The Woodstock of Quizzing

Three days at the Karnataka Quiz Association Jamboree

If you closed your eyes, you wouldn’t hear anything for a minute. A few murmurs would break out. Jokes were cracked.  The silence then returned to the room while everyone pondered the next question. It was like being stuck in a clock that only read minutes.

Google Maps would only tell me the general direction where the Institute of Agricultural Technologists was, so I walked up and down Queens’s Road trying to find the place, worrying I’d be late for the first quiz. Missing the opening to a three-day event isn’t what a good reporter does. The Karnataka Quiz Association would begin its quiz Jamboree in a matter of minutes and I was convinced I would take forever to find the venue. I saw two men in shorts and T-shirts buying cigarettes and, on a whim, decided to follow them. They seemed like the ‘’quizzing type’’ I thought. It turned out I was right. They found the building right away. They must have been here before; the building was hidden away behind trees and a narrow road and no one else on the street knew how to find it.

Inside I tried to learn what the quizzing type looked like. It was the largest concentration of grown men with backpacks I had ever seen, but there wasn’t much else that stood out about the audience. The audience seemed to have a lot of middle aged bald/balding men in it, but there were people from all over the country and even a few teams made up of kids still in middle school.  A mixed crowd, you wouldn’t really be able to say for certain they quizzed. A lot of them carried magazines and books with them, I saw at least six different people carrying the latest issues of the Caravan.

Quite a few members were well known.  Between sessions, members from different teams would shout greetings, good-humoured insults and wave across the room. After every quiz, quizzers would go around making bad jokes and discussing the questions with each other as if state lines didn’t matter. I saw at least four people, out of the many many people who knew him, playfully hit Arul Mani in the gut.

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The crowds weren’t huge, but if you entered the hall a few minutes late you’d have to take the quiz standing. A very unpleasant experience that inspired Nagaratna, a team mate/quizzer, to hoard chairs ‘like a sociopath’. Even though the 3-day jamboree included the national finals, there was surprising lack of pomp or formality that plagues most similar events. When I walked home after the first day of quizzing, 2 hours later than I was supposed to, I met a friend who asked me who the MC was. She expected a celebrity and said it like it was the most natural assumption you could make. But I find it hard to imagine that the crowd at the quizzes would have ever needed any monitoring at all. People turned up in shorts and casuals a few minutes before the quizzes started, chatted each other up, took their own time registering and seemed to have nothing to do but quiz.The quiz master sat down behind his laptop and delivered question between jokes and counter augments, never really having to take any disciplinary action.Some didn’t bother forming teams till it was time to register, 3 people asked me if I wanted to join their teams, insisting they didn’t care if I didn’t know anything, they’d take anyone. They just wanted to quiz. You’d forget some teams came from different states for this.

People new to the quizzing world would do well to remember that time works differently for most quizzers. The team of school children looked baffled and grew restless, unsure why everything was taking so long to start. What they didn’t know is that no-one really paid much mind to the allotted timings. The senior quizzers went around as jolly as ever unfazed by the fact that they started many minutes late and ended a few hours later than they were supposed to. Even after the quizzes were done for the day people socialized in the halls, then the corridors, then the front yard and finally outside the building.

The first quiz took place in a hall where one team had suspicious smell of alcohol about them and the thermocol false celling had a strange moss growing on it. I noticed all this because I had plenty of time on my hands. The questions were incredibly difficult and I began to regret having registered. I had a few vague ideas about 4 questions ( Nadir Shah, Sacramental Wine and Red Pandas) out of the 30 questions, but the majority of questions escaped me. I wonder how anyone managed to remember the names of people who tried save Mussolini, the types of Hangovers as described by Wodehouse, Pan Greek Olympics etc. While I scratched my head trying to figure out what “Cooking with Poo” really meant in Bangkok, I discovered that if you listen closely you can overhear the many bad jokes being cracked. My favourite one was after a question that involved an elephant called Hanno being gifted to the pope. “Hanno-bal Lecter,” Arul Mani quipped.

Throughout the three days the back of the hall were filled with audience members, who equalled the amount of quizzers. They often whispered answers to the questions and argued about what team was best, which quizzer was smartest etc. There isn’t much here for someone who doesn’t like quizzing.There was a guy who worked at the building peering into the room trying to figure out what all the fuss was about. About 15 minutes in, he stopped paying attention to the quiz and started checking out the audience. He disappeared after he started getting dirty looks. The school kids and most of the audience members who were new to quizzing also disappeared as the questions grew harder.

Nagaratna told me they call this the Woodstock of quizzing which brought laughter and a few nods from people around us. There was a guy who spent his entire birthday at the quiz.It’s not hard to see why this wouldn’t attract non-quizzers, it’s a hard, difficult contest meant for the pros. It isn’t hard to see why most casual quizzers would be blown out of the water a few seconds in; most of them have never really come across anything this intense and might vaguely recall a few answers at best. But if you like scratching your head and grappling with hard questions this is the place to be, the Woodstock of the quizzing world.

Rijul Ballal

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The Open Dosa is dedicated to covering Bengaluru, the Universe and the Internet, not necessarily in that order. It is the WordPress unkal of the lab-journal brought out by students of the Department of English, St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous), Bangalore.

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