Adventures In The Chemistry Lab
Adventures In The Chemistry Lab
The chemistry lab is the abode of indescribable odors and accidents. It is a place where friendships are tested along with cations; and nichrome wires are heated together with the cerebrum. Packed with a plethora of events, the adventures in the chemistry lab are like the lockdown memories- tragicomic to experience and hard to forget.
If you’ve scored well in exams and opted for science I’m sure you must have been fortunate enough to sniff that mind-blowing aroma of H2S. For the uninitiated, H2S or hydrogen sulfide is an ambrosial gas that if snuffed by the dead, can bring the person back to life and if taken in by someone alive, it can murder the person with its odor.
Every science college requires H2S for chemistry practicals. At my college, the lovely H2S cylinder used to rest at the entrance of the chemistry lab. What an idea? Someone please call the interior designer. I would like to chop-off his limbs and cut out his eyeballs so that he doesn’t share his astounding plans henceforth. In any case, such a talent shouldn’t be replicated.
If this wasn’t enough, the lab was located on the ground floor close to the main entrance of the building and the staircase. Now that’s like a cherry on the cake, isn’t it? Every time a student or a staff member has to take the stairs, he or she is required to relish the odor as well. There is a higher chance of Tanishq Bagchi coming up with an original composition than one not having to consume the smell while passing through the building. That aroma of rotten eggs is capable of rendering the world’s best aromatherapy with its capacity to bring all that you had for your breakfast out. I wonder how the staff members deal with it. Olfactory adaptation you see.
For those thinking why is such a miscreant needed in the practicals, they’re required for one of the most sophisticated chemistry experiments- the salt analysis. Don’t be fooled by the simple two-word name of the experiment. It’s a step-by-step process consisting of a number of preliminary and confirmatory tests that are more mundane than any of your Mondays. Salt analysis is the only thing in the world that can challenge the length of Ekta Kapoor’s series. And very much like her show, we have to start from the bottom and gradually move upward to identify the salt present in the given sample. No, it’s not between Tata namak and Captain Cook but cations and anions.
After a point, these tests begin to churn your brain so bad that you end up skipping steps and jump at the confirmatory test. I remember our batch performing it together, like one big family, mutually allocating the steps so that we can get done with it at the earliest. Where else would you find such unity? We looked like characters straight out of a Sooraj Barjatya film. The one who got the flame test in their kitty wore the happiest smile. After all, who wouldn’t like to carry out a simple test and enjoy a light show? Others often had to drag themselves to the end. Working together was fun. We would complete the experiments well in advance while the lecturer rambled through the tables patting her back for training us so well.
Many a time, these experiments transformed the chemistry lab into a circus. There are countless instances of the tables catching fire. Initially, it scared the hell out of us but as months passed we began to fall in love with these spectacles. Commerce students would often peep through the window, jaws dropped to see the magic show while we’d throw a smirk, proud of our little achievement. Don’t play with fire they say yet we befriended the flames.
Breathing around the chemicals is a different kind of pleasure. I’ve puddles of alcohol in my system without ever sipping it. Acetone is a sweetheart. Its fruity scent is a sweet escape from the terror of H2S. The acids were something we would avoid like those telesales calls. They were a common part of most experiments though. You wear ripped jeans, we wear ripped lab coats. Working with dyes, holi was never an annual festival. Red, violet, blue, green, there was hardly any color our aprons hadn’t seen. The dyes made the achromatic life of our aprons vivid. But the acids didn’t leave a chance to gnaw their happiness and create voids in it. Our poor aprons had to bear the brunt of everything.
Talking about acids, how can I forget those acid-base titrations? Those teen tigada kaam bigaada experiments. To ward off the bad omen, we’d only take two readings. The third read was always from the heart. After all, for how long can the beakers Bellydance for a color change? We reduced their work by harnessing the power of our minds. And when the mind is constantly used, legs screaming with pain standing continuously for long hours, body drenched in sweat without the fan dancing to ghoomar, falling unconscious isn’t unusual.
There are several students hitting the ground, garnering the attention of the entire lab, and becoming an overnight sensation throughout the course. Unfortunately, I was one of them. I fell to the ground and didn’t wake up till the staff tortured me with their aromatherapy. That too with an onion, something I despise. Me, seated on a chair and the entire lab including the staff and the students surrounding it. I was the center of attraction that day and for the forthcoming months as well. Imagine an introvert being shot with gawks, concerned eyes deciphering if you’re all right.
Thankfully, a fresh incident poured in and saved me. The plait of my batchmate caught fire as she unknowingly passed across a burner. Charcoal black hair cuddled by the blazing red. What an exceptional sight! However, it couldn’t go on for long. Like an anti-majnu squad, we surged in with our water-bottles and extinguished their blooming romance. Nevertheless, where there is a disaster there are casualties. She lost quite a few strands. The waist-kissing strands that were perfect for a hair oil or shampoo ad had to be trimmed. Poor hair, they can only reach the thoracic spine and audition for anti-dandruff shampoo ads now.
Still, whatever be the situation, let whatever problem arise, chemistry practicals were the most enjoyable. With rotten egg and pungent smell, it prepares you enough to not run away from the public toilets. The stinking lab, the dead fan, the crippled equipment, collectively taught us that for every fire we have sufficient water, and for every burn there’s Burnol. And since then I’ve ordered a box of Burnol. I’m planning to gift them to some “friends” this new year.
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