If visiting the Tower of London and Madame Tussauds wasn't exciting enough, the icing on the London cake came in the form of the winner's trophy in a prestigious debate, defeating UK students on their home turf, for Payaswini Tailor and her three friends from Our Lady Queen of the Missions.
Payaswini, an alumna of Our Lady Queen of the Missions (QMS), Salt Lake, and now studying in Lady Shri Ram College for Women, was part of a four-member team representing the school at Battle of Ideas 2012 in Barbicon, London. The other members of the team were Arushi Dhupia, also a QMS alumna and now a student at St. Xavier's College, Harshita Kaul and Tania Chattopaddhyay, both students of Class XII at QMS.
The girls were among 350 speakers battling it out over 80 sessions on October 20 and 21 at the Battle of Ideas. On Day 1, the Queen of the Missions team, winner of Debating Matters Competition India 2011, locked horns with the UK champion, Graveney School, London. The motion was "Clinical trials in developing countries are exploitative". Arushi and Payaswini were the main speakers, expressing views for and against the motion respectively.
"It was a close fight but the minute I heard my girls, I knew we would clinch it," said Sister Joicy Madassery, the principal of QMS, Park Circus, who accompanied the girls along with a senior teacher of the Salt Lake branch, Rinku Gangopadhyay.
The road to London was not easy for the city girls. They had to go through an online elimination test before beating DAV Public School-Bhubaneswar in the regional final of Debating Matters, an inter-school competition organised by the British Council, and reaching the national face-off in Delhi last year along with eight other schools from across India. "We beat Christ Junior College, Bengaluru, to the title," said Harshita.
But the best part was yet to come for the girls. The national title meant a five-day trip to London and taking part in the prestigious Battle of Ideas. "It was like a dream come true. I am nervous before every debate and there in a foreign country and before a full house, I was even more tense. To add to my trepidation, my speech had to be cut short from four minutes to three. But our opponents were very friendly and they in fact helped us break the ice. Finally when I took the stage and found the audience attentive, I gained confidence," said Payaswini.
The girls had been given four weeks to prepare. "But my speech was actually the outcome of a week's intensive research. Juggling college and research for the debate was not easy," said Payaswini.
Trophy won, the girls spent the remaining days in the UK sightseeing and celebrating. "We enjoyed other debate sessions but my most memorable experience was visiting the Tower of London and Madame Tussauds," Tania said.
The girls also visited the Canterbury Cathedral and St. Anne's Convent in Sturry, where lies the tomb of Euphrasie Barbier, the founder of Congregation of our Lady of the Missions.
"It was amazing to move around the streets of England. Little things reminded us of Charles Dickens, Enid Blyton and all the things that we had read. Thanks to my school, I could realise my dream of visiting England," said Payaswini.