What I’ve Been Up To Of Late – Halfway Through 2018

Months have gone by without a post from me. The single source for me to flaunt my affinity for and amity with big words (or bombastic vocabulary as some call them), i.e. this blog, has remained relatively soundless in recent times. The sole platform for me to overthink about otherworldly hypotheses, ramble incoherently on topics that catch my attention momentarily, and sometimes educate about assistive technologies, has remained unusually inactive lately. My go-to place for composing a post or even a poem if only to practise my language has seen me treat it rather negligently this year.

To put this into perspective, I posted thrice on entirely unrelated subjects in December 2017, and have posted only twice so far this year (or thrice if you include this post), and we are already in the second half of 2018. Time does fly, doesn’t it? I’m now officially done with school, into junior college, enrolled in engineering (Physics+Chemistry+Mathematics) coaching, reasonably comfortable with the cane, attempting to transition from local Model UN conferences to more competitive debates, wondering and worrying about the prospect of potentially not participating in TCS IT Wiz 2018, depriving myself of sleep by writing this part of the post at 3:10 a.m. Indian Standard Time… Wait, where were we again? There is a continuum of experiences, thoughts and activities I have busied myself in, which, viewed in isolation, seem rather random and unconnected, but which collectively have provided me a sense of fulfilment in their own miniscule ways. I shall endeavour to paint a portrait of all that I have done and learnt of late as succinctly yet lucidly as I can in this post.

January – Flunking Prelims, Participating In a Hackathon, and Elocution

2018 commenced with an array of events lined one after the other. I delivered a speech about Alan Turing in the first week of January as part of the selections round of an inter-school elocution competition, got selected to the final round occurring in the last week of the same month, and ended up securing the third spot. In the Indian education system, there is a long-standing popular practice of conducting in-school (and mostly ungraded) preliminary tests paralleling the final school-leaving Class 10 Board examinations that take place only a couple months later. Mine were scheduled in the second and third weeks of January. However, insubordinate I prioritized the I-STEM hackathon at the Indian Institute of Information Technology Bangalore, a 24 hour coding contest for sighted university students, industry professionals and visually impaired coders to collaborate on a novel project over these Prelims. I scrambled through my Mathematics paper that Friday, embarked on a flight to the state of Karnataka in the evening, and spent that weekend meeting people far more experienced and teaming up with programmers significantly more skilled than I. This Vision-Aid sponsored event rendered me with the opportunity to meet a number of my programming batch mates (honestly, they, along with my teacher, Dr. Sonal Patel, are my gurus really in the world of code) in person, have insightful and enriching discussions about topics ranging from Aadhar security to quantum computing to PGP keys to deep learning (some of which I genuinely need to refresh my memory on), and hear talks from prolific activists and leaders in the disability advocacy and digital accessibility spheres in India. I returned early Monday morning and appeared for my Social Science paper, unprepared and unconcerned about it since it was an ungraded test.

February – When The Nerves Start Kicking In

With the conclusion of the Prelims, the realization finally dawned upon me that there was a sizable proportion of my syllabus I had yet to adequately prepare for. The results of the Prelims further consolidated my fears. I devoted three weeks of the month of February to Social Science (History, Democratic Politics, Economics and Geography) due to the sheer vastness of the text and my absolute unfamiliarity to a majority of the same. Having attempted to memorize everything in sections and failing, trying to merely understand but then forgetting, and finally summarizing each and every part of each and every chapter in a manner that would be most digestible to my brain, I did succeed in getting a fair grasp on History and Democratic Politics, a reasonable degree of confidence with Economics, and acquaintance with most of my Geography. I periodically solved past Mathematics question papers, revised my understanding of certain scientific concepts, and allocated little time to grammar and virtually none to literature. In the process, I discovered The Daily Show With Trevor Noah On YouTube, got hooked to his hilarious comedy and spot-on commentary on American politics and other current affairs, and wasted much time on YouTube videos. So much for single-minded dedication…

March – The Moment of Reckoning

I may have procrastinated and often studied only half-heartedly throughout the academic year, but I made a veritable effort in March. I think I worked hard from March 1 through March 28. I gave my best shot in the exams. I don’t have regrets.

April – Books, Movies and Spanish

After the muddiness about the potentiality of a retest for CBSE Class 10 Mathematics was elucidated, I decidedly took a therapeutic break for a month. This relaxation period involved reading books, watching movies, learning the basics of Spanish and commencing research about the future. Akin to an obsession of horror movies that I had last year, I watched a number of science-fiction classics (with audio-description, of course) this time around, including, but not limited to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gravity, Interstellar and Inception. I re-read the Canon of Sherlock Holmes, a character and work of fiction that I had admired as a child and which I continue to delightfully consume. Eccentrically, a school friend of mine and I suddenly grew the impulsive desire to productively utilize our time by learning Spanish. We memorized a limited set of words and phrases in Spanish from online courses and mobile apps, but gradually got engaged in other activities, and have since deprioritized linguistics.

May – Coding, Mobility and JEE Coaching

As May approached, I took the plunge into programming by enrolling in a course containing coding conundrums that challenged me to the core. Even after I complete this course, I intend to review some of the video lectures and problem sets to reinforce some of the fascinating coding techniques and algorithms taught. Simultaneously, I also took mobility lessons from Shriram Sir (as I used to address him during our initial days of acquaintance to his disapproval, although he did teach me the art of the cane and is my mobility mentor and thus merits Sir now :D); navigating in the corridor, advancing to the footpath, dealing with sometimes well-intentioned and at other times meddlesome passers-by, asking for directions, travelling in a train, and so much more that I probably couldn’t have imagined myself doing a few months before. May also was the period where I stayed undetermined about my future – Joint Entrance Examination or SAT, IIT or a foreign university, coaching or self-study, International Baccalaureate school or integrated college. After meetings with a number of renowned institutes, consultation with people who have undergone this process first-hand, and extensive online research, I concluded that these dichotomies I had perceived didn’t necessarily exist and long story short, I sat for the entrance test of one of these engineering coaching institutes by the name of Rao IIT Academy, topped it, and now study Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics as part of my IIT JEE preparation and shall be doing so for the next two years.

June – Ominous Days

June is the last month of the time frame falling under the ambit of this post. I received the results of my Class 10 Board examinations – 95 in English, 92 in Hindi, 84 in Mathematics, 96 in Science, and 100 in Social Science – translating to 93.4%, a total that was far below my expectations. People close to me lost a phone and dropped a phone leading to the discolouration of the display. My JEE coaching classes were also fatigue-inducing for the first several weeks both due to the substantially increased commutation as well as surge in difficulty level of syllabus. Compounded by other issues that plagued me during June, this isn’t exactly a month I would choose to relive if I were offered the ability to.

Epilogue

It is presently a fine day in August. I write this section of this post thousands of feet above sea level on a flight taking me back from the United States of America to India. Even though I still have a massive backlog of practice problems for a bunch of chapters that I must complete very soon, my JEE coaching classes have overall become substantially more enjoyable and less tiresome. The lost phone and the phone with a discoloured display have both been replaced by newly purchased devices that I have selected and that are serving their respective owners well so far. In fact, I have bought a new Smartphone for myself as well, relinquishing my former Motorola M in favour of my new Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1. Lastly, my Class 10 Board scores, after re-evaluation, have been revised to 93 in English, 95 in Hindi, 98 in Mathematics, 98 in Science, and 100 in Social Science – amounting to 96.8%. All is well that ends (reasonably) well.

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Author: Bhavya Shah

I am a 16-year-old techie, quizzer, debater and Potter+Musk-head from Mumbai, India, and I am Passionate about STEM, world politicss, and disability rights. When I am not burdened by school homework (which I never bother doing anyways) nor busy blogging, you might either find me programming in Python, reading a contemporary classic, or aimlessly perusing the Internet. Also, by the way, I forgot to mention something; I can't see a thing, lost all my eyesight by the age of 11, and I'm totally blind. That's me.

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