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Quizzing to win

Caroline Nandita will represent the city in the zonal finals of `India's Child Genius', hosted by Siddhartha Basu


QUIZZING FEVER in the country has touched a new high with `India's Child Genius', hosted by Siddhartha Basu. The search for the next wunderkid has thousands of parents and children glued to the television every weekend.

The show is as much a test of personality as general intelligence. In a programme where children from non-metropolises have been show-stealers, Caroline Nandita, a Class VIII student of St. Thomas Central School, has done Thiruvananthapuram proud.

Caroline has cleared the zonal preliminaries and is all set to take part in the zonal finals, to be held at the fag end of August in New Delhi.

Interests

Caroline, daughter of E. E. Rajkumar, Group Director of Computer Information Group at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, and Dr. K. Indumathi, paediatrician specialising in neo-natology, had always been among the toppers in her class. Academics apart, she has diverse interests. She is a voracious reader and likes to read fiction, non-fiction, and adventure. She plays the piano, likes collecting stamps, is crazy about computers and has bagged prizes for extra-curricular activities in school. But for now, it is `India's Child Genius' that she is concentrating on. It all began when an advertisement appeared in newspapers in January 2004 inviting entries for the contest. A whopping 16,000 applicants responded, and Caroline was one among them. The preliminary screening over, 1,250 candidates from each of the four regional zones sat down for a 45-minute written test, which included everything from general knowledge to reasoning.

The selected candidates were then interviewed on telephone to gauge their comprehension, language and personality. The field was then narrowed down to 320 contestants, 80 from each zone. And then came the preliminaries, held in New Delhi. At the end of it all, 15 candidates - three from each zone - were selected for the zonal finals.

Caroline didn't really expect to come this far. "I had sent in my entry for `India's Child Genius' but with the academic year about to end, I was focusing on the annual exams. A friend suggested that I go online and see if I had made it to the next round."

And she did get selected for the written exam. But so did seven or eight others from her school and many more from Thiruvananthapuram.

The written test over, Caroline was the only one left in the fray from the city. So, how did she manage to crack the test? "It was pretty late by the time I checked the results of the initial screening. I didn't have much time left to prepare, just a couple of days." Caroline did browse through the mandatory quiz books and encyclopaedias though.

Preliminary round

It was at the preliminaries in New Delhi where she got to interact with the other contestants that Caroline enjoyed herself the most. Though she did "feel the pressure" at times, the orientation session, preparation for the introduction of the participants and the pep-talk by Anita Kaul Basu helped relieve the tension.

Caroline was the first runner-up in the preliminary round. About her performance, she says: "I knew the answers most of the times but took time to weigh the options. Probably, I need to be more sure of myself."

Luck, she believes, plays a big role in success. "I knew the answers to most questions that were put to my competitors and vice-versa. To be asked questions to which you know the answers to is very important."

How did it feel interacting with a person who is arguably the most famous quizmaster in the country? "Siddhartha Basu would be present throughout, trying to make us feel relaxed. He would even crack jokes to dissolve the tension. The entire team, in fact, spared no efforts to make each child feel comfortable. The hospitality was praiseworthy," Caroline says.

She does not have any misgivings about embarking on a journey that has turned the spotlight on her. "it was fun meeting other contestants. I have made many new friends."

Quiz her about the pressure of performing in front of the camera and she just shrugs it away. Caroline knows it is not the end of the road if she loses, but it is winning that is uppermost on her mind.

R. K. ROSHNI

Photo: S. Gopakumar

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