I was in 9th standard when I came across a subject called Biotechnology. An introduction to it was given in our Environmental Science textbook. The subject seemed interesting. Also, in our biology syllabus we had a chapter on genetics. I had fallen in love with genetics. Until then I had made a decision of opting out science in my (10+1) and (+2) classes. But after my exposure to biotechnology and genetics, I had made up my mind to take up life science after 10th grade.
In 11th grade I took up biotechnology as my 4th subject instead of biology, an unconventional choice. Among Indians, career in science meant either engineering or medicals- 2 of my cousins are engineering students (1 of them recently graduated) and 1 cousin is in medicals. I always want to the unique one, following the convention is not my style. Moreover the subject is quite interesting. I was determined to study Biotechnology major in college. Then I realised, majority of the colleges in my city and my state as a whole do not offer undergrad Biotechnology major course. That’s where my dilemma begins. To fulfil my dream, I had to leave home. Now, Bangalore is considered an educational hub in India. Most science students migrate there for higher studies.
Bangalore is around 1900 kilometers away from my hometown Siliguri; it takes approximately 46 hours by train and 4 hours by flight. When my father learned that there are no colleges offering my subject in whole of West Bengal (my native state) and that I wished to shift to Bangalore, it scared the shit out of him. He was adamant about not allowing me. He became even more adamant when most of my relatives were also not in support of my choice.
During the last few months of my 12th grade, almost daily I would argue with my dad. I would lock myself in my room and cry when I saw no hope. Mom, my maternal grandparents and my maternal uncle were on my side.
When she realised that matters are getting worse between dad and me, mom called one of my paternal cousin-aunts who is settled in Bangalore. She successfully persuaded auntie to be my local guardian. It was auntie who actually persuaded dad to allow me go by taking my responsibly and accommodating me at her place.
Then came the dilemma, which college would take me? I performance was really throughout 11th and 12th grade. I was called for interview by two colleges – Christ University and St. Joseph’s College. My parents didn’t allow me to go for Christ interview cause they felt the institute is too extravagant for us. But I somehow managed to reach for Joseph’s interview.
I had applied for St. Joseph’s College in March 2014, right after my board exams got over. On 21st May, I received a mail saying, I was to appear before the authorities within 7 days for my interview. That year the announcement of CBSE board results got delayed. Other boards had already announced. I thought they would ask for the marks card at the interview. What to do? I called the college office. The staff said I was to produce my 10th and 11th grade marks card. I was like “I’m doomed”. 10th grade was peace but 11th grade was screwed up badly. From 87.4% in 10th to 55% in 11th grade. I was of the notion that the interviewers would torture me with questions and at the end would reject me. Still I thought of giving it a try. The other big hurdle was getting a train ticket. May-June was the vacation time. Most schools and colleges shut down for summer. Also there are students like me running to places for admission. My dad somehow managed to get tatkal tickets for 24th May,2014.
The 46 hour journey was an awful experience. We got sleeper class tickets. The compartment was dirty, stinky and overcrowded. I avoided eating so that the risk of indigestion or food poisoning is reduced, and drank as little water as possible so that I didn’t have to go anywhere near the dirty, filthy toilet. My dad was unhappy to see my condition; upset, he couldn’t afford flight tickets.
At last we reached Bangalore. The place seemed peculiar to me. Peculiar because neither could I read the letters nor could I apprehend the speech of the natives of this city. Thankfully, auntie had come to receive us. On reaching her place, I straightaway rush to the bathroom. Had a nice soak under the shower. Then what next? I call at the college office regarding the interview, the staff said I could go right then. I told I had just reached so it would take me some time. So she told me to come after 2 pm. We hurried with our lunch and rushed to the college. Thank God, there wasn’t a queue. The guard ushered us for the first round interview which was taken by Dr. Ronald Mascarenhas, professor of Chemistry. He didn’t ask me any question, he simply explained the rules and regulations and the marking and credits systems of curriculum. My father doesn’t know English so he spoke to him and explained him in Hindi. He didn’t look into my marks card. Phew!
Then we were sent to the Principal’s office for the actual interview. I was dead scared. But Fr. Praveen Martis wasn’t scary at all. He too told me about certain rules and then checked just browsed through my documents. He just said, it’s quite good enough, and that he believed I could improve. I was surprised. He’s quite an encouraging man. He too spoke to my dad in Hindi after realising he can’t understand English. He’s quite a gentleman. And he signed my form. Admission granted!!!
Everyone in the family was happy, St. Joseph’s College happens to be a prestigious institute after all. My parents asked me whether I would join that college or apply to others as well. But my instinct told me to go for it. So we paid the fees the next day itself, without delay (dad actually wanted time for me to take a decision). On 27th of May, I officially got admitted to SJC with triple majors in Chemistry, zoology and Biotechnology (CZBT).
On 28th May, the board results were announced. My instincts saved me. Had I not taken admission there, I would have had to go back to Siliguri. No other college would have taken me. I screwed my 12th grade really bad – one of the lowest in my friends circle. A freaking 70%.
I’m thankful to SJC for trusting me that I could anytime improve.
This is how I flew from Siliguri and landed up in Bangalore.