I participated in a Science Competition at the National Level during the last winter, when I was in class 10. I was the only student who qualified for the State Level from my school, after clearing the school level. I came first in my school, and also my district!
The State Level competition was held in the prestigious Bose Institute, Kolkata on 2nd February,Sunday. Though the competition was state level, students from Sikkim and Andaman & Nicobar Islands were to take part in it too. It was a daunting exam for a 15 year old who was aspiring to give Boards Exam the next month. Plus, being the only student from my school was also making butterflies fly in my stomach.
Initially, my father didn’t want me to participate because he thought my attention might get divert from Boards Exam. But later, it was he who escorted me to the exam and got tensed more than me. We reached the venue by Public Bus. We were early by an hour. Many students from many different places were there. We were asked to wait in the large courtyard by the security officers. I, being an introvert, kept feeling even more anxiety at that time. I gazed at the sky and the beautiful building for long. And then, we were finally allowed to enter the main building. The exams were to be held after an hour and a half then. We were asked to sit in the Science Theater where a feature film made on Plastic Recycling by National Geographic was being shown to us. Then came the part which can give anyone a huge crunch in their stomach.
The best scientists of India came on the stage. They were the judges. My father, who was sitting beside me, kept on cracking jokes in a tensed voice, to keep me free from anxiety. The scientists,one by one, told us stories about their works, India’s contribution to Science, and other good things to make people love Science at first sight!
After this, the students lined up in the hall to collect the exam kit, which consisted of everything a student may need for the exam, in a transparent blue file. Then, we were given breakfast in the cafeteria,since it was only 9:00 AM then. It consisted of Puri, Dum Aloo, Two Rosogollas, and a banana. It was well cooked. It was very delicious too.
Now, came the exam. Parents were asked to go to the Hall-2, and students were asked to sit in the theater. Each of us was handed a question paper. The question paper was same for class 9, 10 and 11. So, it was very difficult to do Class 11 Maths for me then. Plus, some of the questions were incorrect and incomplete. I figured out the mistakes in the question, and called the invigilators to correct them. They praised me for my smartness. I was very happy, and felt my anxiety levels drop. No one, but me, among the hundreds of students figured out the mistakes in the questions! I am not boasting, but at a time like that anyone would be flattered by a little attention.
The theory exams were complete and we were asked to go for lunch at 1:00 PM, after paper submission. At the cafeteria, we were served rice, lentil soup, vegetable curry of two types, papad, and chutney. Again, the food was delicious.
Then, came the time for practical exams in all the four subjects. I was feeling very happy to know, we had to do our practicals in the best labs of the best private college in our country, the IEM. I was awestruck to see its huge labs and beautiful equipment. The students were grouped in groups of four. I was in a group with a boy from Darjeeling, a boy from Sikkim, and a girl from Hooghli. We went to the chemistry lab first. There we were asked to check the pH of various salt solutions.
Then, we headed for Physics Lab, where we had to work on a plastic bottle as a lens. Then, the Biology Lab, where we had to count the average number of yeast cells in an observation. Then, in the Mathematics Lab we were asked to make a pictorial representation of the quadratic formula.
I was excited when I got the chance to walk beside a scientist on our way back to the Bose Institute. He asked me several questions about me, and I was very happy to get some attention! At the Institute, I re united with my worrying father. We seated ourselves in the theater for the prize announcement ceremony. I got nothing but a Participation Certificate and snacks, on our way back.
In terms of prize, I had none. I did not qualify for the National Level, but what I got is valuable to me. The little attention, the chance to enter the best labs, the opportunity to showcase my ability in front of the best scientists in India, a professor asking me about my career choice, exposure to students from entire East India, and the wholesome celebration of Science as a whole, a beautiful evening to remember!
A day in the name of science!