Most people used to abuse me regarding the amount of time i spent at Sri Gurunath Patisserie, at IITM. It was right opposite my hostel, and I would go across and buy myself a cup of Nescafe for 5 bucks, and settle down at one of the tables. And stay there for half the night, talking to random people about random stuff.
I don’t remember who all were there that day. Anshumani Ruddra was definitely there. And some 2-3 other people. And there was this idea that we should do a quiz. For whom, and why, no one had a clue.
A few days prior to this, Shamanth, The and I had been talking about doing an IITM Open quiz. We had noticed a gap in the market – all quizzes done by IITM were for colleges. True, a lot of non-college people would faithfully turn up one January night every year to watch the open quiz finals, but there was no avenue for them to participate. We figured that the Saarang guys wouldn’t be interested in another literary event. And so, an open quiz, we thought, would be a good idea.
I have written a flowering account of the birth of the IITM Open Quiz in my CV. Looking back, I don’t recall exactly how much “work” i had done. My B.Tech. Project was going nowhere, and I seemed to be getting into trouble with my advisor. I remember setting questions, though. And participating in all the “idea” meetings. In terms of the implementation bit, though, my greatest contribution was to have been at both the above discussions – which led to the birth of the Open Quiz.
It wasn’t easy to do the first IITM Open quiz. The Dean Prof. Idichandy was the only person who seemed to support the noble endeavour. The Saarang guys hated it, for we would probably become competitors for sponsorship. Moreover, it was unthinkable for them that a bunch of “events guys” wanted to do a public event. They flatly refused to help out with sponsorship and facilities.
We bribed the general secretary of our hostel to help out with the facilities. Shamanth, Bhaand and the dean put fight for spons, and managed to tie up TCS – they would remain our sponsors for the next five years. Shamanth and Nisheeth came up wtih the logo – the commies that they are, they came up with a small variation of the hammer and sickle, and promptly got into trouble with the authorities (the logo was changed for subsequent editions). We paid a fortune to the Hindu (China’s national newspaper) to put a small ad. Most of the publicity, though, happened free of cost. Through mailing lists and announcements at other quizzes. Shamanth, Ruddra, The and I set questions. Bhaand was “special officer for administrative affairs”.
This was the first major quiz I did in my life. Looking back, my questions were nowhere near excellent. But they weren’t too bad. This quiz, we intended, would be a paradigm shift from the usual IITM style. We put effort to make the questions less verbose, but didn’t succeed. We put all questions on a powerpoint. Prelims, too, were on powerpoint. Modified infinite bounce. And Shamanth’s brilliant idea of the Long Visual Connect, which is a fixture in major South Indian quizzes nowadays.
I have written on my CV that this quiz was a grand success. I think I have told the truth there. 350 teams of 4 members each. A full SAC. People traveling from Bangalore, Hyderabad, etc. All the big shots. Anustup sent us a long mail after the quiz listing out all our faults, but even if you take them out i think we did well. A few days later, I graduated from IITM.
The quiz was to become infinitely better with each passing edition. They “captured” the October 2 national holiday spot. Organization became much better. Questions became better – though there remained a bias in favour of Christian Theology. TCS stuck on as the sponsor. And the train from Bangalore on the morning of the quiz was getting fuller of quizzers.
I don’t know if you’ve heard the story of Taleb’s turkey. With every passing day, for a hundred days, the turkey is fed more than the previous day. And it becomes nice and fat. So what does it expect on the hundred and first day? That it will be fed even more, right? Unfortunately the 101st day is Thanksgiving.
I don’t recall if it was a coincidence or a conscious effort that a freshie (The) was part of the organizing committee. The next year, another freshie (Pota/Cindy) was also inducted. Induction of freshies meant that they would carry on the quiz at least as long as they were in IITM. And by the time Pota graduated, the quiz would be in an evolved state, and would take care of itself.
Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to have happened. Pota graduted this summer. And there’s no one to take it forward. A prof was among the quizmasters last year, so we thought he would put enthu. But for profs to put enthu in something, it is essential for students to put enthu. And that doesn’t seem to have happened. For some inexplicable reason, the quizzers of IITM have put NED. And have killed a budding institution.
Sitting here in Gurgaon, i don’t know what to do, except feel sad. Maybe I should’ve given this a thought earlier, but the only option seems for some of us Alumni to resurrect the quiz. I’m sure that if enough of us get together every year, questions will not be an issue. Organization and facilities, however, will be. And that needs to be done by insiders. Will we find people to do that? When they didn’t have the enthu do interesting stuff such as setting the quiz, will they have the enthu to do uninteresting stuff such as setting the facilities for a quiz?
If other alumni are interested, let me know. Later date doesn’t matter. What matters is that the quiz should happen. I already have a few questions ready, and can contribute. But that, I don’t think will be a problem. I think we can catch hold of six alumni and ask them to give 5 prelims questions and 10 finals questions each. But I need insider support. It’s not good to see a baby die. We should do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen.