(By Karthik Narayan)

At the India Quiz 2011, we jokingly added in an introductory slide (it was Patrick’s idea, actually) that we are jobless fellows who stash away questions and interesting information to ask others; we never win any quizzes (we don’t even qualify most of the time) and yet here we are, back at quizzing. Most of our challenges are people who think quizzing is for geeks and is a waste of time. We take time off from our daily routines and families and friends and most importantly, are seen as guardians of our own thoughts. We look and sound anti-social elements that haven’t seen the light of society. We live off our backpacks and laptops, a couch in a café seems more comfortable than dinner at the table; we are the new breed of quizzers. We love what we do, and most of the time, it’s the only thing that we do!!

In my opinion, the means and ends to knowledge are quizzing. It starts with one being curious and as the cliché goes, there is no end to knowledge. Only the quest to knowledge ends, and that is only when we are exhausted. For knowledge is a never ending perilous haven of information.

Today’s world of quizzing has transformed from a question-answer format of the late 1970’s or 80’s to an overwhelming dump of trivia and facts mixed with convoluted connects that even the subjects wouldn’t remember. Sometimes it makes you wonder which is easier – remembering all the husbands of Zsa Zsa Gabor or guessing how each item connects to the other. Even Alfred Hitchcock would be in suspense to know the answers, am sure! To go for a mug-up or to simply connect the mug-shots is the parry each of us carries in our quarry.

My brush with quizzing started when I was in school – when the history teacher wanted me to share one piece of news every day. The catch was – that each of our headline had to be unique. This meant I had to be thorough with the whole paper. This training helped me train my brain to store the knowledge, link it to places and images of people. My fundamentals became stronger. But my reach to the quizzing world was in July 2004 when I made a bunch of questions from my notes from newspapers. One thing led to another, and soon I was in love. I dabbled on the internet and found myself swarming in a hive co-habited by like-minded people in various yahoo groups. We buzzed while we quizzed. I socialized too. Who said quizzers are losers and don’t have friends?

Over the years I found that Quizzes were of two kinds – the easier ones were those that were shared online, and the tough as nut ones that were “live” to participate in, paid good money and were held at posh air-conditioned auditoriums. Armed with a broadband connection and a bit of typing skills, the quizzes online fascinated me. But it all got addictive. I wanted more than a daily dose of ten questions. So I made my own. I stumbled upon that bible of quizzing – Wikipedia and a few other sources. Then I wanted something more – thus started the entry into mainstream quizzing – with quiz club meetings and “open” quizzes. My first ever quiz was the 2004 edition of Odyssey Quiz on Jan 26. I honestly did not know a lot, but it was a great eye-opener. It paved a way for me to venture. Then as I started visiting more quizzes (yes, visiting), I began to understand the quizzes themselves. The formats were new, so were the questions and the way they were made. Wow, how do these guys create such things? And how about the guys who answer them too? What do these guys eat for breakfast? Do they have jobs and careers at all? What about social lives? I have asked the same questions as thousand others have.

I was never a big fan of trivia based questions. All along I was spoon fed on facts. How many bones are there in the human body, what’s the highest individual score in test match cricket? Who has scored the most number of ODI centuries etc. Trivia sounded just that – meaningless. Who would go to all the efforts to remember these little unimportant things? I have shrugged off on trivia many a time during my experiences at “live” quizzes. I have written about it and mostly written it off as just useless pieces of information that everybody throws in to ensure their names and images are fresh in the minds of people. In short – an ego ambush.

However, my perceptions have since changed over the last couple of years; from challenging the trivial elements, I am now in hot pursuit of it myself. In short, times have changed, so have I. Why? I have matured, as most quizzing audiences have. I have learnt to embrace the change. To be honest, quizzing has become: fast, furious and fricking bigger. The prize money has increased manifold, the questions are getting harder to crack.

Folks, let’s face it. I am going through what I call a mid-quizzing cruise. I read a lot, and quiz a lot. Sometimes, my family wonders what is more important – a routine life that the Average guy leads or quizzing? I sometimes feel I am way ahead of the Common Man, if I can put it that way. I sometime coast along the quizzing lines at breakneck speeds, devouring every fact in sight. But where do i draw the line? What gives – the mountain is getting harder to climb. Not only do we contend with the existing firebrands of the Samanths, the Ramanas, the Gopal Kidaos and the Rajiv Rais, but we also need to worry about how to strive against the next generation whiz-kids like the Pradeeps and the Yaggys who are gearing up for the next step.

So why is it important to qualify or win for that matter? Ego clashes? Show of power? The prize money? What lures these guys? Why?

The Answer is: the joy of quizzing. And of course, everything else comes through along with a win. The fame, glory, power and yes – quizzing pays; rich, not in just dividends, but in cash. But the big question ever remains: How on earth am I supposed to remember all those names and the complications that come with each name? How can I win that elusive quiz win? Here I sit, waiting for my breakthrough…

Maybe there is no immediate answer to that.

Maybe we should each find our own answer.

Maybe someday if I win a quiz, (okay, a few quizzes) I might write something on it.