I've always felt strange doing a review of an event at which I have played a major role, particularly struggling with the question of whether to make the write-up a faux 'objective' third-person piece, or do a gonzo-style first-person report. It would be much preferable to have someone else do these reports, but as there are no clamouring crowds wishing to take on this mantle, I am forced to continue with mein kampf. So here goes another one -- on the SEQC Mastermind finals evening -- and this one I've decided to do from an unabashed first-person POV. Also, I'm splitting the review into two parts, as each of the two events of the evening deserve their own coverage.
I had felt this was going to be a special evening, and that feeling was bolstered when I arrived at the International Centre Goa (ICG) a little after 5pm on the last day of February. Quite a sizeable crowd was already gathered on the Divli Lawns, an excellent venue for an evening of quizzing. Arjun Halarnkar, the Programmes Manager at the ICG, had as always made impeccable arrangements. Ever since I made the acquaintance of Arjun, and his boss, ICG Director Nandini Sahai, I have enjoyed working with them on events. It's such a pleasure and a relief to know that that side of things will be taken care of completely.
The crowd was quite rich in non-SEQC types, and there were also a few special guests. Victor Rangel-Ribeiro, litterateur, musicologist and Mensa member, and his wife Lea were the chief guests for the evening. Also present were Abhishek's father, who had come down from Mumbai to witness his son's foray under the spotlight, Chirag, who had arrived from Bangalore for a weekend of quizzing, and others from all over Goa.
Soon after I got there, Rajiv roared in on his Royal Enfield Thunderbird, like an extremely natty Hell's Angel. His was the opening honours of the evening. We had known that the Mastermind finals, a face-off as they were among just three finalists, would be a short affair, and rather than have everyone come there for a half-hour event, we had decided to start the evening off with a quiz developed by the D'Silva, which he had named Fourplay (perhaps a little unwisely, as he had to repeatedly use this word in its full double-entendre splendour in front of people old enough to be his grandparents).
And what a great quiz it was. Rajiv had planned it along the lines of the Davis Cup tennis tournament. A written preliminary stage identified eight qualifiers, who were split into two teams of four each. The team I was in also had Ajay Parasuraman of BITS, Nitash and -- his qualification reinforcing my belief that we had chosen the right person to have as chief guest -- the ebullient and irrepressible Victor himself. Arrayed against us were the forces of evil, in the form of the Great Satan Vidyadhar Gadgil and the junior devils Ajachi Chakrabarti, also of BITS, Adish, who was on quite a winning spree that weekend, and -- another pleasant surprise -- Augusto Pinto.
The first 'singles' pitted Ajay against Gadgil; the see-saw affair saw Ajay notching up our first win against his seasoned opponent on the tie-breaker. In the second singles, I took on Ajachi. Ours too was a close battle, but one in which we competed on negatives. Eventually, ours too went to the tie-breaker, which Ajachi buzzed in to win. The 'doubles' had Victor and Nitash representing the good, and Augusto and Vidyadhar on the side of evil. Thankfully, this contest went the way of conventional literature, and our writers got the better of their writers. We were up 2-1.
The reverse singles would have seen me up against Ajachi in the final tie of the day, so I suggested we switch things around. I went up against Adish, and managed to snag this one. This gave our team a winning lead, but the last face-off between college-mates Ajay and Ajachi was another humdinger, eventually won by Ajachi, making the final score 3-2 in our favour.
Pictures of the evening are featured in an earlier post.