Probably it all started when my father bought me ‘The Children’s Book of Question & Answers’. It was a constant companion of my childhood days and till long after I had stopped getting qualified as a child. Like all kids, I was curious about things around me, the nature, the society, why we are the way we are et al. Fortunately, I have parents who nurtured and encouraged that curiosity. In an era sans wikipedia and google, they tried to answer my questions as objectively and as best as they could. They bought me G.K books and Q&A cards. Then, there were relatives and friends who used to gift ‘1001 Quizzes’ on my birthdays. Thus, began my fascination with facts, trivia and dates. Quizzing started with inter house quiz competitions in primary classes and eventually became a life long interest. Then, there was Derek O’Brien and his BQC. And finally Internet, with a plethora of (but only a few of them are quality stuff) quizzing blogs and forums.
However, it was quite late in my quizzing life when I realized that my home town i.e. Calcutta is ‘The Mecca’ of quizzing in India. And it is probably no coincidence that many of the baaps of Indian quizzing are Bongs.
Interest in facts and trivia made me volunteer for organizing quiz competitions albeit at a very small scale. What still gives me the ultimate kick is not to conduct a quiz (I am too tongue tied for that) but to spend nights researching the questions, checking and double-checking the facts, looking for ambiguous and potentially controversial questions (and consequently answers) and finally striking the right balance of eruditeness and fun, keeping in mind the audience.
I had the good fortune of coming across some people who are quizzing stalwarts in their own right – People for whom your admiration soon turns into awe, Amazing polymaths and walking encyclopedias. After coming across them, any inflated sense of your own quizzing prowess simply vanishes. There was this quizzing trinity in my engineering college. I have actually seen one of them organizing a very professional and matured quiz, impromptu – at a notice of 30 minutes. Such was the repository of his questions. Then there were quizzing wizards at my previous employer. Then, there are The Giants of the Pune quizzing circuit. Of course there is our very own Raghav and Sivaram. And how can I forget the amazing blogs of Rohit Nair and Dhananjay Shettigar.
There has been a gradual shift in the kind of quizzing, at least in the leading forums of the country (which are essentially engineering and management campuses, apart from the televised ones). Be it Tata Crucible or BT Acumen or Campus vs. Corporate “The Challenge” on CNBC, the emphasis is nowadays more on the ability to deduce and relate seemingly unrelated pieces of information rather than on factual quizzing i.e. relying purely on your memory to recall the facts and the related trivia. Unfortunately for me, I am better at the latter than the former. Functionally speaking, I have been traditionally weak at Sports and Entertainment. So, all those audio clips of garage or punk rock are generally ‘passes’ for me unless I have a partner who used to play marbles with Syd Barrett. And then there is Giri Bala’s own brand of “Lateral Quizzing”.
Coming to partners, I never had a steady partner at any stage of my quizzing life, more so since I have been into serious quizzing i.e. engineering college and beyond. So, the need to develop complementary skills was never there. One reason for this is that number of people who were better than me in college and B-school was always even. So, I had to cajole some guy who’s a sports or movie freak to be my partner. Unfortunately in most of them, the ‘Spirit of Quizzing’ was missing.
Another observation I have from the Indian quizzing scenario (I am not aware how things are abroad) is that most (I would dare to say ‘all’) quizzers are men. Quizzing, as a sport, as a hobby is pursued pre-dominantly by the male sub-species of Homo Sapiens species. Even the amazingly brilliant females I have met are not into quizzing except for being in audience (and they don’t even vie for the audience prizes). As for the reason for this, I am not hazarding a guess because innumerable wise men before me have failed to fathom female psychology.
I am far from the best. I have never made it to the stage/finals of any quiz competition of repute. I have not even missed them by very narrow margins.
But writing the 20 questions eliminations itself gives me a high. Then trying to answer the questions posed to the finalists and of course, watching the masters at the height of their powers and display of some steely nerves. That’s the experience which makes you travel half way across Mumbai in peak hour traffic after office to see Derek O’ Brien conduct ‘The CRY corporate Quiz’. It’s this spirit which makes you bunk classes and risk imposition of fines and debarment to watch the some ‘fine quizzing’ at any of the Pune colleges.
And probably that’s what they call ‘Passion’.