Whether you've been spending hours of your time hooked on to Quiz Up, a trivia game app that had over 1 million users within its first week since launch; or you've found yourself in the middle of a pub quiz while visiting your favorite watering hole next door over the weekend; or you've attended a literary or a film festival in the city only to find another quizzing event happening at the venue, one thing's for sure - Bangalore loves to quiz and has one of the most vibrant quizzing cultures in the country.
Keeping the spirit alive is Bangalore's own Karnataka Quiz Association, founded by Wing Commander GR Mulky in 1983. While in its first year of functioning it had about 14 events to its credit, now KQA hosts up to 100 programmes a year from general quizzes to quizzes on specialised subjects like science, movies, music, literature, food, and so on, with two to three weekends of quizzing taking place every month.
City Express spoke to five popular quizzers from across the city about their passion for quizzing and what keeps them going back week after week.
Arul Mani, a quizzing legend of sorts and Vice-President at KQA, was 14 when he first started quizzing. Known to have changed the face of Karnataka Quiz Association (KQA) over the last two decades, his first ever attempt at KQA wasn't the most encouraging, where a ranked quiz conducted by an external party at KQA turned out to be a dud.
The second quiz conducted by KQA turned out to be a better overall experience however, "We qualified for finals easily. The KQA style was always more relaxed, quizzing wasn't dependent on how well you could mug up things or how good your memory was. We ended up coming in third and we won a `15 book voucher," he narrates. Two weeks later, they won a quiz and this time around they won themselves a `50 book coupon.
At that point, mid to late eighties, a lot of quizzing was taking place across the city, but KQA was the go to place even then. "We were from Indiranagar High School but we were soon beating the fancier schools of the time and we were quite happy venturing beyond our school boundaries," he says. Before Internet took over our lives, KQA announced their quizzes through manual mailing lists that were sent out to be about a 1000 people.
In 1986, Arul's team became the first high school team to qualify in KQA's monthly open quiz. "I think KQA dominated our imaginations through school and college time. It was this open community that we could all be a part of. Because otherwise, if we wanted to be a part of a clique, you had to be either a musician or good at sports or something of the like to be accepted. KQA was for everyone," he explains.
Arul confesses that the biggest challenge at KQA so far has been to keep up the circuit or the structure that its founding members had instituted, hosting inter school (at lower primary, primary, middle school, high school levels), inter junior college and inter college, inter city, national and even international level quizzes.
"Also earlier the quizzes used to be much longer. Any given quiz would have roughly about 84 questions. But they were single line questions and they didn't have elaborate PPTs supplementing those quizzes. Thanks to technology, we can now integrate audio-visuals and do a more interesting job," he says.
He also says that nowadays within quizzing circles there's very little separating the top 50 quizzers in the country. "At any given quiz, it could definitely be any one of these 50 quizzers' game. Access to information these days is so much larger and all of them have their own interesting reading habits. It's not easy to pin point a clear competitor, unlike the older days, where you would have a Hiranyappa winning everything he attended," he says.
Venkatesh S, again a long standing member of the Bangalore quizzing scene, quit his day job in the corporate world, to fully pay attention to his start-up, Nexus Consulting, which he co-founded along with Vivek Karthikeyan and Navin Rajaram in February 2012.
"Vivek and I had been team-mates since 2005 and we had called our team Nexus then, which we carried forward into the company we set up together," he informs.
Nexus Consulting, a "knowledge consulting company", basically uses quizzes and related events as tools to drive concepts. So whether it's organising educational programs for schools, or content for a quiz show on television, or conducting corporate, literary or entertainment based events - they do it all.
To catch them young, Nexus Consulting is looking to introduce quizzing as a mainstay in schools. "A lot of people don't understand that quizzing is not just about rote memory, it's about being able to connect different events and concepts with things you may have read or watched or experienced. That's basically the beauty of quizzing, the process of being able to put things together and arriving at an answer. And this process can be used in different contexts, whether it is at schools or offices or events to get different results," he explains.
The other challenge is convincing family members and friends that quizzing could be like any other hobby or sport. "People don't understand why we travel to different cities and towns every month to attend quizzes, spending our own money and time, only to win a few book coupons," he says.
Bangalore boy Thejaswi Udupa, started quizzing to kill time at school fests which he then used to attend for the love of debates and JAM competitions. "BBC used to have the Indian version of Mastermind back then, and at 18 I took a shot at it—did quite well, went around the country on BBC's expense and decided quizzing was fun," he says.
A famed quizzer as well as quiz-master in the city, Udupa spends almost three weekends out of four taking part in quizzes or conducting them. "I like quizzing because it's fun. It's no different from people who go out trekking every weekend, or play their favourite sport, and so on," he says.
When asked what he likes to quiz about, Udupa says, "Of course, you always enjoy questions most from topics you're most familiar with (in my case, that would be music and science fiction). But quizzes would get boring fairly fast if every question was from areas you are comfortable with. A lot of the charm in quizzing is also in discovering new things."
Udupa feels that the Bangalore quizzing scene is great because it never takes itself too seriously.
"It's a nice microcosm of Bangalore as a city—laidback, doesn't take itself too seriously, and always gets over by 9 pm! Also, lots of great people who turn up. And varied. We have everything from long bearded professors, to hipster kids, retired old men, enthusiastic schoolkids. Everything," says the IIM-B graduate, now working at Yahoo.
According to Arun Hire, who started quizzing at school in Muskat about 30-years-ago, feels that in India — perhaps barring Kolkata— Bangalore is the city in which quizzing is most organised, thanks to the KQA.
"Here, you almost have a quiz every weekend; in other cities, it's usually about once or twice a month," says the consultant at a technological firm in the city.
He feels that over the years, the format of the quizzes in Bangalore has evolved too.
"It's not just about getting your facts right anymore. A new term that's found its way into the quizzing field is how 'workout-able' a question is, and that makes it more fun because even if you don't know the answers, you can try and figure it out," he says.
However, in his eyes, quizzers largely constitute a set of 'weird grown-ups', who are information junkies, especially those who also volunteer to set up and conduct quizzes, like himself.
For techie Debashree Mitra, who entered the Bangalore quizzers' circle in 2004 through a Ladies' quiz on her first day of work in Bangalore, quizzing has always been fun.
She recalls that in her early days, she and her team would attend quizzes almost every weekend. "But all three of them dropped off too and I got married and busy, so I couldn't get out every weekend for a quiz," she says.
There have been two top teams on the quizzing scene here for the past 15 years or so, who always bag one of the first three prizes, which is a little discouraging, she observes. "Those who prepare questions for others certainly have a leg up over the rest of us. That's why events like Ruckus Tangdi, where all teams are random — they are shuffled at the venue — are more fun," she says.
Debashree too, like the rest of the top quizzers in the city, has noticed that there are fewer women than men on the scene — some people put the ratio of women to men at 1 : 15. Ask her whether it's because of the choice of topics of the quiz, and she flatly denies it. "There are quizzes specifically for topics that women too are supposed to be interested in, say literature. But it's not as if there are more women participating in those. No one's stopping anyone from participating; it's self-regulated," she says.
Even at school, Debashree recalls that the quizzing was mostly a boys club. "Even in collages, I think. And if you don't start then, it's harder to start once you're working or have other commitments. That's probably why you don't see many women at open quizzes as well," she reasons.
(with inputs from Chetana Divya Vasudev)