Man on the buzzer
The winner of this year’s World Quizzing Championship on what makes a champion
Vikram Joshi, 37, made India proud by winning this year’s World Quizzing Championship (WQC) last week—the first non-Englishman to win the title since the tournament’s inception in 2003. Organized by the International Quizzing Association, the championship includes a written test comprising 240 questions across eight subjects. It was held simultaneously in more than 50 countries this year.
Joshi calls himself a true “Bombay boy”. After completing instrumentation engineering at Vivekanand Education Society’s Institute of Technology (Vesit), Mumbai, Joshi did his master’s in electronics engineering from the University of Virginia, US, and moved to Boston to work at Sun Microsystems.
In 2006, Joshi moved back to his city to to pursue a more creative calling. Currently, he is the business head at The 120 Media Collective, a Mumbai-based digital content company, and an active member of the Bombay Quiz Club.
Joshi tells us how he cracked possibly the toughest quiz championship in the world. Edited excerpts from an interview:
What got you interested in quiz competitions?
I started in school—participated in the Bournvita quiz competition when it was still on radio—and in college participated in what then was a very limited college quizzing circuit. In Mumbai in the 1990s, there wasn’t much going on in terms of a large-scale quiz circuit, unlike other cities like Kolkata and Bangalore.
Mumbai today, of course, is very different, with a quiz club (Bombay Quiz Club) which conducts weekly quizzes, as well as an annual quiz festival (The Mumbai Quiz Festival) which draws a couple of hundred people from all over India.
I’ve been a reader all my life—growing up, my parents consciously avoided buying us a television and inculcated in me and my sister a love for books that remains to this day. They made sure any request for reading material was always fulfilled. My dad made sure he brought a current affairs magazine home every night and I would read it and discuss articles with my parents the next day. Quizzing is just an activity that comes out of this background; you will find most quizzers love to read.
How do you prepare for a competition?
I don’t prepare. A casual approach to quizzing works best for me. But there are several quizzers around the world who actually study before a quiz. I suppose it depends on the individual. I just have a strong cup of filter coffee and I am set.
On a daily routine though, my life is different. I read a whole bunch of newspapers and online blogs every morning just to find out what’s happening. I follow some interesting Twitter feeds through the day. And the book-buying and book-reading continues—I manage to read about 75-odd books a year despite my busy professional and social life.
Did you approach this competition any differently?
The WQC is open to anyone. There is no qualification needed. In India we have had participants from school students all the way up to people in their 60s. All major quiz clubs in India conduct this quiz (it’s an annual event) along with quiz clubs in around 70 other countries.
It tests your knowledge along with good time management—you only have 2 hours to answer 240 questions, so it helps if you’ve quizzed before.
In the hyper-connected world, has quizzing changed?
Hugely! Information that was read and jealously hoarded is now available to the world at the same time. Thanks to Wikipedia and Twitter and Facebook, everyone reads the same information and is able to work off the same deck of cards as anyone else. Quizzing is in that respect reduced to “remembering that information when required”.
Older quizzers in India remember having books and diaries filled with interesting trivia they had come across. Now it’s just a matter of bookmarking the page on your computer to refer to later. The connected world is taking quizzing to different groups of people.
How is quizzing in India different from other countries?
It’s a lot less competitive in India. Quizzers here tend to be more friends than competitors. Though I haven’t competed in quizzes abroad yet, from online discussions I find them to take quizzing very seriously. The UK has the strongest quizzing culture in the world thanks to their tradition of pub quizzes and strong university quizzing. I’ve seen acrimonious debates happen on some fact or the other, with quotes and citations flying all over the place.
However, quality-wise, I will say India has just as strong quizzers as anywhere else in the world. We’ve had world-class quizzers like Arul Mani from Bangalore, Samanth Subramanian from Chennai and Jayashree Mohanka from Kolkata who can hold their own with top-ranked quizzers in the UK or Europe.
Where do you go from here?
I would love to move to quiz-setting from here. I already set and conduct quizzes as part of the Bombay Quiz Club and at The Mumbai Quiz Festival but I would like to take this to another level. My dream has always been to create and host a quiz show on television.
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