Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Quizzer
Not unlike most other bloggers who suffer from recurring bouts of nostalgia, I too begin my tale with a “Long, long ago in a state far, far away”. Okay, maybe not that long ago. My tryst with quizzing can be traced back to some dusty old classroom in R.A. Puram which seated a bunch of nerdy eight year olds (as nerdy as eight year olds could be, anyway). The aforementioned outcasts had skipped their PE/PT period and were furiously trying to recall the capital of Liechtenstein, and peering across to the neighbour’s desk to check the UN Secretary General’s spelling- yes, that weird fellow whose name sounded like Coffee Anna. It was the ill-conceived preliminary round of the Bournvita Quiz. We were battling it out for a shot at the regional round with the possibility of meeting our matinee idol, Derek O’-Is-there-anything-he-doesnt-know Brien. I never did made it to the finals although I always among those who were awarded a consolatory certificate and an ugly water bottle with a Bournvita sticker for finishing third or fourth.
Times changed, and so did quizzing. Soon it became evident to me that knowing capitals, flags, prime ministers and authors alone just wasn’t enough. I decided to keep myself apprised of the happenings around me, viz current affairs. My first shot at professional quizzing, if you could call it that, materialized when the school’s top quizzer broke his leg or contacted typhoid or something. A godsend, as far as I was concerned. Frankly, I can’t recollect much about the quiz, but my exceptionally talented seniors got us through to the finals. Twas a photo finish and in the dying moments I came up with a brilliant answer- the name of the chap who had proclaimed, “God does not play dice with men”. I had no idea what the quote meant, but we ended up third. I was the happiest 11-year old in Madras that day. Life was simple back then.
I had originally planned a verbose, sentimental piece about my quizzing exploits (or the lack of any therein), designed to bore even the most loyal of my readers. But then I
took an arrow to the knee noticed that one of my fellow quizzers had already posted his ode (read O Dei, in a mallu accent) to quizzing. Me attempting to better the Morose Mallu at a sentimental tribute would be as futile as Dravid trying to emulate Kohli’s post-century celebrations. So instead, I shall succinctly sum up my Re.1 about quizzing. The Crucified Businessman once told me that a quiz is a QM’s way of announcing, “Hey these are quite interesting. Go read up about them”. I couldn’t have put it better myself. My personal philosophy is that a question must serve to fill a void in the memory banks by connecting several seemingly arbitrary chunks of information instead of introducing new islands and more seas of darkness. While the Hallgrímskirkja can actually prove to be an engrossing read and the source of multiple quiz questions, it is just as fascinating if not more to see that Pythagoras had invented a special designer cup to prevent over-drinking. Working out answers though is slightly over-rated as the more you actually know about the answer, the easier it is to ‘work it out’.
Most people overlook the need for a good quizzing team. I would define a good team as one where the value of the team is greater than the sum of the abilities of the individual quizzers. Mercenary teams are fun, but at the end of the day, there’s a reason why Barcelona kicks Real’s a*se in football even though the latter leads the standings at present. I was never much of a solo quizzer, and hence my chances of winning were directly proportional to how well my team mates complemented me. R, unfortunately, stripped me of one such team. Without a steady team, my career in R was much like a mismatched resistor. My four years were marked by a few rare wins, sparser than a matrix with O(1) entries. I was the Aakash Chopra of quizzing. And so, my not-so-glorious professional(read: for money) quizzing career came to an equally lackadaisical end on sunday, when I failed to qualify for the General Quiz by a point or half. Surprisingly, I didn’t whine like a three year and storm out with the fury of a scorned woman but instead enjoyed watching the finals. Perhaps, because among all things in heaven and earth dreamt of in my philosophy, quizzing is the only activity where the bridesmaid gets to have as much fun as the bride. Indeed, as much as I may crib about my unaccomplishments, few things are capable of giving me the high that hit me when I plucked “Venice’s Only Gondolawoman” out of thin air using just Italy+First Female as clues. Silver linings that make my day.
I hear that quizzing cliques in the US of A are as rare as Paneer in my mess’ Sahi Paneer (that’s the spelling they use). Paraphrasing some famous man, “Of all the things that I’ll miss, I’ll miss quizzing the second most”. (I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to work out the first and the others.)
The funny thing is, I still don’t know what the capital of Liechtenstein is.
P.S: I initially wanted to name this post “The Bravery of Being out of Range” after this Roger Waters song. But my obsession for cheap puns got the better of me.