Bangalore: Competitive quizzing has a 25-year-old history in Bangalore, starting from the time when a retired Indian Air Force officer, G.R. Mulky, set up the Karnataka Quiz Association (KQA). Since then, the monthly quiz at Daly Hall on the arterial Nrupathunga Road has emerged as a ritual that many quizzing enthusiasts in the city have grown up with.
KQA began by building a robust network of inter-school and collegiate quizzes. But the association is mostly credited with introducing the concept of open-to-all quizzes, covering a range of topics such as business, literature, comics, art and music.
“This is a city of young, educated professionals who enjoy mind sports. The open quiz format gives everyone a platform to participate on,” says Rajeev Gowda, professor of economics at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, and a finalist on MasterMind, the annual quiz competition organized by the BBC.
Away from the rigours of competitive quizzing, it is also a popular pastime in informal circles such as the Quiz Group, a 17-year-old group that boasts alumni such as Nandan Nilekani, vice-chairman of Infosys Technologies Ltd, and the Bangalore Quiz Group (BQG), which boasts a membership of more than 1,300.
Says V. Ravichandar, chairman and managing director, Feedback, a market-research based consulting firm: “Quizzing is a great de-stresser and helps build bonds across age groups.” Ravichandar, along with wife Hema, a human resource consultant, and their teenage children, has been taking part in quizzes since 1989 when the Quiz Group was formed. This is a by-invitation only group where newcomers have to be known to at least a fourth of the members.
“There is a certain shared history in this group which many newcomers have difficulty relating to. That is why we insist on prior acquaintance,” says Ravichandar. The 16 active families in the group meet once every six weeks on a Saturday night after dinner in the house of a member. “We are finicky about attendance and the snacks are always vegetarian,” says Ramanujam Sridhar, founder and CEO, Brand-Comm, a communications consulting company.
Similarly, the BQG was formed in September 2004, when Prakash Subbarao, an IT consultant who relocated to the city from Dubai, wanted to recreate the camaraderie of the close-knit circle he had left behind in the Gulf. Quizzing with families was a popular weekend sport back there. Within three days of launching an online request for members, Subbarao was inundated with responses from 300-400 people. A month later, the group met for the first time, mixing socializing with professional quizzing.
However, as more members signed on and sponsors for events proved hard to come by, Subbarao soon realized that the economics of it didn’t match up. Finally, in 2006, he decided to take the group completely online, by launching a forum open only to registered members.
“I did not want the focus to shift away from hard core quizzing, for which there was always a dedicated membership base,” says Subbarao. With 2-3 quizzes dropped into members in-boxes every day, the BQG is now regarded as a unique platform that allows true quizzing enthusiasts the ability to log on from anywhere in the world.
These online quizzes cover a broad range of topics and are not geographically limited, but being an Indian quiz group, there are questions on current affairs that help members from the diaspora stay connected. “There is a certain comfort factor, with the cultural context, just like it is with crosswords,” says Deepa Murali, research scientist at Rockefeller University, New York, who likes the fact that the questions are not aimed at just trivia buffs alone.
Subbarao, who is the sole moderator of the group, allows participants to set quizzes as well, a factor that attracts software professionals such as Pradeep Kumar, who registered online on the recommendation of a friend and has been with the group for more than five years now.
“While I personally prefer offline quizzes for the charm and ambience, online quizzes are very convenient as you can do them at your own pace,” says Kumar, who likes the fact that the answers are not easy to come by. BQG does not post answers to the quiz on its site. Instead, members who receive questions in their in-box have to answer them by mail to receive a reply with the correct answers.
Subbarao has also tightened the entry procedure to the forum to keep spammers out of the group and ensure that all members are regular participants. “Over three-fourths of participants answer the business quizzes,” says Subbarao, who finds that most of the members use BQG as tutorials for other cash-rich offline quizzes in their workplace. “Currently, a fourth of my members are students, while working professionals make up the bulk of the participants. We also have about 60 housewives as members,” he says, adding that he would like to maintain the mix.
Novelty, however, is the glue that keeps members attached to the sport. At BQG, quizzes such as Don Quizzotji (a fictional character who leaves clues on his travels for participants to crack) is a big favourite as is the cricket format Super Sixer, an ongoing series that members can log on to throughout the day.
At the KQA, specialized quizzes are big draws as is the Annual Quiz for the Blind that is created by Professor Gowda of IIM-B for the Samarthanam Trust, an organization that works with the visually handicapped. Clearly, the lure of sport, both cerebral and physical, knows no boundaries.
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