For the love of quizzing – my Tata Crucible Experience

As a kid, I never participated in any sport. I would probably regret that for a long time to come. It has made me socially inept in various situations and it has also made me unable to handle success or failure properly. I started quizzing, if you can call it a sport, in college because this was something that I believe I could get good at with a little bit of effort. I had a few successes and quite a few failures but it was always fun. I tried to continue it after college but it became harder. Once I started it became really difficult. Not being able to perform (not even reaching the stage) just killed it. I, again, blame it on the lack of sports in my life while growing up. But something changed this year. Rather, something changed in the last 15 days – I took part in Tata Crucible and reached the national finals. This post is not about the quiz or the questions that were asked but the experience that comes with it.
I was in two minds about participating in this year’s event, so much so that when my partner-in-crime Avinash Maurya contacted a month before the event to “prepare”, I replied to him in a defeated fashion saying – “Count me out. Kuch hota to hai nahin”. I probably wouldn’t have participated if another friend Shakti Singh Kavia hadn’t called couple of days before the event reminding me to register.
I showed up at the venue absolutely unprepared but with lady-luck on our side and Amit Singh Rawat and I sailed through the Jaipur round to land up in Delhi for the zonals. And that is probably when I realized – there is more to quizzing than just the event. I ran into a couple of people who had read my book that I had written in 2011 or a PDF that I had compiled in 2009. I was pleasantly surprised that people still remembered that and it made me feel happy – happier than actually winning the Jaipur round. One of the main reasons that I, and many others, are active on social media is for validation from our peer group. I honestly didn’t think that I would find that validation at a quizzing event in a city where I have never even participated in a quiz from people who are complete strangers. There were old friends like Kumar Vaibhav Tanwar and Nikhil Kumar Verma who landed up at the event and stayed for almost 4 hours. I know both of them well enough to know that they wouldn’t have stayed if I wasn’t there in the finals. Just the fact that I could meet them, spend a few minutes with them makes the trip worthwhile. They made fun of me for not be able to open the trunk of a car because I couldn’t find the button / lever for it and for multiple other things but this was probably the most fun I had in a long time because once you are in mid-30s and don’t have many friends – you miss the little stuff like this.
In the period between the north-zone final and the national finals multiple people got in touch with me. Some of them, 50+ year old veterans who told me not to take it too seriously, some of them were 20ish kids (Sreshth Shah / Nishant Nihar and a few others) who had legit advice about what to do to win, and friends like Siddharth Misra who I hadn’t spoken to in years just to calm my nerves. He was probably going through the same stress that I was considering that he had won the Goa round. In Mumbai, I ran into Ashish Daryani and Gaurav Dadhich , who took time out to just come and meet. Trust me it is not an easy thing to do in Mumbai. And then there was Sukrit Vijayakar, who actually came to meet me but failed to recognize me because of the unkempt look. When I saw him at the venue to say ‘Hi’, he smiled a little and then went back to his phone. It felt a little odd but once I reached the stage – I saw a whatsapp from him saying, “Idiot – you should have shaved. I didn’t even recognize you with the beard.” He joined the list of the select three people who said the same thing, my mom and my wife being the other two.
The best meetings were probably at the end. At the hotel, I ran into Jayakanthan – who has probably won more quizzes than most of us have even attended. I realized, that this is the same guy who used to send me books when I was in college just to encourage people to read. I tried to repay it by giving him 1 and a promise to give him 1 every time we meet. On the ride back to the airport, got the opportunity to share the cab with Naveen Kumar, winner of this year’s Tata Crucible, who looks a lot older than he actually is. Apparently, one of the key resources that he used when he started quizzing were the PDFs and book I had compiled.
All this happened in a brief period of couple of weeks. So many friends and so many memories from something like quizzing that I had almost given up on. I guess I need to learn to deal with failure a little better so that I can continue quizzing, if for nothing else but the relationships it helps build.
I think that is what the sport of quizzing is all about.

This post was contributed by Ravi Handa.

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