Of Uncle Pai, IIT-B and BQC Open

Posted March 9, 2011 by Surya
Categories: Randomness

Tags: , , , , , ,

As a little girl, seated at my study table, pretending to solve the much yawn-inducing Math worksheets assigned from school, I used to squeeze Tinkle comics under the damn thing and read them when nobody noticed. Yes. Stealthily. Like a mouse crouching in a corner nibbling on cheese. And I used to try my best to not show any of the myriad of emotions the comic took me through. Not to glow in the face when I solved one of those Tinkle Treats and Tricks; not to ‘eww’ when Chamataka gets bathed in a bucket full of coal-tar as a result of a failed plan to kill Kalia; not to facepalm when Suppandi makes a fool of himself (yet again). I had to be very careful; always keep a grim, this-Trigonometry-problem-is-so-tough-I-need-to-concentrate look on my face with my forehead pointed. Lest my mom notices and comes to investigate.

Among all the characters that Uncle Pai left behind, my favourite was Suppandi. His elongated half-head, long jaw and huge nose amused me. Coupled with his loose shorts (called ‘Senthil shorts’ in the South film industry), his red t-shirt and the way he changed his masters by the dozen, Suppandi was a sight to see. His clumsiness, stubbornness and uncanny ability to do EVERYTHING wrong were things that made Suppandi an epic comic character. I adored him.

Now imagine a room full of Suppandis, who are not even funny. On Sunday, 6th March’11, I attended a full-day event at IIT-Bombay – The BQC Open Quiz. And I couldn’t help but chuckle as the students of IIT-Bombay reminded me of the village simpleton. The clumsiness of the student organizers and their unparalleled ability in getting almost everything wrong. Except that Suppandi was innocent, genuinely ignorant and naive. He just couldn’t get a single task right. And genuinely so. But the IIT-B junta aren’t even innocent. For years now, I have noticed their casual approach towards organizing an event.

From what I gather, the BQC team had sent them detailed mails of instructions for the event. Availability of the auditorium, the mic systems, sound, buzzers, and other logistical requirements. And still, the last minute ‘jugaad’ for the buzzers, a lecture hall instead of the promised auditorium as the venue and absence of mics.

This is not the first time. Each time a quiz event happens at IIT-B, I have been witness to this kind of technological mismanagement. Why they failed to deliver was beyond me. Maybe, now I know why. Suppandi as a character was entertaining because of his ignorance at comprehending his own foolishness. Imagine another layer to him now. What if he knew what he is doing and still continued to do it? Its not ‘ignorance’ anymore, but ‘arrogance’. And you feel nothing but disgust and anger at such a character. That’s exactly what IIT-B student organizers come across as. Unbelievably clumsy with almost a ‘ok, chill da…why care?’ written on their faces. Year after year. (Link)

What irks me most is that in spite of the BQC team putting up such a fantastic show with high quality research, entertaining questions, and interesting formats, this review is overshadowed by the dismal arrangements made by the IIT-B students.

Coming to the quizzes, the BQC team put up an awesome event with a students-only general, an open sports and an open general quiz. The students general quiz conducted by Vikram Joshi and Pradeep Ramarathnam was thoroughly entertaining with questions ranging from Bunga Bunga to Kanga League. I felt the level of questions for students was just right with most of them being cracked by either the teams or audience members. It’s a good thing to keep the quiz on the easier side for students. They like to go home happy and entertained. Pradeep and Vikram did a good job of the hosting bit taking turns round wise.

The Sports quiz conducted by Atul Mathew, Anannya Deb and Anand Sivasankar was a decent show. (Note: I’m not too much into sports). What I liked most about it was their intention to make it an all-inclusive sports quiz. From styles of table-tennis grips to Kenenisa Bekele’s personal tragedy to Parvez Musharraf’s quote on Jahangir Khan, this was one informative quiz. However, I felt it could have been more entertaining with Cricket fundas. ‘Coz lets face it. In India, sport means Cricket. And it is essential to cater to the audience that’s there to just have some fun on a Sunday afternoon. In addition, the questions could have been shorter with more audio-visuals peppered in and a bit of coordination between the quizmasters would have helped. Hard core stuff deserves accolades.

This was followed by the Open General quiz by the big daddies – Rajiv Rai, Sumant Srivatsan and Vibhendu Tiwari. For anyone who’s wondering, why big daddies? Well, the slides were flawless, the questions ranged from moderately easy to real hard core toughies. I loved the history and entertainment questions specifically. My favourites: Kanchipuram sari shade MS Blue (named after MS Subbulakshmi) and the connection between AR Rahman, Tuntun and Hemlata. For me though, the highlight of this quiz was Sumant’s hosting. It was heartening to see him actually make an effort to walk to each team with the mic and MAKE them speak into it. And coupled with his witty comments and leg-pulls here and there, Sumant brought in some life after a long day of quizzing. With the absence of mics for teams, most of the times the audience couldn’t hear them during the other two quizzes. So Sumant, I felt, made it rather delightful.

All in all, a good day of quizzing for those who followed Rajiv’s advice and turned up, rather than watching the sissy cricket match at home. I have given up on IIT-Bombay students with regards to their ability to conduct an event flawlessly. Its not that they cannot. They just don’t have the intention. So here’s hoping BQC Open grows from strength to strength, and adds rich value to the already existing quizzing culture for years to come. As for IIT-Bombay event organizers, their anthem will always be the famous bath-tub song from Veer Zaara, ‘Hum Toh Bhai Jaise Hain, Vaise Rahenge.’

(Results of the quiz and snaps here: Link)


IIFT, Kolkata – Open General Quiz Review

Posted August 31, 2010 by Surya
Categories: My start-up

Sipping My Fair Lady at Moulin Rouge, Park Street, Kolkata with a bunch of students from Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, I wished I could spend atleast one more day in the wonderful city. The open general quiz conducted by us (QuizMonks) had concluded an hour ago and it was celebration time. We huddled in one corner of the restaurant and spoke about the quiz, questions, Kolkata quizzers, films, music, Calvin & Hobbes, Facebook, MBA, jobs and much more.

Earlier during the day, casual conversations with the students brought out the perceived image of Kolkata being quite a lethargic city. Shops pull-down shutters in the afternoons for naps, auto-rickshaws ply only fixed routes and quizzes (usually) don’t begin on time. This was partly right as the participants started filing into the auditorium only by 4.30 pm, an hour after registrations began.

Much different from Mumbai and its chaotic lifestyle, Kolkata is really one of those cities where people are pretty much at-their-own-pace. They don’t seem hurried and certainly not hassled. But, the auditorium was soon buzzing with participants switching seats, shuffling around, greeting each other and planning local quizzes and quiz club meets like one big happy family.

Lethargy or not, what we witnessed was a high spirited bunch of quizzers – agile and enthusiastic. Much like Chennai and Bangalore, school kids, college students and 40 plus uncles and aunties all played an active part in the extravaganza. A sight that we rarely see in Mumbai. I can recollect only one ‘uncle’ in Mumbai who is a passionate and a regular quizzer. One hardly ever sees school students at open quizzes.

The prelims went off well with all the 30 questions getting cracked by some or the other team. With a highest score of 22.5 and a cut-off of 16, six teams joined the two college teams that had already qualified through the online prelims.

When three of the first four questions in the finals went unanswered, Dhananjay and me were a little concerned that the quiz might turn out to be ultra-tough. But when the likes of Jayashree Mohanka and Souvik Guha grace the stage, you can’t expect an ordinary quiz, can you? The lead changed hands quite regularly in the initial phases and with almost 1/3rd of the quiz done, it was Charanpreet Singh & partner who led, albeit by a slender margin. The duo seemed quite surprised and jocularly asked, “Can we stop the quiz at this stage?”, prompting peals of laughter from the teams and audience alike. Unfortunately for them, the show had to go on and the doyen of Indian quizzing, Souvik Guha, decided to join the party. With some intelligent guesses and some matter-of-fact answers, he and Dr. Soubhadra Chakraborthy steered clear of others and won in a canter followed by Jayashree Mohanka & Sounak Chakrabarti on second spot.

I personally look forward to ‘high adrenaline moments’ in a quiz – when a participant cracks a bloody tough one or when the crowd appreciates a good question. And the Kolkata quizzers gave us those ‘moments’ and more! What is most delightful is that people seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves like they were on a picnic. Bantering at a co-quizzer’s lame guess to helping us correct elims sheets; participating with the objective of having fun and not being desperate to win are some of the traits that distinguishes Kolkata quizzers. One could sense a certain purity in their love for quizzing, a richness in their knowledge base, a lightness of touch in their delivery of answers and a nimble energy raging within them.

The students of IIFT, Kolkata organized the event with utmost perfection. The venue, the screen, LCD projectors, sound systems, mics were all spot-on. No technical glitches, whatsoever.  Right from receiving us at the airport to conducting the event to dropping us back at the departure lounge, Jagadish Sahu and his team of students were meticulous to the final detail.

And then the dinner with Sukrit, Sandeep, Ankit, Chaitanya and Jagadish was the icing on the cake. Add to that the almost-celebrity treatment that Karan Rampal, our official ‘guide’ for the trip gave us. Aah, what a weekend! This was one satisfying quizzing experience (unlike this disaster). Here’s hoping the quizzing culture of Kolkata remains as energetic and vibrant as ever.

Stereotyping Women

Posted July 7, 2010 by Surya
Categories: Feminism

The year was 1998. I was in class eight, seated on the second bench, English period. Our teacher, Miss Lipika was telling us about gender disparity rampant in rural India in all its forms – infanticide, dowry killings, illiteracy among women, sex-trafficking, prostitution,… As young, inquisitive students, we were all ears to the lecture and we also had various presentations and group discussions on the same. As a sensitive 12-year-old, I held on to the talks that women are indeed, discriminated against, in the villages and non-urban townships.

Life went on. This whole ‘gender disparity’ thought was just there… stagnant. I never really thought much about it. My parents gave me a good education and made me a fine and competent human being. I never had to fight for my rights or ask for the same.

However, from the past few days, owing to some errant incidents and discussions with family members and friends, the ‘gender disparity’ chapter has re-opened its hallowed pages in my mind and is fluttering at a furious pace. Thoughts galore… and since these thoughts are peppered across various subjects and dimensions, this post is rather haywire in terms of prose.

I do realise that many a things, in life, are looked at differently for either genders. What is normal for a boy to do is considered not-so-normal, ‘indecent’, non-modest or in some cases, serious offence for a girl. It’s ingrained in our societal norms and methods of life. Most have religious connotations while some don’t.

Women and Hindu traditions

We usually tend to believe that Hindu traditions and practices ‘allow’ more freedom to women than any other religion. People argue that Islam asks women to sport the veil while we let our women do what they want, wear what they want. May be true. I don’t know!

However, observe this. During pre-vedic times, women wore the sacred thread and also had the right to study the vedas and perform rites and rituals. They could attend even funerals. Post-vedic and modern times deny this right to a woman. So the sacred thread, the gayatri mantra, father’s last rites and the vedapathashalas are meant only for the men. Though, the Arya Samaj allows women to wear the sacred thread, the question is how many parents in India, ask their daughters, “do you WANT to wear one too, like your brother?” It’s usually taken for granted that it’s not meant for them.  Recently, when one of my female friends performed her parents’ last rites, people around wondered, ‘what the hell is SHE doing?’

(Note* – I personally, do not believe in any religion or religious practices.)

A woman carries the mangalsutra (taali in south) as a symbol of her marriage but a man doesn’t. You can never tell a man is married, just by looking at him. Women have accepted this as a tradition, and way of life. Some of my friends say, “That’s the way it’s always been.” And then, there are men who wouldn’t like to see empty necks of their wives (without the mangalsutra or the bindi.) It becomes a huge issue amongst family members that the woman of the house was spotted without it. This, then extends to its sub-branches like mandatory green bangles, red and white bangles, nine-yard sarees, dupatta over the head, etc. The ‘kanyadaan’ and prostration to the husband are examples of the same.

Women and sexuality

In India, even today, women are largely looked at as sex objects. Our television commercials (read deodorant ads), stand-up comedians, movies, songs, etc. all carry and communicate in them connotations of a woman’s sexuality. The commercialization and prostitution of humour has made a woman’s body a laughable affair to the extent that people don’t even want to see that it’s being done in bad light. Such is the so-called fun of the matter!

I completely detest humour that’s based on a woman’s body and her sexuality, more often seen in Hindi and Tamizh films. I remember this Tamizh movie where Rajnikanth is having an argument with his female lead that a man can always do better than a woman in all aspects of life. To win the bet, he takes off his shirt and walks the streets, nude and then mocks at the girl if she can do the same. The girl shies away. Sexiest  is not the word. And if you thought that this kinda slapstick humour exists only in south Indian movies, think again. The ‘sthan‘ joke (indicating the breast of a woman) in Chatur’s speech in the movie 3 idiots, is a classic example of how, even today, the inherent male chauvinism in the society, makes fun of the woman’s body. The fact that that scene from 3 idiots is being circulated everywhere and people watch it and enjoy it,(women included), is testimony to this. Rich humour/satire is dead in today’s world and… Well, I digress…

But this fact of a woman’s sexuality being in the discussion always, also has its roots in old Hindu traditions. Many families, even in present India, celebrate and conduct vast ceremonies and havans when a girl in the family, begins to menstruate. The other day, I was having a discussion with a friend, and she told me that it is celebrated because the girl is now, considered to be ‘fertile.’ Sick as it can get, everything is looked at from the ability-to-conceive point of view. And once she becomes ‘bodily mature’, she is asked to be gentle, laugh softly, not hop around, walk with elegance, mellow-down in general. I remember my Hindi teacher saying, “tum ladki ho… zara susheelta dikhaao.”

Its sad, really that even her basic behaviour, mannerisms and dressing sense is governed by these obsolete practices. In many homes, the girl is almost ostracised and kept away, during her menstrual time, ‘coz she’s considered ‘impure.’ Don’t believe me? Ask your grandmom.

Women and nudity

A few months back, two of my male friends planned to go to Bangalore by road/car. They said it would take them two whole days to reach there and were pretty kicked about it. I too wanted to tag along as it sounded like a fun trip. They seemed to be disinterested in my going along and when asked, one of them said, “You wouldn’t be comfortable. We are saying this for your good.” When I insisted, I got the answer, “If, on the way, we want to pee, we’ll get off and do so. You obviously cannot.” When I think about it, I fail to understand why a girl should (is expected to) feel embarrassed while a boy, doing the same thing doesn’t have to.

Though men and women are born equal, nudity has always been a tangent where the parallelisms of the lines become blur. To the extent that many girls of my age don’t even realise that they are being discriminated against. Nudity has always been a point of debate and gender disparity has poked its filthy nose into it, for years now. Men can be shirtless, can wear shorts, can sport any part of their body freely and nobody would take offense. I have lots of female friends who can wear shorts only at home and that too, in the absence of the male members of the house. I, for one, wear shorts at home. My father lets me because he loves me a lot. But the point I am raising here is that though, we are all born free; we are bound by these invisible (mostly baseless), shackles of societal ‘norms’ and ‘rules.’ So, if a woman wants to wear shorts or a revealing top, her husband, her father, her brother, her male friend has to be comfortable with it. He has to ‘allow’ her to do so. And if the word, ‘allow’ comes into the picture then, ‘freedom’ has no meaning, in the true sense of the word.

And then there are men who go as far as to say, that skimpily/ ‘indecently’ dressed women mustn’t cry foul if they get molested or raped. The point being, “men will be men. If you are in your shorts, don’t cry if they letch at you, molest you or even rape you.” This is like going to a sweet shop and telling the shopkeeper, “don’t keep your sweets where I can see them, or I’ll eat them.”

Shirley Chisholm once said, “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, “It’s a girl.””

Numerous thinkers, feminists; myriad articles, talk-shows, debates and blog posts wont do any good. Our society has been conditioned to soak-up to the norms and traditions. It’s almost like it’s in the blood. It’s a way of life. A woman will still be treated as subordinate, unequal in matters concerning day-to-day lives and the world at large. Her body will always be considered an ornament, rather than an instrument.

You don’t necessarily have to be anti-man to be pro-woman, you know? But that’s what a lot of people will infer from this post. Things haven’t changed. Things never will… oh, the cynic..

Tharoor and Karna

Posted April 30, 2010 by Surya
Categories: Personalities

Yesterday, my good friend, Bharat sent me this brilliant article from Outlook India by Vinod Mehta. The article dissects, deliberates and drives a point about the mallu mud-hook who has had the media chugging after him time and again – Shashi Tharoor.


The life and times of Shashi Tharoor resemble a morality tale. Here is a man who begins life with an extra-long silver spoon in his mouth. Clever, even brilliant, awesomely well-educated, lucky enough to land one of the most coveted jobs on the planet, author of several critically acclaimed books, he comes within a whisker of being elected Secretary General of the UN, manages to win a Lok Sabha seat, becomes a minister in the privileged foreign affairs ministry…

I cant help but notice the striking similarity between Shashi Tharoor and the character of Karna from The Mahabharata. And pardon me for using a few phrases from Mehta’s write-up – just to make the comparison more interesting. (Excerpts from the article are in a different font and italicized)

The life and times of Karna (too) resemble a morality tale. He too was a man who began life with a silver spoon, and also a golden kavachh and kundal. Remember he was really a Kaunteya – born to Kunti & the Son God. Clever as a fox, very well-educated and trained under the great, Guru Parashurama (who was also Bhishma’s guru), lucky enough to land one of the most coveted kingdoms to rule (Anga, one of the 16 greatest nations of the time – Solas Mahajanapadas), most acclaimed leader of the Kaurava sena during the Kurukshetra war (lead the side after Bhishma’s fall and no rules were broken under his leadership), the only one on the Kaurava side, who was most respected by Krishna, the Lord of Lords. During pandavas’ exile, Karna, in order to establish Duryodhana as the king of the world, conquered numerous kingdoms.

From a very early age, he was seen as the genius boy. Once, as he watched Drona teach the chakravyuha to Ashwathama (Drona’s son), Karna wisely pointed out to guru Drona, that Ashwathama was neither a kshatriya nor a rajputra (king’s son). This was a virtual slap on the face of Drona because he declined from teaching Karna, claiming that he would play guru only to either rajputras or kshatriyas. Karna went on to become the sarvashreshta dhanurdhar (supreme archer) albeit the protection Arjuna got from all sides to hold the title. Karna was also the only one, other than Arjuna, who could have struck through the marma matsya (moving fish) during the Draupadi swayamvar.

His fairy godmother had bestowed on him another curse: Karna was fearless and on-the-face when he spoke of his willingness or unwillingness of something. (Just as Mr Tharoor’s frank tweets or as Mehta points out – Vijay Hazare to single malt whisky to global finance to jehadi terrorism.) I wouldn’t say Karna was articulate in his speech but the clarity of thought and precise verbal message are two things that he displayed brazenly.

Karna openly opposed to all of Shakuni mama’s flimflams ranging from lakshagrah (palace of wax designed to kill pandavas) to Draupadi vastraharan to the rigged dice game. Karna drove in his point to guru Kripacharya’s accusations of him being a shudra and could not consequently compete with Arjuna. He asked Krishna to mind his own business when the later told him of his birth origins thereby asking him to join the pandavas in the war. He didn’t hesitate to give away his only protection (from Arjuna’s wrath) – kavachh and kundal stating that he was the daan-veer. Such clarity with words and thoughts…

Self-doubt, is a phrase Karna had never heard. If he ever got into trouble; if the itihaas (history) questioned him about his blunders, he was sure his well-formed arguments and verbal valour would see him through. And Karna did get into trouble because albeit he opposed the lakshagrah, vastraharan, chausar ka khel, etc. he always stood by Duryodhana owing to his obligation/friendship to the latter. Karna was the symbol of dharma residing in the house of adharma. He was the ‘other’ Vikarna.

So, where is the morality tale? What is it that the mahaveer Karna shouldn’t have forgotten? Albeit, he was the best, with the most aggressive and dazzling mind and talent, he was his own worst enemy. He placed the obligation-to-Duryodhana card higher up in life, than dharma. Yes, his conscience pricked and pierced at him, hard. His mind did a ‘Karna calling Karna’ several times, but the unfortunate, egoistic, jealous warrior never paid heed. Karna was brought down by Karna.

Copy Cat Aamir?

Posted January 15, 2010 by Surya
Categories: Movies

This post is not a rant or a post in the true sense of the word. Its rather a verbal manifestation of my disappointment with the so called ‘perfectionist’ of our times. Especially after Lagaan, I thought Aamir Khan is one of those people who does sensible movies and is also a sticker for perfection. At the time of Rang De Basanti, the preacher in Aamir Khan showed its face when he said on NDTV, “You be the change, you be the politician, the youth should change the system… blah blah” I thought it was a lame way to market a film that was nothing but fantasy. I mean seriously, isn’t it just a dream to be able to kill politicians at will? I guess he refused to come out of the I-will-change-the-system mode and its evident in 3-idiots.

Inspite of this, I loved Taare Zameen Par for its simplicity in portraying the mind of a young child and his battle with the much-criticized education system. But after doing a little research, I realise that perhaps none of what Aamir churns out of his kitty is original. Though, the character of Ishaan Awasthi was (shall we say) ‘inspired’ by Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes fame, I didn’t think Aamir, the debutant director would actually lift scenes cut to cut from the classic comic strip.

The Maths test/quiz that Ishaan takes in the film is a straight lift. Take a look at this:

While, the one above is a direct lift, the two pieces below can be called ‘inspirations’ – one where Ishaan fights the shower in the bathroom (Calvin fights rain) and two where he just leaves school one day, and that followed by parents’ meeting with teacher and principal:
And as I toyed with this idea of whether these scenes are really inspired from C&H strips or could they be a mere co-incidence, Dhananjay brought this book titled ‘Thank You, Mr Falker‘ to my notice. Here’s a synopsis of the story –
Quoting from the site:
“Patricia Polacco is now one of America’s most loved children’s book writers and illustrators, but once upon a time, she was a little girl named Trisha starting school. Trisha could paint and draw beautifully, but when she looked at words on a page, all she could see was jumble. Her classmates made matters worse by calling her ‘dummy’ and ‘toad.’ It took a very special teacher to recognize little Trisha’s dyslexia: Mr. Falker, who encouraged her to overcome her reading disability. Patricia Polacco will never forget him, and neither will we.”

I am thoroughly disappointed at what Aamir and Crew seem to be doing. This hurts me because I loved Taare Zameen Par and most of all, I am a big big fan of Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin & Hobbes. The copying streak seems to have continued with this year’s so-called great film, 3 idiots.

And talking about 3 idiots, here are a few copied moments –

1) The ‘why didn’t they use pencils instead?’ question by Rancho
2) When the three friends go searching for Rancho you see a man clicking snaps of burqa-clad women
3) When the prof refuses to accept their papers, Rancho mixes them with the rest

With not-so-stringent Plagiarism laws in our country, and with people raving about Aamir ‘Perfectionist’ Khan, I guess movies like 3 idiots will continue to enjoy the acclaim and awards. And the media will continue to call him a ‘great.’ I guess my friend said it right. “Aamir Khan uses the media as shoes.”

It doesn’t make for great screenplay when you just physically manifest old idioms like ‘putting the toothpaste back in the tube’ and copying internet jokes and forwards. The least he could have done is to give due credit to the source. I don’t thing it would have taken away anything from his film. And since he hasn’t , I guess Aamir should join the league of people who think ‘we are born too late in the world to do anything original’ and his movies (at least these two) should be listed here.

Update: Just found that the C & H ‘inspirations’ have been covered here and here

Quizzing Misadventures

Posted November 13, 2009 by Surya
Categories: My start-up

This happened last week at a premium B-school:

We (QuizMonks; the research team) reach the venue of the quiz two hours before the scheduled time for a dry run.

1) The event head has flown off to Delhi to participate in some other quiz. (Bravo!)

2) The assistant in-charge takes us to the venue when there’s hardly 30 minutes left for the quiz to start.

3) The LCD switches off every 2 minutes; there is no mic; no sound cord for the laptop to test the audio questions.

4) A volunteer gets a cord from somewhere after much delay and the audio works fine. (Phew!)

5) The volunteer says, “Since the sound cord is put in the system, the mic wouldn’t work. Dhananjay, can you shout?” (It almost prompted Dhananjay to reply, “Yes. Can I start with you?”)

6) We realize the LCD is a pain. The assistant in-charge asks a corporate participant to stand on a chair and rectify the LCD that’s mounted on the ceiling. (You see, the organizers don’t believe in being formal. What the hell! In fact, they don’t believe in being courteous either.)

7) After much delay, they change the venue of the elims to a different classroom. All participants are asked to move there.

8) At the new venue, the LCD and mics are fine, but the audio doesn’t work fine. A random volunteer says, “Guys, please don’t delay anymore. We are late already. Let’s start the quiz.”

9) We start the elims and Dhananjay has to change two audio/video questions on the spot, as the organizers couldn’t get the audio glitches smoothened.

10) The screen at the main lawns (where the finals are to happen) is a tiny one mounted on a tripod. We ask the volunteers to change it. One of them tells us, “It will be visible. Don’t worry. Anyway, the quizmaster would read out, na?”

11) We threaten we wont do the quiz if they don’t get a bigger screen. They use a flex/banner on the backdrop and the finals that were to start at 6.30 pm gets postponed until 7 pm. And then, they realize that the director is on his way. So the quiz finally starts at around 7.45 pm. The Quizmaster had arrived at 5.15 pm. (Who cares about sticking to the schedule!)

12) The ultra smart sound guy keeps on fidgeting with the speakers and every time an audio is played, no one is able to hear it. Every single time, the host has to keep on announcing, “Someone please get the audio straight.” Every single time.

All these goof-ups, despite giving them clear instructions (in writing) a couple of weeks before the quiz about the exact requirements; including, the size of the screen.

Just a couple of weeks prior to the above-mentioned disaster, at another premium B-school, the organizers look unprepared for the event. A tiny screen for a massive auditorium; winners being given post-dated cheques without even informing them about it, etc. The cribber-event-head tells us in a high-handed tone, “Dhananjay, I thought you’d bring with you at least 50 corporate teams. Still, we get only 27 corporate teams. What ya?” We make it clear to him that it’s not the responsibility of the research team to get teams.

Personally, I feel that most of these people conduct events to add bullet points on their CV. Everything boils down to that. What a farce! Quite a few organizers speak with us as if we are their slaves. I think they take this liberty with us, because we aren’t like the other quizmasters who strut around with attitude up their sleeves, stay on campus and yet arrive late for quizzes, order food at odd hours, ask people to postpone their flights since the quiz would run late and conduct the quiz according to their whims and fancies. Surprisingly (or, maybe not), they are the ones who are respected; students address them as ‘sir’ and talk to them like they were the bosses. These are men of honour!

When Dhananjay and I conceived the idea of a quizzing research company, we were very clear about what we wanted. Dhananjay loved quizzing and I always wanted to do something on my own. We approached two of our friends who also shared similar interests and just like that, we got started. Our motto was clear – to offer quality research that’s unmatched in the country and conduct quizzes where the focus is on the questions and not, the accompanying shenanigans. We would slog our asses; stay overnight at each others’ places, work and re-work on questions, re-frame them to make them look sleeker and yet informative; think about 100 odd things to make the quiz a good mix of easy/tough questions, keep on racking our brains to cover questions on varied topics, etc.

Some unsaid rules we follow (or, try our best to) religiously are –

1) No compromise on research no matter how ‘commercial’ the event/quiz might have to be.

2) We will never be late for our quizzes because, we value our and everybody else’s time. We reach the venue at least an hour and a half prior to the scheduled time and do a dry run.

3) Complete the quiz a week before the event, so that we can review it over the next few days and make it better.

4) A post-event review and take necessary steps to make it better next time.

5) We ask participants for their suggestions after every quiz and if they make sense (and they generally do), earnestly work towards them.

Maybe, we should throw some attitude. Maybe, we should arrive late. We should perhaps ask the organizers to serve us spicy Chinese food and Kiwi-fruit juice next time. We must insist on a chauffer driven car. We must repeat questions from previous quizzes. I think all this will make QuizMonks more coveted in the eyes of the organizers.


I want to sing item number

Posted November 30, 2008 by Surya
Categories: Music

I am an aspiring playback singer. Two years back, I got the contact number of singer Shubha Mudgal through a friend. Shubhaji has been able to successfully fuse classical music with Indi-pop to deliver some very good songs in the past. I was extremely thrilled at the prospect of meeting her in person. With a request to train me in classical music, I called up Shubhaji. She asked me to meet up at her Khar residence and I couldn’t wait for the moment of truth.

My dad and I were seated in her drawing room when she came in and greeted us. After some initial talk, she asked me why I wanted to learn music and what I wanted to sing in future. I said, “I want to be a playback singer and be part of mainstream Bollywood singing.” She asked me to sing. I did. After some words of appreciation for my voice and singing skills she said, “You know, all youngsters unfortunately want to sing Bollywood songs these days. I am really appalled at what you said. Not one person says, ‘I want to sing classical.’” She went on about how much important it is for youngsters like me to abstain from remixes; how much item numbers have spoilt Indian culture and what harm contemporary songs have done to Indian music.

The other day, I heard Shubhaji’s voice… in an item song called ‘Bichua’ for Rakhi Sawant in the film 1920. Well, looks like Shubhaji only likes to preach, not practice!