Sunday, June 6, 2010

Some thoughts on quizzing

A few months, probably on twitter and then in personal conversations with friends, while discussing quizzing, a few of us were lamenting about the lack of quizzing on television. As it so happens, currently the Indian television scene is filled with a mind-boggling array of reality shows, talent hunt shows and such assorted stuff which frankly becomes very hard to relate to for some boring, nerdy folks like me. And a quality quiz programme is badly missed.
Growing up in the 90s, Sunday mornings used to be spent watching some mythological show, followed by some cartoon and then the Bournvita Quiz Contest. Hosted by Derek O’ Brien, BQC was an essential part of the Sunday routine for many young ,enthusiastic quizzers like me. And many young children who got some of their earliest taste of quizzing from BQC went on to become quizzers for life.
As I grew up further, I began to appreciate other, higher standards of quizzes. Two such shows - Mastermind India and University Challenge, both hosted by the remarkable Siddharth Basu, are particularly note-worthy in terms of the quality, format and presentation, which opened up new horizons for what a quizzer can look forward to.
And then came the era of the Game-shows such as KBC (incidentally produced by Siddharth Basu himself), which on the one hand brought quizzing to a much larger audience and for some time capturing the imagination of the nation itself, on the other hand however, it can perhaps be argued that it also sounded the death-knell of the other regular quizzing that we had on television. The point being who would care to attend or organize a quiz show where the winner gets Rs. 500/- when you can win lakhs and crores by answering some simple stuff and get to meet a superstar as a bonus.
All along of course, schools and colleges in India have always had a culture of quizzing. Come to the larger towns, the 4 metros, Bengaluru and Hyderabad and we can find quizzing forums who conduct regular, open quizzes which are attended with great enthusiasm by quizzers. We also have a few Corporate Quizzes on TV such as the Tata Crucible or the Brand Equity Quiz by ET, both extremely prestigious, which keep the flame of quizzing burning on TV now.
I feel that the best time to create a quizzer out of person is when he or she is young and that the absence of a programme like BQC or even the ESPN School Quiz Olympiad, will perhaps be felt perhaps 10 years down the line.
Having said that, I work at Infosys, Mangalore and we conduct an annual school quiz here for kids of class 8-10 – SCHOLARS and the incredible levels of participation and then performance of the kids last year left me in awe of them on one hand and a little humbled as a question setter on the other, considering how well they cracked my questions :)
Perhaps the future of quizzing is different. For instance we have quiz blogs such as this one from my friend Suhel, which provide tremendous food for thought on a boring working day. Social networking is bringing together like minded folks a lot more than before and more open quizzes will probably be a reality. Internet and the new media will no doubt provide plenty of material for current quizzers to test their skills. I however have my doubts on its power to draw in new quizzers. That's just something we have to wait and see.
Talking about quizzing, you would always meet the types who say that quizzing is for nerds and you need to have a strong GK for it etc etc (and they are mostly right J), there is a lot more to quizzing than mere general knowledge or mugged up stuff. Going through the net, I found these two quite, brilliantly written articles on Quizzing. The first by Amit Varma: Quizzing is not just a trivial pursuit and the second by Salil Tripathi: What quizzing teaches us. Both are must reads for quiz lovers and articulate beautifully the various facets that draw people towards quizzing and why we love it. And both also talk about the ultimate question which distinguishes a good question from a bad one, a good quiz / quizmaster from a bad one: How is the question asked and not what is the question is what counts. And the more quizzers and quizmaster we have who understand this art, this skill, the more people we can draw to the world of quizzing.
Till then, Happy Quizzing  :)  
PS: This blog was triggered by an argument I had with a friend in office over a quiz, which later got me thinking about quizzing and writing this blog post which I had planned to do for some time.
[PS2: 3rd October: This post by Arul Mani is added here, simply because it is a collector's edition.]


  1. thanks paul for raking up topics that invariably end up making me nostalgic. Quizzing for me is reminder of times gone by when I was truly passionate and wanted to do well in something.
    While the keeda of quiz still remains in parts - i guess the ways of the world and my general indifference has managed to wane down the interest quite a bit, i guess the joy of discovering a new fact and a possible quiz question has come down quite a bit... unwittingly, the ease of access of info viz. internet has taken the edge off for me.

  2. I'm honoured to find my mention in this solid post about a vocation we all love.

  3. I like this post of yours. just as i have liked each one of yours till now. Bravo.


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