check my room, which was clean and furnished with a comfortable bed, closet, mirror and desk,with a jug full of drinking water on top. Dropping my luggage on the floor, I hastily pulled on my white shirt and cream pants and sports shoes. Changing was a matter of five minutes, which included a quick sprinkling of water on my sweating face and neck and a quicker inspection of the sparkling clean toilets (which was a relief).

At 10:50 all the participants (about 30 of them were there in all) gathered downstairs in the New Hostel compound where we met our camp commandant. We were marched (well, almost literally) to the Tata Hall compound where there was a brief practice of a Guard of Honour. The camp commandant, who was in the air force for forty years was pretty passionate about this session, and to me, who isn’t quite familiar with sports or military protocol, it was interesting. My high school knowledge of commands like “attention” and “stand at ease” and “right turn” etc helped quite a bit I must say. After this brief session was over, we were sorted into four houses – yellow (bhabna), red (sankalp), blue (biswas) and green (chetna). I fell in the yellow group (unfortunately I hate yellow, but anyway) along with six other participants (two girls and four boys). Then we were each given a sash (yellow sash for yellow house and so on) and a cap to put on for the events coming up.

The inaugural session began with the lighting of the RYLA lamp in presence of all the dignitaries. After the welcome address by the host club president, the commandant came looking for someone who could read English well. I was the first one to volunteer and hence, I was given the job of going up on stage and reading the RYLA pledge while the other participants would follow what I said and repeat. I must say that the prospect of being noticed so early delighted me considerably (one of our main objectives was to show our vivacity and leadership skills which ultimately would decide who will win the awards). The reading of the pledge was followed by more formalities like the address of the guest of honour and the Rotary district governor. It took up till 12:05, when we had a tea break. Finally, things were going as per schedule.

The end of the break at 12:30 saw the first actually interesting event of the day, where we could put in some active participation. It was a session on self introduction by the participants. I took up my allotted two minutes to introduce myself by naming my school and university and major as usual and then proceeded to talk about my interests and what I expected of the camp. I concluded with my ideas about leadership, which according to me is not excelling over the rest but the ability to co operate with and chaperon the rest. The session took around 45 minutes. Around five participants, I’m afraid, messed up big time due to stage fright or lack of good vocabulary and did not use more than a quarter of their allotted two minutes. At the end of the session aptly named “first impression”, the commandant and another couple of judges gave their comments. They named the favourites from each house. Again I was delighted that they found me best in the yellow house. However, they reminded us, things could change fast as there was a long way to go before the final judgment. I had begun to truly enjoy the event and at 1:30, as we headed for lunch in the Tagore Hostel dining hall, I knew that I wouldn’t return home disappointed from RYLA 2008.

Monday, May 5, 2008

RYLA part 1

When i go to any event and feel like talking about it after it finishes, I do not start off straight away, because, the excitement of the moment may give certain things undue importance. I have stuck to the same rule in this case. And I have started writing a good 24 hours after I first felt like it.

Before I actually begin writing about the event, I think it deserves a bit of an introduction. RYLA or Rotary Youth Leadership Awards is a residential event 3 to 5 days long, organized and paid for by Rotary International, which is an assortment of all the Rotary clubs worldwide. For more information on Rotary, click here and here. For information on RYLA click here and here.

Now let me talk about the RYLA I attended. My account is going to be on a very personal basis. RYLA 2008 was organized by Rotary Club Joka. The venue was Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (Joka). The event was from 2nd may to 4th may 2008, and I was sponsored by Rotary Club of Calcutta South Extension.

Initially, I hardly had any idea about what this was and agreed to go just because of the big names of the institutions. Being in IIM and staying in its hostel was one of the attractions too. Also, being interested in participation, I liked the idea of the event as well. On top of it, the prospect of meeting IIM faculty was an alluring aspect too.

I am going to be quite slow in writing out an account of the entire thing. And I would not like to leave out anything though I am depending mostly on memory. I do have a brief schedule with me, but it does not mention the contents of the lectures and things like that. I was supposed to contact the president of Rotary Club Joka to get my instructions. I called her and was asked to report to Tata Hall of IIM C at 9 in the morning. I turned up quite early in fact and was waiting in the well – furnished lounge of the hall. The lounge was soothing with its cream sofas and AC and a home theatre et al. The officials who were supposed to receive me arrived at 9:15 to be precise, but before that I was informed to report to the New Hostel and get registered there. It was a longish walk from Tata hall and it was the hostel where we would stay for the next two days. I liked the building at once. Nice and clean and quite big, it was inviting and as un-hostel like as can be. We were ushered into a room on the first floor to get registered. Then we were allotted rooms. It was immensely satisfying to hear that they had arranged for single room accommodation for all participants. I got room 204 and with my lock and key, which was handed over soon afterwards (along with a nice side bag, toffees and the schedule), I went in to get ready for the event that was to follow in ten minutes or so. Thus it was a pretty good start.