-- Deepak Taneja
I joined VRCE in 1987. I was a GK enthusiast from childhood. Born in a knowledgeable household of joint family, it came naturally to me. I came from a small town in Haryana and a school which had no quiz competitions except for the morning assembly quiz and once in a blue-moon Inter-House Quiz. There were no Inter-School Quizzes in that part of India except for one Inter-Central School Quiz which required a team of three. Now getting into that team of three was a tough task as there was no selection procedure and one had to surmount a number of students who were near and dear to the teacher which was next to impossible. So my quizzing was limited to the morning assembly sessions in school in which the only recognition and award was a handful of claps. The occasional programmes on television like India Quiz, Quiz Time also kept the fire of quizzing burning in me.
All this changed when I joined VRCE in August 1987. My bad luck for quizzing (I still repent it today) was missing out on getting Block-9, the fresher’s hostel as it was already full. We got into Block-7 (Ground Floor) which was allotted to the freshers for the first time. The disadvantage was an umbrella of seniors to rag us 24 x7 but the biggest advantage was academic support from seniors. The advantage of being in Block-9 was to get into the eyes of seniors and your talent was there for everyone to see.
Believe it or not! My first quizzing experience in VRCE was in the ragging itself. It was after the dinner and on the way to our room, I was caught by my seniors Mr. Hitesh Bhatt (Mechanical) and Mr. M. V. Natarajan (Electronics) for a post dinner walk-cum-ragging experience. They took me for a walk and grilled me for more than half an hour on the current affairs/general knowledge. They were quite impressed and asked me why did not I participate in the JANAM-ASHTMI quiz a few days earlier?? Frankly, I did not know when that quiz happened (or my quizzing platform would have been launched then and there itself). This was the disadvantage of not being in Block-9. The next chance was the GANESH UTSAV QUIZ in September which I again missed due to ragging happening in my room, which was the headquarters of ragging of NORTH ASSOCIATION freshers. It was only after the ragging period was over that we got free to participate. It was the selection for HEXAFEST (Inter Hostel Festival at Block-6) team from Block-7. I was not getting any partner. Somehow, I convinced my neighbor Sanjiv Gupta to partner me. It was a tough fight with none other than Mr. Hitesh Bhatt and his team which we won and qualified. That winter morning I just cannot forget! It was a Sunday morning and the Quiz was at 9:30 AM. Being a Sunday, I woke up late, had a quick breakfast (which was not to be missed as Sunday had a different breakfast than the usual bread and milk) and rushed to Block-6 in my Kurta –Pajamas only. The hall was fully loaded with people and we had to participate against stalwarts who were the reigning champions in this field. A few names would be Rohit Agarwal, Pradip Bahirwani & Dyan Belliappa (who later participated in Quiz Time 1988 on Doordarshan conducted by Siddartha Basu). Somehow, we sat on our designated seats and waited for the quiz to start. The first question that was cracked by me was “In which Hindi movie did Bertrand Russell appear?” I was waiting for the question to pass to our team and when it did, I could not control my joy and very loudly said “AMAN”! The whole hall clapped and cheered in unison. This was the first experience of being in limelight!! Although we could not qualify for the final round, I had already created an impression of my presence. I could not qualify through selection rounds for the college quiz for Annual gathering as the standard was too high and I was no match for the stalwarts that ruled the game. The next venture was the Hostel-Day Quiz. Again it was the same finale with Mr. Bhatt’s team with our team emerging the final winners. I was limited to winning Hostel Quiz only.
The journey continued
The quizzing journey in the 2nd year simply consisted of participating in the hostel day quiz which we won again. The turning point came in the hostel day final celebrations, when the achievements of the hostel inmates were being announced by Ram Kumar ( who was to become our GS later). One of my batch mates (and later my quizzing rival), from Mechanical, was being praised for participating in many Inter- College quizzes and winning some of them. I was shocked to know that Nagpur had so many quizzes and I had participated in none!! And how did he come to know of those quizzes?? What were the criteria for selection to college team to participate in them..??? The reason of shock was that I had beaten the same gentleman a number of times in the hostel quizzes. The puzzle was too much for me. Later on I came to know that most of the quizzes in Nagpur were open quizzes and we just had to go and participate as a team of two and three.
Breaking the Barrier
The scenario changed when we came to 3rd year of Engineering. The stalwarts had passed out and there was a vacuum at the top for quiz teams of college. The first Inter-college quiz invitation was from Government Medical College (GMC) in August 1989. The booty was not just the trophy but watching beautiful chics of Medical College which sounded real interesting. All the heavyweight teams in quizzing were present. To name a few, RKNEC, LIT, YRCC, DBM teams were considered as tough nuts. It was thrilling to be a part of VRCE team. In the finals, the opponent was none other than Quiz Time 1988 finalist Sanjay Yash Roy (DBM) who was considered to be the best in business and an expert on old Hindi movies. When he couldn’t answer the name of the movie for the song “Tum Bin Jaoon Kahan”, the question passed on to all the teams and finally to VRCE. It was cracked by me! We could not win the finals but this was another mark made and I caught the attention of one and all. The joint family watching Sunday movies on Doordarshan together was finally paying off!! This was followed by the grand Youth Festival “AAROHI” which was happening for the first time. The event had a purely “Audio Visual Quiz”. College team selection was done and we had qualified for the same. Due to some goof-ups in the final screening, we were eliminated and this came as a big shock to me. I even thought of quitting in frustration but retracted the thought. The twist in the tale came suddenly in the month of November when our D/D (Debate and Dramatics) secretary asked me to participate in the Nagpur Jaycees Club Inter-College competition. There were no takers and we formed a team of three quickly and thanks to our generous Microprocessor lecturer Mrs. Chetty, who gave the permission to miss the class for the same. We won the Quiz hands down and there was no looking back. The remaining year saw us participating in LAD Quiz (Runners Up), RKNEC Quiz (semi-finalists), Saraswati Puja Quiz-VRCE (Winners), Deptt. Of Law Quiz (Winners) and many others. The best was the IMA Quiz which was conducted by the best Sports Quizmaster in the country Dr. Narottam Puri! There was a quarrel in the hostel on who would participate in the team of three. No solution was in sight and our GS Ram Kumar had to intervene. No one was ready to budge and finally it was me, my previous partner and my new partner who formed the team. We won the Quiz hands down and ended the year with a win!! The only loss was in the College Quiz at VRCE which we always lost somehow. The mystery was yet to be solved.
The Final Frontier
We entered the Final Year which we wanted to make memorable. The Janam-Ashtmi Quiz was lost as it was conducted by my friend cum rival (the mystery continued) but during the Ganesh-Utsav Quiz, I discovered a new partner. I had decided not to participate in Ganesh Utsav as my dear friend (read rival) had been spreading talks that I was only interested in participating and not giving others a chance. As a mark of protest, I didn’t take part in Dumb-Charades, Antakshari, 20-Questions etc. My Quiz partner was getting desperate for participating and he gave his nomination for the Quiz with another person. I just went to the activities as an audience. Quiz was the last event and my friend (read rival) was not conducting it but participating in it. My juniors from Maharashtra were insisting that I participate but I was not willing to listen. It was then my friend Mahboob Husain took me by the arm and got the team’s name registered. We won the Quiz and silenced all the critics. I had a new partner in Mahboob who was both aggressive and emotional!! We both formed a team and wanted to conduct the AAROHI Quiz but again due to internal frictions missed the chance. Therefore, we decided to participate in the Quiz. We were overall 3rd in the written round but still could not qualify for the finals as all the top three teams were from VRCE and only two teams could qualify from a college. The Quiz was won by RKNEC team. This was the final nail in the coffin. The mystery was getting deeper. In contrast to the Indian cricket team which was winning at home and losing overseas, we were winning outside and losing inside our college!! Then the secret was revealed. Our dear friend (read rival), whenever he was the organizer/Quizmaster, was leaking the questions to rival teams so that we could not qualify in the written round!! The next was the Quiz in RKNEC which was one of the best in Nagpur. After clearing the written rounds and scraping through in the semi-finals, we won the Quiz. This was a sweet revenge for the loss in AAROHI. We made a lot of fans and friends in RKNEC and their best team of Tamal and Shishir became our best friends. Due to Mandal agitation and Mandir issue in 1990, we could not get a chance in Quiz Time on Doordarshan, which was shelved due to these issues. The next Quiz we won was LIT Quiz. The best was yet to come. There was a Quiz organized by CCIT which was conducted simultaneously across 8 colleges in Nagpur. Around 40 teams were participating and it was a three-tier event. There were prelims at 8 venues, semi-finals on other day at different venue and the grand finale in Yashwant Stadium. We reached the finals beating many teams comprehensively. The Quizmaster was famous Quizmaster and newscaster from Doordarshan –Mr. Bhaskar Bhattacharjee. There were 5 finalists including VRCE and the Heads/Principals of all the five institutions were there to boost the morale of their teams. We narrowly missed the top position due to the prompting of an answer from the audience and subsequent change in the question. But we were there in the Runners Up position in front of 1500 audience and our own Principal. We also won the DEPTT. Of Pharmacy Quiz later but the final frontier was still to be won- our own College Quiz and the best way was to keep our dear friend cum rival away from the organizers. We tricked him into believing that we were not participating in the College Quiz and insisted him to participate in the same. On the final day, it was a shock for him to see us in the next row participating and this time we had made it!! He was out of contention as he lost the prelims (and could not qualify) and as he had participated, we requested the organizers not to include him in the conducting team. Our hearts were beating fast on the final day and when the last question came as “Which Hindi movie was the remake of Irma –la-Douce?” I stood up and answered “MANORANJAN” and we jumped with joy as we had won it!!!! Tears flowed down my eyes as I could not control my emotions. I had been vindicated at last!! The prize money was not even worth a penny than the honour which was accompanying it.
After college, my quizzing hobby was minimized but still I keep on participating in a few corporate quizzes. I appeared on BBC Mastermind (the first VRCEan to do so!) in 2002 and also appeared in “SPORTS KA SUPERSTAR” in 2010. People appreciate me for the quizzing abilities but in my heart I know that I owe it to my quizzing days in VRCE.