Kolkata, The City Where I Started Reinventing Myself

Malavika Krishna
Monday, July 9, 2018

To write about a trip and the experience it offered, which will always remain in my heart, is pure happiness. I was so attached to those 5 days in my life that I started missing the city right after I reached back home. There are many elements which contributed to this feeling; the glorious history which I saw around, the warmth of friendship which I experienced, the tough competition which the purpose of my visit offered, and the scariness of having the full responsibility of SELF, for the first time ever. Whatever be the contributing element, my trip to Kolkata IS, WAS and WILL BE one of those memories that cherish my soul forever.

The purpose of my visit was the Model United Nations (MUN) Conference at La Martiniere School, Kolkata and I was destined to present myself as Madan Mohan Malaviya at Surat Session of 1907 (INC). With the backing of weeks-long research and preparation, we, a delegation of 10 students from Bhavans, assigned with various roles in various committees of LMC MUN, were ready to face the competition. But as the initial excitement on receiving our ticket details was over, to be frank, I was scared. It was the first time I was travelling without my family and a feeling of apprehension developed within me. But my parents were confident and they said, “It’s a different world; but we are not going to give you any Dos and Don’ts; just deal the situations”.

When I reached the Kuwait Airport, I was relieved to find that not only me, but few others among the team also felt the same. Soon, a flight trip which is normally a dull one for me with a disturbed sleep as the only pass time, turned to be a fun filled one with friends and the most supportive accompanying teachers. The drive from the NSCB airport in Kolkata to the hotel was a quite a displeasing one where we woke up to the hard reality of a historical city with sights of people sleeping on the road, taking bath on the streets, trying to find leftovers etc. And to counter that, later when we went for touring around, we could see greenery, clean and well maintained roads along with tall multi-storeyed buildings; the two sides of same coin which is common for anywhere you travel the world.

We started our city tour with the Victoria Memorial Museum, thanks to my friend and her mother who had planned out the whole tour around ‘Kolkata’ for us. Victoria Memorial is a place where we could see different events and persons, which we learned in our history classes all these years, portrayed in paintings. We enjoyed trying to identify them in connection with our old textbooks. We could also see the original literary books including the one Emperor Akbar wrote. After this mesmerizing visit, we went to the Birla Planetarium where we had a wonderful presentation on the cosmic skies. St Paul’s cathedral, the first cathedral built in the foreign region of the British Empire, was our next stop. It was built with an architectural design called as "Indo-Gothic". Though it looked like any other cathedral, the interior and the serene ambience just left us with awe. Some traditional art form was seen being practised there. At Mother House, we saw the tomb of Mother Teresa. The Nobel Peace Prize that was given to her is kept at the museum.

Among the stories I learned about our freedom fighters, the story of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose always had a special place in my heart. Whenever I read about him, the fact that he just disappeared, somehow, disturbed me deep inside. The day dreamer in me loved to fantasise his return just like we see in old Bollywood movies, where the hero returns to his loved ones after many years as a survivor of a plane crash. Visiting his house in Kolkata was a memorable one for me personally. It was just fascinating to see his clothing hung from a stand. With much wonder I could see that how tall he was. Walking through his house was quite emotional for me. The four-door German Wanderer Sedan carrying the number plate BLA 7169 was parked there. It was in this car Netaji had his great escape Kolkata to Gomoh in 1941. All those photos from the life of Netaji and the sight of his car, took me one step ahead into the reality of repulsion that existed almost a century ago.
We completed our tour by visiting the first image which comes to us when we hear the word Kolkata, the Howrah Bridge. We drove through that historical bridge across Hugli River. Though we couldn’t get down on the bridge, we drove a bit further and stopped to see Howrah from a distance. Suddenly it started raining as if it was a sign from Mother Nature to return to our hotel, tired yet happy, and get ready for the next day.
Next morning we walked down to the majestic campus of La Martiniere, Kolkata. The inaugural ceremony was wonderful. A special rendering of songs by the students from La Martiniere Girls and La Martiniere Boys left us spell-bound. Considering the fact that Bhavans Kuwait was the only international participant, we were given a special recognition. And finally, the session began. I know that a memoir like this is not a space to detail the happenings in the committee. But I would like to tell you that the committee was overflowing with its vibrancy of debates, discussions and energy.

As mentioned earlier, I represented Madan Mohan Malaviya- a male diplomat at the session and I had my moment under spotlight, when I raised a point of privilege against calling me Ma’am and this came in their first report of press issue. That was indeed a proud time for me and I thanked in mind all my teachers at my school for the opportunities they gave me to evolve myself as a debater, by which I had that timely instinct to raise the point.

There was an open floor debate and to my surprise, that got even physical with the moderates and extremists throwing bottles and paper balls at each other. The fact that I am not fluent in Hindi was a major issue for me because being in an Indian committee it was allowed and all other competitors were using Hindi phrases and words and that affected my performance too. But the positivity I found was that, understanding my difficulty, the executive board and fellow delegates were ready to translate it to me. It was a competition and still they were ready to help me. The dignified attitude of treating fellow competitors with respect! We should understand that in our life such competitions will occur and it will get over, but the relationships remain forever.

Delegates with the portfolio Rash Behari Ghosh, KK Mitra, Surendranath Banerjee, Dadabhai Naoroji, D. E Wacha, Aurobindo Ghosh, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and lot more added their bit of drama making the committee an interesting one. The MUN was well organised with proper planning and scheduling. Conducting an inter-school event with students from more than thirty schools is not very easy. And the best part was that most of it was done by the students. I consider myself so lucky to have such a wonderful experience from our homeland that will not be forgotten ever. I could learn a lot from how the experienced delegates from different schools in India presented themselves; representing historical fighters who have been influential catalysts in the attainment of freedom from British.

At the end of the third day, we all left LMC premises with un-destroyable memories and new friends. On the whole, I enjoyed a lot with my friends: leaving the morning with half-eaten breakfasts, compensating that by eating out to hearts content every evening, teasing each other, taking pictures, cracking jokes, looking after one’s own and other’s belongings, shopping alone (for the first time) and what not. I could feel the increasing attachment between the 10 of us, all through the trip. The mutual care, the sense of responsibility, the hands on experience of give and take policy in respect, the list of lessons I learned goes on and on.

In short, I started learning the baby steps of dealing the situations. I was disappointed that I could not win a prize for my school, but I am confident that, with the experience and the life lessons that this opportunity my school and parents gave me, I will not let down them in any walks of my life. Time just flew and with the snap of a finger, we were back with lots of memoirs and experiences.
I love Kolkata, the city where I started reinventing myself.

Malavika Krishna
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