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This is going to be a totally outdated post. This happened in 1997. One of the two most happening years in my life. (The other one was 1995).
When this incident actually happened, I was an established quizzer in my school. In the point of view of school, I was a prodigy. Actually I was not. I was smart, not a genius. In the month of August, our school received an invitation to participate in an Independence Day Quiz at Laidlaw Memorial School, Ketti, Nilgiris.
My, then, Geography teacher, Ms. Naidu (One of the most intelligent and well-read teachers I have had the honor of studying under) was made incharge of the selection process of the quiz. She selected me and Malsum Sanga (A Tibetan) for this quiz that was scheduled to be held on the 14th of August. All the while Naidu ma'm prepared us for the quiz, thinking it was going to be a general quiz and that there will be a tough competition.
But somehow my parents had a nagging feel, that this was going to be an Independence day quiz, in the sense, questions related to India's independence will be asked. So I had to prepare, keeping that in mind. Try as much, I could get very limited information from Manorama Year Book :) so, it was quite evident we needed some more information. In the meanwhile, Sanga and myself, decided to split the content among ourselves. I would take up the Freedom Struggle, and he would take up the Constitution and Schedules.
Very Soon, I was searching for material. (remember this was 1997. Internet was restricted to telephone lines in Computer Institutes and Google was yet to make its debut !!! Gosh... Look at that... I lived in times when there was no google... Shit.. do I sound old or something ?)
I remembered that one of my classmates had bought an 'India Quiz' book during a book fair in my school. There was no decent bookshop in Coonoor, where I could buy this book and I was not on talking terms with this female, but I had to get the work done. So swallowing my ego, I went to their house, which, for the record, was the adjacent building, and asked her for the quiz book. She did not even ask me a single question and gave me the book. :P
Then started my preparations. I really prepared very hard. I must mention here, that my Sister and I studied in different schools. She in Stanes, me in Mountain Home. It always used to be 'My-school-is-better-than-yours' argument at home. I got to know from my sister that her classmates were also participating in the same quiz. MK and PKB. I remember their names very well, and I am sure they do remember my name too. This gave me the butterflies. Her class mates meant they were +1 students. I was just a 7th standard 'bachcha'. To be very frank, it gave me the jitters. Losing to Stanes not only meant 'apmaan' to Mountain Home, but also meant I had to maintain a low profile at home. All of this was running at the back of my head.
The day came. All of us, including Naidu ma'm, hopped on to the school van and reached the school. Actually it was the sports and extra-curricular affairs period of the school. A lot many of my schoolmates were participating in games. So we spent some time watching them compete. Soon it was around 3.
Time for the event of the day !!!
In the meanwhile Stanes quiz participants, MK and PKB had seen me and came up to me and started small talk. 'Oh..So you are VP's brother. Good. Very Good. See you in the Quiz. All the Best.' The staff who accompanied them, was their Physics teacher, Mr. Ronald. A Gentleman. I guess he knew I was palpitating inside. :P. He said, just relax and don't get excited and do well. Takes guts for a teacher to calm down a guy from the opposite team. :P :)
That auditorium was the biggest one that I had seen till that day. To say it was huge is an understatement. I never expected the auditorium to be full. How mistaken was I. Minutes before the Principal of Laidlaw walked up on dias, I took a glance behind me. To say that I felt like someone kicked in my gut is something that is quite apt. What I saw took my breath away... The whole auditorium was full. Packed to capacity. Half of the audience was the crowd from other schools and the other half was the school's own students, who were queuing up near the doors and entrance as there was no space inside. My legs started shivering. This was perhaps the first time, I felt so much anxiety and nervousness.
Then the teams were called onto stage. It was truly a David v/s The Goliaths contest. In every sense of the word. A collective gasp went up when I walked up the Dias. I barely reached the thigh of the tallest person in the group. :P To say it was embarrassing is to say the least.
And then the madness started. Stanes was seated right opposite to us. Actually Team 5. And the host team sat at number 4. We were the second team. The quiz master looked quite friendly. It was only until we came to know his scoring system, we decided he was the devil in disguise !!
The quiz started. People must have thought I was in the wrong league or something, until 'it' happened.
The question that started turning the quiz in our favor was this.
'When Gandhiji was arrested for Salt Satyagraha, who replaced him to lead the Salt Satyagraha for the next phase ?'
The question was intended for Team 3.
Team 3 - Pass
Team 4 - Pass (Huge sigh of disappointment from Crowd. Home team :))
Team 5 - Pass (Stanes - I let out a huge roar inside my heart :P)
Team 6 - Pass
Team 1 - Pass
It was almost decided that Mountain Home was also going to pass it, and that was when it happened
'Come again, Team 2.'
'Abbas Tyabji - a lawyer'
'That's right. That's a fantastic answer Team 2. You get 10 points for that.'
The look on MK and PKB's face was worth a million dollars. Well that they had to retain that look on their faces till the end of the quiz :P
The next hour or so, saw me field questions from Pre Independence Struggle, The First War of Indian Independence, Jalianwala Bagh Massacre, Quit India, Indian National Congress.. Questions on Gandhi, Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Constitution all were answered with such detachment that I was actually surprised at myself.
A Question that totally shocked the spectators and the Quiz Master, and impressed Naidu Ma'm immensely was this...
'Approximately what was the longest period of time Nehru was in Jail continuosly ?'
All the teams had passed it. I knew the answer the moment the question was answered.
The answer was 1040 days. :)
One question, the failure to answer which, I still rue today, was -
'Who were the other two people who were sentenced to be hanged with Bhagat singh. ?'
In those times there was no 'Rang De Basanti' to remind us of this. I knew only one name, 'Rajguru' and forgot the other. Stanes remembered the other (Sukhdev) and got the full points. (Shit.. !!!)
'Which was the first state to be carved out based on the language ?'
The answer is Andhra Pradesh.
Only the Home Team were a stronger team than us. Actually they were pro's. They had been quizzing for some 5-6 years and apparently did not have the jitters that I was getting used to. Hence, they had an upper hand during the last two rounds where we were actually running neck-to-neck. I had to take it sportingly because, All said and done, at the End of the Day, they were better quizzers than us.
So when the quiz ended, Laidlaw had come first, Mountain Home came Second, Stanes came Third (Yes !!!!! Extremely satisfied). We were ahead of Stanes by a huge margin. :) :D and we lost out to Laidlaw by a thin margin. :P
I was so elated. MK and PKB had no option but to atleast look happy. How could they go back to school and say to their classmate, your younger brother tore the quiz apart ? :P
The icing on the cake was yet to come. The moment the quiz got over, the principal of Laidlaw, once again came up on Dias, and started thanking the quiz master and the quality of the quiz, and then while he was talking, he caught me by behind my neck and pulled slightly, indicating that I had to stand. What he spoke before that, I remember vaguely, but what he spoke after, will be something that I will remember and cherish all my life...
'... if this boy was studying in my school, he might have been sitting in one corner of this auditorium, but his school, has recognised his talent, and wants him to have more exposure to hone his skills. He is easily one of the best quizzers that we have seen on this dias. Which class are you in ? (7th)... (one big round of applause). I always thought that our quiz team was the best in Nilgiris, looks like we are going to have some tough competition in the coming years....'
And as I stood up, the applause was deafening.
Any quizzer would tell you, that to receive a special ovation, for yourself, is an out-of-this-world experience.
After this quiz was over, Ronald sir came up to my parents. (He was my sister's teacher too. :P) and congratulated us and then went on his way. I do not know what he went and said in Stanes, but I knew for one thing, that for the next 6 months, quizzers in Stanes used to ask my sister , 'Your brother is participating in that quiz..?? Then I think we'd better avoid it ..' :)
What better compliment can I get ?
The Answers will Continue...
Of Quizzes, Answers and Destiny ... Part 9
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8