Jan 12, 2003

Ode, Elegy, Paean & Requiem to the Boat Club quiz
Sad but true, but I can finally confront the fact that the Boat Club quizzes are dead and gone. I ask why I'm so sentimental about them and why I react the way I do. But I think it was worth the effort and in that great BC manner, I may say, now *even* I have given up.

Not having done too much quizzing in school, I always thought coming to a college would automatically mean activities like quizzing were going to be available. A meeting with the (even then) much-heard of George Thomas confirmed this: a Saturday quiz club existed. An innocuous notice outside the library heralded the first one, traditionally the FE inaugaration. There were about 15 people and I remember being able to string together Jean Chretien, Bryan Adams & Ben Johnson in the first of my many encounters with the strange beings called connects. I did my first BC quiz next week and faced the barrage of the BC criticisms (another tradition!): much like the rookie batsman up against a snarling quartet of pacemen. The great men of the quiz world, Anand, Niranjan et al floated into our horizons and a Kunal-with-injured-paw did most of the emceeing. George loomed large (literally & figuratively), and these guys plucked facts out from nowhere. But slowly, it was the place to be each Saturday. 120 qs, full of challenge, sped your way and it was a good way to know what was going on in COEP.

I would say that the best part about the BC quizzes was that there were very few things that could be fought over: no secretary-ships, no budgets (we invariably lost money each year) to spoon money from, no titles to parade, not much gotya!. At very few points does one get to be in an environment that one can claim was as good, as challenging, as top-of-the-heap as anywhere else in the world: and I'm going to say that for me, the BC quizzes were pretty much top-class those years. You just learnt a hell of a lot soaking in all the topics of interest, the debates, even the thrust-and-parry that went on among the various people. To make a qn that was good yet went unanswered was a moment of great joy & instant feedback was guaranteed. Culturally invigorating as it was, no one would ever ask: "Do we have a session this week?" It was taken for granted there would. People would put aside everything else for that. Even non-quizzers would join in. The green lawns, the river going about its business, the specials, the bhajjis, even the contaminated-Pepsis (Mrunal Salunkhe's moment of madness resulted in the human race's nadir as a civilised people, George playing Satan there), what fun!

And to think that it doesn't really exist now. No set of people throwing stones at a bad question, no wisecracks, no brilliant guesses evoking "Good guess, yaar!" from Sammy, no Harish saying to Gaurav "kya tu dot wave!" and so on. For some time I thought that the quiz was unconscious, or at best comatose and it could be revived. I've tried cajoling, emotionally blackmailing, threatening, pleading and all that, but even euthanasia won't help. The people who'd be expected to run the show probably just didn't feel the same way, and probably my generation is to blame for that. But I think I can say I tried.

The BC quiz now lives in the collective consciousness of its old members: a fraternity that, I think, took as much out of it as they contributed to it and benefited all the same. Every interview that I've done since MMI, I've been waxing poetically about the BC quizzes, but hardly anyone except the Indian Express printed that aspect, much to my consternation. But I somehow think it may have been a good thing: what if they were to come now and see for themselves the state of non-existence! The Saturday quizzes were the biggest reason why I did well, ironically in a competition that is completely different from the format and mindset that we are used: the workability and short qns and connects :)! I wouldn't be surprised if my quizzing went downhill from here: no place to sharpen the mind.

I have other things to do these days on the weekend, and we have occasional sessions, especially when some of the old fogeys get back, but we're doing it more out of the memory of the past. I'm usually in COEP at 12.30 on Saturdays and I take a wistful look at the steps before the sculls hoping to see a bunch of people who seem to be lolling about, aiming a lot of their energy at the one who stands in front of them with a paper in hand all set... to repeat the question!

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