[Disclaimer: This post is by no means influenced by the anti-parnab campaign going on in the blog-world lately. I only had one occasion to be on a Parnab Quiz - where he did stump me with a "Kolkata Physicist -no connections" question - and overall the quiz was pretty skewed -but I guess it was an "experience" to see the guy doing the entire quiz from his memory!]
Quizzing was a passion from schooldays and it was Siliguri school quiz circuit was an ideal starting ground. One big regret is in spite of winning almost all the major school quizzes - Siliguri Boys' School was never invited to the Bournvita Quiz Contest hosted by Derek - and the Don Bosco team that went from Siliguri was comprehensively beaten by us (Ankan was my most frequent partner in those days - pity he did not quiz at all after his school days) at more than one occasion! Either way the transition from school to college quiz in Kolkata was a little demanding and it was not until a year me (with Arpita) achieved out first win at Calcutta Medical College. It was a typical college quiz - we boarded the metro from Rabindra Sarobar when the quiz should have been underway but still was a couple of hours "early" for the quiz. Cleared the written prelims and none seemed to notice us in the final until we sneaked in a win past the more established teams in the last round! And in this quiz - a guy named Arnab Jyoti Pal came from nowhere and "sat" on our team - that was my first introduction with "loga" as he was known and his gang. This definitely helped in a big way to shape my confidence - and it became a ritual to bunk classes and be there at any college quiz we could find. It was never the lure of the prizes - which was non existent on Kolkata college circuit anyway - but the thrill of quizzing which was the motivating factor. And these were places for "social interaction" too - where you start meeting other members of the circuit - get news about the next quiz - make contacts and all. And Kolkata college quizzes were hardly inter-college in the sense of the term - people from different colleges used to sit in a team - so it was all the more important to make right contacts - after all being part of a good team ensures that you are almost never left out from the finals. And there were people - who were in all probability not college students - but took part nevertheless - like "professional college quizzers"! Richard Mistry (who forever stayed on Hazra Law "campus"), Gautam Bose, Priyanku Mitra, Indranil Choudhury - to name a few of those omnipresent college quizzers - I am sure a lot of us still remember all the stories you got to hear about them! It was the same set of people who went to every college quiz - waited for hours for the quiz to begin - and shared gossips from quiz circuit - resulting in an unique bonhomie!
I moved beyond the college quiz when Landmark started those once in a month sunday early morning quizzes - and the best quizzers in kolkata were all there. Souvik Guha with his nonchalant brilliance, Gautam Ghosh with his arrogance, Mrs.J with her deep knowledge of Indian Mythology, C.P Singh with all his glamour, Tatha with his impeccable knowledge of Hindi Films - and many more who used to dominate the Open quizzes. I also got to know Soubhadra and Sudeep more and more in those days - they were pretty good quizzers on their own rights - but friendships with them extended beyond the quiz circuit. Landmark (and the dingy Apex quiz club at a photographic studio in Gariahat) was the centre of Kolkata quizzing in those days and it was great to be a part of them. Open Quizzes in D.I and Argus were fun too - qualified to semifinals/finals a few times without major success - they were backyards of beer guzzling veteran quizzers - but open quizzes were more than just winning and losing. Being at those grounds with legendary Neil O'Brien or R.M.Sen conducting quizzes - and then heading for a pub after the quiz with the gang - I wont trade those experiences with anything.
Later I was actively involved in resurrecting the J.U Quiz Club (which was later named enquiry) with Paddy, Subho and Arijit - the weekly quiz sessions there resulted in a renewed interest in quizzing among freshers - and for the first time in a few years - JU was again actively represented in different quizzes. Also tried to host the Quiz along with Arpita in the Science Faculty Fest - unfortunately with an ignorant crowd ( quiz is rarely the most popular event in a college fest) and all the attention focused on Choreographed dance or something similar which was supposed to come next - we had to cut short the quizzes abruptly - much to the disappointment of the quizzing fraternity - but we hardly had a choice.
My best quizzing moment came in the CCFC grounds at the "La Femme" Quiz organized on the occasion of Women's day or something - and they had Basu (Arguably one of the best quiz masters in the country then - and it was my first time facing him). It was an open quiz with all questions relating somehow to "women"! The Ju team composed of Venerable Amit Dey (who was at his best quizzing form then), Pritam (A late replacement for my usual teammate Arpita) and yours truely. We qualified pretty strongly - but were languishing at the bottom after halfway through the quiz. Then something happened - in penultimate two rounds - we really got going - and moved upto 3rd. Then came the Basu speed round.And we maxed it - Amit Dey had the microphone and I remember shouting him down for an answer - such was the adrenaline rush at that stage! And then the unthinkable happened. The great Gautam Ghosh and Sanjoy Mukhejee buckled under pressure in their rapid fire round. We did not win it though - but a close second after a such a disastrous start - and Arpita cheering us all the way in the last few rounds - it was so out of the world. I was so proud to be a JU-ite on that day.
If that was the best moment - the crowing glory came just a few months before I left for Florida. I was almost out of quizzing by then - but the JU team composed of Arijit , Amit , Dipyaman (Sayan was a late replacement for him in the actual quiz) and me qualified for the special invitation round of BBC University Challenge India. We went all the way to Delhi - it was an awesome experience to be on the sets with Basu - although quizzically we did not put up that good a show - losing rather tamely to University of Edinburgh. The sad part is I was here when they broadcast it and I have no photos even from the quiz.But still a nice way to end an eventful Kolkata quizzing career.