Thursday, July 7, 2011

SEQC and the Battle for Corporation Hall

A report on the July monthly by Aniruddha Sen Gupta

Though we've stopped reporting on quizzes of late, and despite Rajiv having already done a mini-report on the July monthly, there was enough action on the day to make me feel that it was worth providing a full run-down (I suffer from the opposite of Writer's Block -- it's called Writer's Blog). So here you are.

It was a dark and stormy evening. (No, seriously, it really was.) Some time before the quiz, Rajiv, Anjali and I had met up with a small contingent of quizzers that had landed up from Hyderabad. Shepherding them around Church Square was one of our own Lost Boys, Sirish von Synapse. After a cuppa at Kamat's, we dispersed in the rain with the intention of re-gathering at the CCP Hall.

When Anjali and I got there, the Hyderabadis and a few others were milling around near the main gate of the CCP Building. People tend to do that, so I wasn't surprised. The surprise, though, awaited upstairs. When we got there, sundry other early SEQC birds were hovering about on the staircase and in the anteroom, with the bewildered air of sheep who have been locked out of their pens without a shepherd or sheepdogs to guide them to their beds. Amidst the unhappy sheep sat a bald-headed overlord revelling in his moment of glory. Bewildering sheep is evidently something he got off on.

Let me explain about these small-time CCP overlords. We've been secretly battling them for a while now -- behind the scenes of your comfortable SEQC quizzes has raged a gritty, grimy battle not unlike the hidden conflict in Matrix. The Corporation (ah, what an ominous name for a faceless group of super-villains), as with most government bodies, is run not by the known names at the top, but by the unknowns at the bottom. The Mayor and Commissioner and others like them are there for all to see, but the real keys of power are in different hands altogether, those of the peons who let people into the rooms and halls, and lock up when they're done.

And therefore, while the people at the top have shown all manner of overt support for our club's activity (the Deputy Commissioner had recently averred that he was himself something of a quizzer in school and college, and expressed his interest in attending one of our quizzes), the little men who really run things have been looking for ways and means to sabotage our events. For a while, that had led to us having to move our monthly quizzes to the unearthly hour of 4pm (unacceptable to many of our siestakar SEQCites). We thought we'd won this battle when we got permission to return to the old time slot, but that only took the conflict to the next level.

So what we were now facing outside the CCP Hall was the secret weapon that the enemy had deployed -- the ostensible 'loss of keys'. That's an obstacle that, short of breaking and entering, we had no defence against -- and despite some oblique refences and suggestions, none of us were willing to let the situation escalate to such a level of Mutually Assured Destruction.

But the lack of a room was not the only challenge we were facing at the moment. Looking around the by-now-crowded anteroom, it was clear there was another key ingredient missing -- the quizmaster. Dr Muralidharan, who was supposed to have the conn, was instead conspicuous in his absence. When it turned out that there had been no confimatory conversation with him in the days leading up to the quiz, some of us feared the worst. No, no, not that he was dead -- come on, guys! -- just that he had forgotten that he was supposed to be conducting this particular event.

The phone calls were now flying thick and fast. Rajiv was in touch with Tallulah, who was talking to the Mayor and the Commissioner and perhaps God himself. Anjali was trying to talk to Dr Murali, whose number she didn't have, through the medium of Ira, whose number she did. The Sharada Mandir kids were calling each other while sitting on the same sofa. Mahesh was closing a business deal. The overlord was unimpressed and continued to be as bald and keyless as ever.

In the midst of it all, one ray of hope appeared. Dr Murali rode through the gate, his shirt front stained -- not with blood, but with what we assume must have been the rain. His sparse hair was standing on end, but his brave head was unbowed. Looking like Hamlet's father's ghost (by the way, did you know that the dad was also called Hamlet?), he said, "I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, thy knotted and combined locks to part and each particular hair to stand an end, like quills upon the fretful porpentine." (Of course I looked that up -- what did you think?) And he proceeded to unfold his tale, one full of crashed cars and mad dashes by numerous modes of conveyance from Margao to Panjim, not unlike the tale of Phineas Fogg and Passepartout.

Dr Murali's dramatic appearance didn't solve everything, though. If anything, it added another spanner to the collection that was currently messing up the works. In the course of his harrowing adventure, he had had to leave his trusty laptop in his crashed car. He had managed to get away with just the clothes on his body and the Powerpoint file of the quiz on a pen drive. Unfortunately, a close search of the anteroom revealed that there wasn't any other laptop lying fortuitously around. More calls followed -- this time to Sachin who, thanks to his enviable ability to never be on time, had not yet left home. He promised to bring along the critical piece of hardware.

By the time he got there, our telephonic bombardment had exhausted our ammunition, but got us no footholds in the ongoing battle. We now turned to the possibility of conducting the quiz in the anteroom itself, which had begun to resemble lodgings that Siraj ud-Dowla would have been proud to have dreamt up. If Paul -- our sole resident Brit -- had been around, no doubt he would have fled screaming, "The demons of 1757 are upon me" followed by unitelligible curses about black holes and Calcutta.

But though we were willing, even eager, to shine a light in this dark claustrophobic space, the bald overlord would have none of it. More recriminations ensued, and more telephone calls were made. Finally, Rajiv made the call that worked -- to Arjun at the International Centre Goa. The ICG gang has always been staunch supporters and allies of ours, allowing us free use of their facilities for so many of our events. Even so, this request seemed to be really extreme -- but Arjun pulled out all the stops and told us he could arrange a hall for us.

So it was that the battle-weary platoons of SEQC trudged off to the heights of Dona Paula. Some forty men, women and children had braved the hour-long conflict and there were very few casualties. Only a handful of would-be quizzers quit and went home. The rest of us made it to ICG, where we were treated to a quiz that, like all of Dr Murali's creations, was quite a revelation. As J. Krishnamurthi, one of the Hyderabad contingent who attended, put it, "a whole lot of bouncers with a few full tosses thrown in". Well, that's not unlike what the Indian team has currently had to put up with in the West Indies. And if they can do it and come out winners, so can SEQC. With some help from ICG.


Akshay said...

brilliant narrative!

NiX said...

Read it 2wice.....

Venkatesh S said...

Awesome narrative Annie!