It creates normal, unassuming human beings into egomaniacs on stage who have to get the better of the question marks. It promotes superciliousness, smugness and all other forms of general asshole-ness. It does not come with a warning sign that says “Addictive”. It got me Student Council posts in school that I didn’t want. It also gets me worked up.
Today the MP Birla Smarak Kosh Quiz took place. I have attended it for the past five years and it keeps getting better. The quizmaster, CP, always asks kindred questions (kindred questions being, of course, the ones we can answer) and Annesha and I were in the fourth row, two boisterous girls squirming in our seats at the terrible guesses being made onstage. We notched up our own points and won it in the audience, laughed more than we used to laugh onstage, and cursed the fact that we never got to participate in SK. And somewhere between it all I felt strange, because I’d never be at a quiz in my school uniform again.
Long ago before we became the cool kids who went festing, and long before people found out that all we did at the fests was quiz (and then we weren’t cool anymore), I was your average vegetable. Then someone sent me for a quiz with two people I absolutely detested. We bickered through the first quiz, guessed through the next, and then started winning. And then my teammates became my best friends. Then we realized we weren’t really quizzers. We knew nothing. We were there for the food packets.
We guessed, wildly. We laughed at our own guesses even more wildly. We thumped each others’ backs and created minor stage accidents with mineral water bottles and microphones when we found out the guesses were correct. And then our school, which had just woken up to the fact that a quiz club existed, decided that most of the good quizzes simply weren’t worth going to. So the metamorphosis happened – we became quiz spectators. We went to quizzes to watch them, and we yelled out answers from the audience, and grinned inanely when chocolates were thrown at us. As if they were roses. Encore. We applauded ourselves. Above all, we enjoyed ourselves more than when we were onstage.
But today I felt like Prufrock. There they were, kids in class ten and eleven, taller than me by almost two feet, and they got to be onstage. And here I was, five three or thereabouts, getting all excited because I knew that Oprah could recite Bible verses as a kid. Quizzing is the one thing I had to prove that my irrelevance mattered. I might not have been a good student, but my vagueness paid off. I could connect answers. I could identify paintings. It was the only place I got to be a know-it-all, and now I’ve passed out and can’t be superior when I’m afraid of getting ragged in college. School quizzes are fun and sporting. Open quizzing is ruthless, cold, and the only thing I have left, apart from college quizzing, which scares me now because, well, will the teammates laugh on stage if we make a stupid mistake? Will I get on a team at all?
And then we shuffled out amidst some patriotic programme outside Madhusudan Mancha where grotesquely costumed people were waving flags manically to "I love my India". Didn't improve my mood. To make it worse, I had to pass by my old para to collect some wayward mail, and the buildings were all newly painted in colours I couldn’t recognize. And then the old phuchkawala (he’s told me everything but his name) informed me that his son’s off to Amreeka. To be a phuchkawala there. And that made me feel terrible in the everyone’s-growing-up kind of way, and I walked into my house muttering darkly “Do you know what Dustin Hoffman’s mother called him when he was a kid?”
“No”, my mother said.
“Tootsie” I growled, and then started laughing hysterically. For a whole five minutes. Quizzing has been my bane and my crusade, and I never could figure out why I ran around school trying to get the team invited to quizzes when the organisers had no idea our school even existed. No one in school cared. We didn’t even win all that many. And I hate it. I hate it because it’s the closest I can get to being passionate about a sport. As a spectator and an ex-player.
Oh, and to top it all it seems I can no longer sit on the swings in the play area because there’s a sign there that says “Kebol Shishuder Jonno”
Excuse me while I go hit my head against the wall.