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Q. You were describing, how you got into the national team of your country to be in maths olympic.
That is right. I told you about the fun math contest where we participated. We almost forgot about it, but after four or five months, the main office of our school received a strange letter. It came from some obscure office in Delhi, and asked for two students to join them in an award ceremony. I was one.
For work or other reasons, none of our parents were able to take us to Delhi. To understand how unusual the idea of visiting Delhi alone was, you need to go back to India of 1987-89. I grew up in Calcutta, a city in the eastern part of India (see map). Delhi was a far away place, and took 1.5 to 2 days to reach by train. The languages, customs, food - all were different from Calcutta. To make matters worse, around 1987-89, terrorists made a nasty habit of blowing up trains and buses around Delhi. Articles like the following appeared in our newspapers almost every days.
Source: NY Times
Our parents were not ready to let us go by ourselves and we had to put up very sad faces to convince them. We were allowed to go, but with one condition - we could not go anywhere outside after dark.
Personally I was not very afraid of terrorists. It was simple math of probabilities. 34, or even 340, was a small number compared to population of Delhi, and the probability of my getting caught in them was too small. I was probably too young to understand fear.
Q. Did the Olympic Selection Take Place in Delhi?
No. We did not even know that the award ceremony was related to anything bigger, when we left for Delhi.
About 40 or 50 kids from all parts of India showed up for this 4-5 day long event. We met a very interesting math professor named Shailesh Shirali.
Dr. Shirali presented on a topic called ‘Maxima and Minima without Calculus’. I found the presentation very stimulating.
In Delhi, we were informed about a one-month math training camp to take place in Bangalore the following summer. We were told that it would be run by Dr. Shirali, and three kids would be selected at the end of camp to go to international mathematics olympiad. Every kid around me appeared extremely bright, and I did not feel like I had a fleeting chance to be among the top three. Still the idea of learning from Dr. Shirali seemed like an interesting idea, and I signed up. My other friend from school dropped out at that point.