Let’s Make Cranes: Senbazuru


The crane is considered a mystical creature in Japanese culture, and is said to live for one thousand years. As ancient legend has it, one who folds a thousand origami cranes (one for each year of the crane’s life span) will be granted a wish. The association of this legend with the atom bombs of World War II can be traced to a little Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki, who was an infant when Hiroshima was bombed. Although she survived the blasts, the harmful radiation from the nuclear fallout caused her to develop leukaemia, an incurable form of cancer in those times. She lived for a decade more. Towards the end of her short life, she started to string origami paper cranes together, perhaps hopeful of a cure. According to the story based on her life, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, she managed to complete only 644 before she died. In the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, there is a statue of Sadako and people leave paper cranes there regularly in her and their own relatives’ memories.

A Statue of Sadako Sasaki in Hiroshima

The Fine Arts Club paid tribute to the memory of Sadako and the legend of the cranes by kick-starting its activities this year with a colourful bang on Hiroshima Day (August 6th). It organised Senbazuru (Japanese for ‘a string of thousand cranes’), wherein it invited people from all over campus to fold one thousand origami cranes as a mark of protest against nuclear warfare. The event was publicised widely through the newly created (and very active) FB page of the FA club.

The first cranes.
Cranes strung together

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to state that the event was a spectacular success. As a member of the rather small volunteer team, I was convinced that it would be a logistical nightmare, but the enthusiasm of the others and the crane-folding itself (very addictive activity – you could keep at it for ages without getting bored) soothed my doubts. I was proved pleasantly wrong; people turned up in gratifying numbers, right from freshies to PhD. scholars. There were even children from the schools on campus, professors and a few students from other institutes. The area in front of CLT was cheerfully noisy and colourful. In the end, more than a thousand cranes were made (1080, to be precise), and well before time too. This was followed by the screening of Dr. Strangelove in CLT. Arya Prakash and Manasa Venkatesh, club conveners, said that “one of the visions of the Fine Arts Club is to stay socially responsible and bring about a milieu of art in the campus”.

Inevitably, there were sceptics who felt that this was an ineffectual waste of time and paper, but all there is to say to them is that gestures count and no event which brought together so many different people together for a couple of hours of rare camaraderie, especially for a cause as worthy of attention as nuclear disarmament can be called a failure.

The scene at CLT
 Photo credits: Pratheesh Prakash

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