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Study Tour to Shimla

By: Martin Kämpchen, Translation by Hannah Beckmann
19.07.2017 News

Group of 10 villagers at Rashtrapati Niwas, Shimla

On the 5th of June a group of ten people, consisting of teachers as well as students of RSV, started their trip to Shimla. It took them two days and nights, including two changes to new trains to get to this city in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh.

At this moment Martin Kämpchen is staying in Shimla as a stipendiary of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study. This is an institute, which is located in the historical building Rashtrapati Niwas, in which the British Empire had its summer residence until India gained independence. In that way the group from the villages got into direct contact with an important part of India’s cultural heritage.

During their stay the group got the chance to present their own Santal dances and songs in front of all the stipendiaries and many employees and guests of the institute. The performance was well-attended. Ramjit Mardi was leading the group’s activities, while Martin Kämpchen was presenting their program this evening.

        Shimla_Tanzprogramm_im_Indian_Institute_of_Advanced_Study-8.Juni_2017.jpg

        Dance Performance at Indian Institute of Advanced Study;  Link to YouTube Video

Later on Rakesh Singh, the Accounts Officer of the institute personally showed the group around the spacious rooms, starting in the old chambers of the British vice king and finishing in the buildings prison.

Due to it’s location on 7545 feet Shimla’s fauna and flora is very different to Santiniketan’s. For two days Martin Kämpchen guided the group through two different forests, one of them still untouched. A friend of the villages, Dr. Joachim Schmerbeck and his wife Maria visited the institute as well. They taught the villagers something about the characteristics and conservation of the Himalayan forests. Joachim is a German scientist of forestry, who was sent to Shimla by the GIZ to work as a counsellor for the city.

For another two days the group explored the historical Shimla, on the second day without any guidance. They visited three temples, all located on hills. The ten villagers, who are used to spending their everyday life in the flat surroundings of Santiniketan, had to work hard to get up those hills, especially with the hordes of monkeys watching them.

After these experiences the Santals used one rainy morning to write and compose songs about Shimla.

On their last day there was a goodbye-dinner in a small hotel leading to a spontaneous fusion-concert. The famous Tabla-player Samir Chatterjee, who is also a friend of Martin Kämpchen, was there to play along.

On the 13th of June the group had to go back home.

A special thank you for this trip to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, in which the group could stay for free. And another big thank you to the Bengal art students Ramesh Sampui and Ankan Das, who accompanied the group from the first to the last day of their trip. They solved the issue of language boundaries between the Hindi speaking people from Shimla and the villagers.