Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Goa mein quizzing bhi hota hai kya?"

Herald, 10 September 2008

by Vidyadhar Gadgil

Big-ticket quizzing finally arrived in Goa with a regional round of the renowned Tata Crucible Quiz being held at the NIO auditorium on a wet monsoon evening on 10 August 2008. Over 20 teams participated in the preliminary round, with six – Savoir Faire, HLL, Betts India, Splash Communications, Cajetan Vaz Consulting and Synapse – qualifying for the final round on stage. Savoir Faire won, by a wide margin, bagging the first prize of Rs 75,000 and qualifying for the national finals. Synapse came in second and took home the prize of Rs 35,000.

The victory of the Savoir Faire team of Harshavardhan Bhatkuly and Rajiv D’Silva came as no surprise, given their enviable record at the national level. They won the regional finals of the Brand Equity Quiz at Pune in 2006 and 2007, as well as the regional finals of the Tata Crucible Quiz in 2007. In the 2007 national finals of both these quizzes, they came a narrow second to the team from Deutsche Bank.

Harsh and Rajiv are an unassuming pair and wear their success lightly, though they could be pardoned for blushing a pretty red when the quizmaster at the Tata Crucible Quiz, Giri Balasubramaniam aka ‘Pickbrain’, said that it was the track record of Savoir Faire that prompted Tata Crucible to include Goa in its list of venues for regional rounds this year. He went on to say that the reason that teams from other parts of the country did not venture to try their luck in Goa (which is permitted by the rules of the contest) was probably that they did not want to pit their wits against this formidable team!

“I’ve been actively involved in quizzing since my college days,” says Harsh “but it was participation in the Wiz Biz quiz organised by the Goa Institute of Management that got me seriously hooked. Some time later, I met Rajiv and we became partners in a media firm that we set up. He’s another quizzing brain, and we were able to notch up a long winning spree at Wiz Biz.”

Rajiv continues, “By then, we got ambitious – nay, audacious – and decided to take a leap at the national scene. We went to Pune to participate at the Brand Equity quiz in 2004. Among the seasoned quizzers of TCS, Infosys, Thermax, Renaissance and a host of 40 other teams, an unlikely Goan duo qualified on stage.”

Though they only came in third that time, and the next, 2006 was the breakthrough year, when they won the regional finals in Pune. In 2007 their reputation was established when they won the Pune regional finals of both the Brand Equity Quiz and the Tata Crucible Quiz. In both these quizzes they came a narrow second to the team from Deutsche Bank in the national finals.

Are they going to win the nationals this time? “Let’s see,” says Harsh, “we’re keeping our fingers crossed.” So are we, and maybe this year will see a Goan team winning the national finals of one of these prestigious quizzes. “It’s been a long journey since the time quizmaster Derek O’Brien mockingly asked, ‘Goa mein quizzing bhi hota hai kya?’ in Pune in 2004,” reminisces Rajiv. Well, that is certainly a thing of the past due to the efforts of Savoir Faire.

What about the overall quizzing scenario in Goa? “Quizzing interest in Goa is sporadic,” says Harsh, “with quizzes conducted by the Rotary, Lions Club, etc. Then there are the various quizzes organised by colleges and schools. But quizzing is a 365-day affair and can’t be viewed in isolation. Consequently there is an utter lack of quizzing culture in Goa.” Rajiv adds, “We also want to inculcate a quizzing culture, especially among students with the Monginis Quiz. There is a lot of enthusiasm at the school level but this wanes by the college level.”

One initiative on which the duo are pinning much hope is the Sunday Evening Quiz Club (SEQC) started a few months ago. “We got together with a few other quizzing enthusiasts and started this once-a-month Sunday evening quizzing event. Basically it’s a mix of people seriously involved in quizzing along with some enthusiastic newcomers and with this we hope to take quizzing in Goa to a new level.”

According to Harsh, what has made things easier for quizzing enthusiasts is the advent of popular shows like Kaun Banega Karodpati? and Kya Aap Paanchvi Paas Se Tez Hain? “These shows have brought quizzing into people’s drawing rooms, which is a good thing. Quizzing is no longer seen as an esoteric pastime. One problem, though, is that the prizes are given too much importance. Of course, money is great, I love it too, but that is hardly the primary purpose of quizzing. Mastermind India, the most prestigious quiz of all, had a negligible amount as prize money, but I’d much rather have their trophy adorning my mantelpiece than all the money from more popular shows!”

One of the members of SEQC is Aniruddha Sen Gupta, who had been a semi-finalist in Mastermind India. “There is a totally intellectual, nerdy tag that is attached to quizzes, which is misplaced. It probably dates from the time when most quizzes took place on radio, like the grandfather of them all, the Bournvita Quiz Contest. But now technology has made it possible to have more innovative quizzes, with use of audio, video and graphics. Also, good quizmasters devise quizzes where you work out the answers. Due to corporate sponsorship there has been a proliferation of business quizzes. This is a good thing,” says Aniruddha, “but corporates need to be more open about sponsoring general quizzes.” Aniruddha, along with some friends, has a group called Quizvaddo, which has organised quizzes for schools and clubs in Goa.

With Savoir Faire having made a splash on the national scene, and a variety of initiatives planned for Goa by various enthusiasts, quizzing in Goa is set to look up, and it will not be long before some other teams from Goa are rubbing shoulders with Savoir Faire at the national level, making Goa a name to reckon with in quizzing.

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