An Interview with TechTatva’s Quizmaster

Have you been to Manipal before? If yes, any particular memories?
Yes, I have. It’s been five year since I last came here and that was for a quiz in TAPMI, which used to be an open quiz that I used to participate in regularly. I have even conducted quizzes for them. I went to Dollops for an early lunch and it’s one of those places where time really slows down. I put up a photo of the restaurant on Facebook and mentioned that the place looks exactly how it used to five years back; to which someone who had studied in Manipal in the 80’s commented that it’s still the same from their time in Manipal!

When did you start quizzing?

Most quizzers usually start in their school days but that wasn’t the case for me. In school I was more into public speaking, debates and JAMs. I mean, you can tell I love the sound of my own voice judging by how I hold fort of two or three hours, conducting a quiz! But serious quizzing started only in college. I made it to BBC Mastermind and it was a great ego boost. People would recognise me from the show when I would be walking down MG Road in Bangalore. That’s when I started quizzing more frequently.

Most people would watch a movie for the plot whereas I would draw connections between several things while watching a movie. Maybe connect the plot to a theory I read months earlier. That is something I had been doing long before I began quizzing, so it came to me naturally.

BBC Mastermind is a show where most of the participants are working professionals. Talk us through the journey.

I was the youngest in the show by some distance; in fact I was not allowed to participate in the first three seasons because BBC had a rule requiring one to be 18 to participate. The internet was still working on dial-up modems so the advertisements for the quiz would appear only in newspapers. As you’d know the shooting of the finals of BBC Mastermind always took place in famous, historical places. My quarterfinal round was in a beautiful, old hall in St. Stephens, Delhi, the semis were in Ajmer. At 18, it was fascinating. Today people don’t really get culture shocks and for someone like me who had never crossed the Vindhyas, it was a culture shock. So overall, the experience was fun.

Of all the quizzes you have been to, any particular quiz that stands out in your memory?

I guess I’ve reached the point where I’ve been to too many to recall any one particular quiz. Of course, I remember my early quizzing days when victories weren’t as frequent. I really appreciate sitting through a yearly quiz that is well compiled and researched, so I make it a point to walk up to the quizmaster and tell them what I liked about the quiz.

Often the process of making a quiz (including the compilation and presentation) is more arduous than participating in one. How do you do this?

I have an OCD of a kind when it comes to bookmarking things. So it doesn’t take me too long to prepare one. There have been a couple of times when I have prepared the final round of a quiz as the evaluation for the prelimaries were on. That’s largely doable for someone who has over 18,000 bookmarks on delicious, and I have been using it from the days when it was del.icio.us.

Quizzing is something that intimidates a lot of people. How can we make the quizzing culture more inclusive?

That’s true. We need to make sure quizzes cover a lot of different fields so that even as an outsider the quiz seems friendly. So no inside jokes, no references to past quizzes and so on.

The number of female quizzers in the country is alarmingly low. What do you think is the reason?

Honestly quizzing has become a sausage fest now. There’s a huge old boys club that’s prevalent and most of the conversations in quizzes would be the ones women would not like to be a part of. It starts with casual sexism and ends up perpetuating into something women would stay away from. One solution to this would be to include answers to questions that women would relate to.

#kolstylz or questions that can be worked out. Which one do you prefer?

I like questions that can be worked out, as opposed to one which cannot even be attempted unless you know something particular. For a quiz aimed at amateurs, there should be a balance between both styles, but more than anything, the answers need to accessible.

What do you like and dislike about quizzing?

What I like is the thrill of getting a question right. Pushing your neurons a bit further, delving deeper into your head and even getting close to the answer is exciting.

What I dislike is the lack of new blood coming into the fray. As I said, we need to have new people of all backgrounds.

Final question, what is quizzing for you?

It’s like a sport that you’d love to play on weekend mornings. Most people go out for runs; I like to go for a quiz. I am definite that I would not like to make quizzing my profession, because that would render it far less enjoyable. And what would be quizzing, if it were not enjoyable?

– Agnihotra Bhattacharya and Ninaad Rajeev for MTTN

Photo credits: Alwin Paul John

Agnihotra Bhattacharya

Being eternally hungry, and with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, I took to writing as an outlet for the wide spectrum of emotions that I usually portray. Mercurial, loquacious, and always looking at the world through a broken pair of rose coloured glasses, I can never settle for anything, for too long. I am the one who wanders.

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