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Sunday, October 3, 2010

The first question I ever answered in an ‘open’ quiz was when I was about ten.

To be honest, it was not a fully open quiz but among the clubs of Calcutta. Since Dalhousie Institute was one of the participants, let me assure you a club quiz in Calcutta is nothing like the vodka-drenched Tambola that typically constitutes intellectual pastimes in Delhi clubs.
I managed to answer the question, which even the venerable DI could not answer, simply because I was closest in age to the factoid – “What is the name of Aladdin’s father?”

Now that I have bragged a bit, let me accept that that was not a very good quiz question because it tests only your memory.
Either you remember your fairy tales or you don’t. There is no other way to answer that question.
On the other hand, a really good quiz question tests your memory (remembering at least two reasonably well-known pieces of information), logical reasoning (connecting the aforementioned pieces of information), psycho-analysis and social skills (because sometimes, you also need to know the state of the quiz-master’s mind from your interactions with him before and during the quiz).
And after all that, you need a wee bit of luck.

Enthused by the venerable JAP’s deconstruction of a good quiz and Arul Mani’s reminisces, I thought I will also put down some of my fondest memories of quizzing.

Consider this question for a moment.

How do we better know the friendly cricketer, who used to play for the MCC and was called the 'Tate of India' because he was thought to be as fast as the legendary English fast bowler?
Okay, what are the hints in the question? He is an Indian fast bowler, who played for the MCC. How many Indians have played for the MCC? Very few, right? The Senior Pataudi. Anybody else – because he wasn’t a fast bowler? Did either of Amar Singh or Mohammed Nissar play for MCC?
At this point, you want to buy some time and ask the quiz-master to repeat the question. He starts again and you suddenly hit upon “…know the friendly cricketer…”
Why friendly cricketer? He had a lot of friends? How do we know? Was there some story about him and his friends? Him and friends?
Oh god – wait a minute! That MCC is not in Marylebone. It is Malgudi Cricket Club. This is not about Nissar. This is about Swami and Friends!

Some concrete knowledge – preferably not too esoteric – with some circumstantial evidence and a little bit of joining-the-dots… that should be a good quiz question.
For example, Sholay had a phenomenal record for running for 5 years at a stretch in Minerva theatre of Bombay. Why was Sholay taken off from Minerva?
Okay, so Sholay released in 1975 and ran till 1980 – common knowledge. It couldn’t have been taken off for not packing it in – gut feel. There has to be a emotional reason, then – deduction. Who will Minerva do a favour to? Should be the guys who helped them rake in the moolah in the first place, right? What did Sippy Films do in 1980? Oh – of course, they released their next blockbuster, Shaan! And that’s why Sholay was taken off. It made way for the next film of its makers.

Nice, no?

As the venerable JAP has propounded, brevity is the soul of Twit (and blogs as well), I will stop here. Will be back with more soon.
In the interim, you might as well read my earlier posts – here, here, here.


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