Trivially Stuffed (BH: D296)

May 27, 2012

Off to Barton Hill Engineering College in the city at 9 am to take part in the Karnataka Quiz Association Mahaquizzer, 2012 with Shri M. It's been at least six years since I have taken part in any quiz. So was excitedly ready for that jolt of sweet embarrassment. 

Youngsters and their guardians' posteriors appear through the windshield as we near the college gate. Mighty clean windshield for Shri M's brand new car had only been delivered yesterday night. "Look...unshaved, messy beard and spectacles...surely a quizzer!" we observe.

But the numbers don't make sense. Dozens of cars in the campus. Has Trivandrum been a closeted trivia enthusiast paradise all these years? Has she chosen this Sunday to out herself? Tough questions! Simple answer in the form of a cloth signage: JIPMER entrance exam, 2012 in the Main Block. Ah!

Down to the Main block via an ancient set of stairs among a dwindling outgrowth of Neems, Acacias and Tamarinds. Graffiti of self proclaimed regal clubs of engineers on the only-at-birth painted walls. It is amazing how an engineering college is simply a collection of buildings squeezed together in a campus. No sight of any amenities, sports arenas or even a decent open space park. 

We hunt among the aspirant candidates and perspirant parents for any sign of a Mahaquizzer direction. The quiz master is telephoned twice before he responds. "I am in one of the IT labs." 

We climb uphill from the Main block to the oldest tile-roofed, creeper sporting buildings. Sure enough the sagely Arul Mani is found in the "Server Room."

The quiz begins at 10am. Few interesting acquaintances made beforehand. 150 questions, 90 minutes. When one arrives hoping to answer 5%, getting 15% right is a quizzer high. There are around 50 participants. Good mix of topics. 

The answer discussion makes it clear that the majority are ardent quizzers, devote trivialists. Dude with 44 tops. Lady with 30 comes first among women. Karnataka Quiz Association proclaims that a Lady's topper prize is given to reaffirm that there are avid women quizzers. But everybody knows the real reason. I am not recounting questions here because they'd be available online with answers.

We decide to stay back for the open quiz in the afternoon. Quick lunch of Ajwa chicken biriyani (not sponsored by KQA)

Around half as many as the morning make it for the afternoon session. The quiz is in AJM format. According to the quiz master, this format, though it expands to unmentionable full form in Kannada, was invented in Trivandrum and now has become popular all over India. It ensures that nobody sits out as the quiz progresses. After select rounds, the last two teams are distributed among the other teams. Thus in the end we are left with two big teams. 

The open quiz lasted two hours with a great mix of visual and connection clues. America-related questions got me particularly fretting. A question on barbed wire types mentioned Osage Orange. There was an Osage orange (also known as Horseapple) tree at the edge of Bee Creek park behind my apartment in College Station. There was a map question asking to identify the region in Kansas and around where special construction restrictions apply. It is totally different feeling when one encounters questions about stuff one had been intimately familiar with.

There was the question asking what's manufactured in Bradford, Penn state and claimed to be "wind proof." A rather twisted connection about the Sarge in Beetle Bailey and Columbus. Visual clue about the old chinese restaurant in Edinburgh with a red facade that has shot to literary fame in the last couple of decades. 

Answers for the day ranged from Sopanam music to Rabies to candle light and the Hind Swaraj. Plenty refreshed, plenty cool stuff learnt. Nothing makes one feel younger than making new connections about old, forgotten things. 

The feverish, belligerent nature among hardcore trivia nerds back in the 90s which used to create unbearable heated discussions about absolutely trivial matters was conspicuously absent. Also absent, thankfully, was the sort of inbreeding that one sensed in the quizzing circles then where only select few could make it into the cult which had its own quirky, obscure honor and humor codes.

I believe there is the market and the need for a weekend quizzing circle in the city possibly tied to some coffee joint. Will explore the possibilities in the coming weeks.

A rich Sunday experience. 

I'll end the note with a great question: Which famous author dropped a five letter part of his name upon publisher's insistence in the 1930s but then that dropped part happened to the hero's name of his first acclaimed novel?

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