Sunday, June 13, 2004

A history of the Verve Quiz - 1998 to 2004

A collective gnashing of teeth and muttered imprecations and a general rise in profanity levels would accompany any recounting of the madness of the events of the past connected with the conduct of the Verve quizzes. Verve is the name of the inter-college festival organised by the Express Youth Forum (belonging to the Indian Express, Pune) and has a quiz as part of the many competitions that make the whole fest. Principally due to the fact that the quizzes have been (except on three occasions) been organised by those EYF guys who didn't know the word "quiz" started with a "Q", Verve has been the scene for some incredibly astonishing gaffes and infuriating formats. A full recap follows.

If anyone is wondering why then do the Verve quizzes have any mainstream relevance, it is only due to the fact that it is the sole quiz that makes the headlines in the colleges. Hardly anyone in one's college (this was particularly true in COEP during our time) knew anything about the Mensas, or the Shyam Bhats or the B C Joshis. If you thought you were the quizzing studs of the college, well, to prove it to them, you had to win Verve. Also was allied the points that were obtained from a top three finish in the quiz could help decide where the college stood in the end result. There was no explaining to the quizzing Luddites that unlike a street play or a rangoli contest, a quiz had several unknown variables to it - something that was amply demonstrated by the EYF organisers of the quiz (whose faces can still be seen on the posters on quizzing walls that demand their capture for a million dollars to aid a public lynching - strong words indeed, but entirely justified as you will see).

I restrict myself to only the period between 1998 to 2004, as they're the only ones I know anything about.

Verve 1998

Ok, I don't know much about this. Only that an ex-COEPian quizzer Sanjeev "Sancho" Chandran did the questions and so Verve didn't live up to its Bizarro reputation. Those were the days of a single college team with three members, so Sujay & me obviously didn't make the COEP team which won. (Digression: The only ramification of Verve that year was George turning up late for the Mensa quiz (held on the previous day of the Verve final) since he was caught up in transport and orchestra woes. As a result, George & Kunal missed qualifying and Sujay & I could win 2nd place, our 1st ever top-3 finish in a college quiz.) From all reports, the questions were decent and there were no rumblings.


1st: COEP [George Thomas, Kunal Vaed, Vikram Shirgur]
2nd: BVP [Anand Sivashankar and others]
3rd: [not known]

Verve 1999

Bizarro Verve bared its fangs. Personally, it had been a good run that season, so Sujay and I were looking forward to the next Verve, partly in hopes of putting up a good show and gaining the recognition as the next best team in COEP after George & Kunal (there were about 8 good quizzers then, so quite a tussle). Also, the rules of participation had changed; now there could be two teams from a college of two members each. The elims were horrendous. The organization of Ken-U (officially the name of the quiz) had gone indigenous, and the questions were awful. Boring and factual, with no scope for any guesswork. A collective curse rose in the air.

Much to our surprise, both COEP teams had made it (I think the scores were very low because of the poor elims and there were a few close calls and tie-breakers applied). Also in were AFMC & AIT. The fun was to begin soon. After the customary cheering by collegian supporters in the packed classroom and the frowns and threats of eviction by the EYF guys (one female in particular had made it into an art form annually), the rules were announced. Contrary to expections, there were to be no arguments on whether there ought to be infinite rebounds, or if there should be conventional passing. For, surprise, surprise, there was to be no passing at all! Questions would be asked in turn to all the teams, but they didn't pass. I think all the teams, instead of being indignant, just burst out laughing. But that didn't alter the mood of the hosts. So that's the way the quiz was conducted. The other five teams would doze off when a team was answering its direct. I remember George having his arms folded and the middle digit of one exposed hand extended out where the audience could see it but not the EYF guys (perhaps they saw it too, but who dared argue with George Thomas Superstar ;-) ). It so happened that the two COEP teams found themselves tied for third and there would be a buzzer to break the tie. The answer was "Hannibal Lecter" and I buzzed (did GT & Jitu purposely not buzz?) to give us a much appreciated third place (some credibility at home inspite of the pathetic pitch). The Legend of Verve was underway at last.


1st: AFMC [Shubhrojit Bhattacharya, Dipanjan De]
2nd: AIT [Shrikant Chander, Samrat Sengupta]
3rd: COEP [Sujay Prakash, J. Ramanand]
Finalists: COEP [George & Jitendra Gokhale] and two other teams.

Verve 2000

Yet another year. Again the organization stays in-house. The results don't improve by much. The elims weren't great but most of the usual suspects made it through. Sujay & I felt the pressure as the team was regarded so highly that our college almost put their "joker" on us (we managed to dissuade them from it). The finals started seemingly on the right note as there were no format shockers. But the hosting was a little wierd, and we had the curious phenomenon of some host swapping in the middle of the quiz. Bad sound equipment didn't help. The questions were poorly framed and gave no one any joy. PICT were in their element that day and so were the hitherto unknown team from St. Vincents. Personally, a bad day at the office and overall, the label of poor organization stuck even more firmly.


1st: PICT [Hirak Parikh, Shyam]
2nd: AIT [Shrikant Chander, Samrat Sengupta]
3rd: St. Vincents
Finalists: AIT[Kapil Dahiya, Navneet Bal], COEP [Ramanand, Sujay], AFMC [Ravi Bhatia+1].

Verve 2001

Final attempt at Verve for me! We wanted a fair shot at the title unsullied by some strange pitch conditions. Luckily for all of us, Capt. Shankar, SC who was in Pune that year wondered if he could do the quiz. Which all of us strongly supported. To their credit, the EYF guys relented. The elims were done and a few surprises in store. COEP's second team didn't qualify, nor did Swapnil's BVP team (they got in later as the 6th team didn't come). A couple of unknown teams too. For the only time I can remember, the venue was one befitting a quiz . The only major hitch there was the quiz started about 2 hours late! Shankar also didn't want to have Infinite Rebounds, but no one made a real fuss as we knew we were in capable hands (though I still disagree with that decision!). Shankar believes that the audience must be the main focus of the question setting, and he had a couple of interesting rounds that day. PICT, defending their crown, took an early lead, but somehow we caught up (brown sweater magic trick perhaps?) and after a tense buzzer (where we gave our supporters some missed heartbeats), we'd finally won! Thanks again to Shankar for giving us a quiz where we had a decent chance.


1st: COEP [J. Ramanand, Sujay Prakash]
2nd: PICT [Hirak, Shyam]
3rd: FC
Finalists: BVP [Swapnil+1], PUMBA[Javed+1], SIFT(?).

Verve 2002

Funnily enough, EYF retained its sanity long enough to allow an outsider to do the quiz. Hirak eschewing the opportunity to easily sweep the quiz again volunteered to do the quiz (a good move). The hard time he received at the hands of EYF belied the expectations that they had learnt a lesson from the previous year. Instead, they asked him to get a question bank for 100 questions that *they* would choose from. A compromise was arrived at apparently. Then they gave poor Hirak a dingy dungeon to hold the quiz in, in comparison to which COEP's Electrical Labs looked post-modern. (If you're wondering how I witnessed all of this inspite of having graduated by then, I point to my self-renewed ID card, as do Samrat and Harish.) Hirak did a fine quiz, with some novel rounds. COEP took 1-2 this time.


1st: COEP [Gaurav Sabnis, Neeraj Sane]
2nd: COEP [Manish Mahajan, Arka Bhattacharya]
3rd: BJMC [Shivaji, Vivek](?)
Finalists: ??

Verve 2003

I am yet to meet anyone who was there during the final of the 2003 quiz. I didn't attempt to sneak under the tent this year and preferred to get the news from the BC blokes. The only hitch was none of them made it through, in what many have conjectured were the worst elims thus far. On top of it, no one was allowed to even watch the finals on the grounds that EYF didn't want anyone to "disturb the finalists". There is a lot of doubt as to whether that final even took place, for there seem to have been no survivors. No one can recall a team that was in that final. No one knows who won (no word appeared in the newspaper, AFAIK). It will go down in history with the tales of the Bermuda Triangle, and the alien autopsy at Area 54.


<start spooky sound>~~~~~~~~no one knows~~~~~~~~<end spooky sound>
Verve 2004

However this time some did escape and live to tell the tale. Apparently it rocked Bizarro-Verve-style again. I'll let some of those battle-scarred contestants to leave comments on their experiences there (please use the blogger comments for sake of permanence) and why they've taken to alcoholism as a result. (Please also tell me the exact names of the winners and finalists, I seem to have forgotten.)


1st: VIT
2nd: BJMC [Shivaji, Vivek](?)
3rd: BJMC []
Finalists: ??

In the end
In summary, if you are an EYF member, please stop having your quizzes if you cannot get someone decent to organize and conduct it. And yes, the name Brain-Sync may be better than Ken-U in the corniness ratings, but only marginally.


Anonymous said...

I think I heard something about an FC team that was in the 2003 finals. I think it was Shaunak Potdar and Shakti Sarangi, and they came third. Perhaps I'm thinking of some other quiz though. Will try and confirm this.
-Kunal S

Salil said...

I had the privilege of being a Verve victim, and I can safely say we escaped with flying colours.

The tale right from the start...Our college sent 2 teams: Ganesh and myself, and the other was Siddharth and Kunal. Elims started 2-3 hours late as expected.
The elims were a joke. 'Horrendous' would be an understatement actually. I don't know if it was the same disciplinarian female, but there definitely was one excessively lipsticked ms. you-better-behave-or-else-the-consequences-will-be-disastrous and her brood of 15 yr old EYF voulnteers.

Digest this: the elims had negative marking !!??!!
Sample questions:-
Elvis was born on ______ and died on _____. (We were thinking of writing 'Earth')

Another controversy: Scratched out answers will not be accepted.
Yet another controversy: Negative marking for scratched out answers.

The 4 finalists I remember were:-
VIT: Salil Bijur, Ganesh Hegde
COEP: Anup Mankar, Siddharth Natarajan
BJMC: Vivek Venkataramani, Shivaji Marella
MESCOE (i'm not sure if they were there)

Surprisingly finals started after a delay of about only half an hour.
The host was some MBA trainer. Calling him a moron would be like calling Genghis Khan naughty. He was definitely trying to do a Derek O'Brien albeit in a Gujju accent: "Was that a guess??? It IS blah-blah-blah!!!" or "Oh...I'm afraid...But it IS the right answer!!!"

Questions asked were from a paper picked out by participants from a bunch of sheets in the hands of the QM.
Controversies and arguments were plenty. One of them was:
Participant: How does a question on Robin Hood appear in the music round?
Host: I'm sure Robin Hood had an interest in music...

The only cheering team was a huge wild gang from VIIT (our sister institution) who were giving their team a standing ovation after every single correct answer their team got. Eventually after some signals from Ganesh, they were cheering for us too :).

Absolutely no comments about the questions.

1st: VIT
2nd: BJMC

The relevance/importance of Verve in fact is true, for after winning, the announcement was made in front of the whole college and the rest of the day was given off (OK not just for the was collectively for the quiz, Verve orchestra and winning the sports championships at COEP Zest and AFMC). But then again, Verve was announced at the gathering as the biggest achievement of our college in quizzing.

BTW the Verve 2000 2nd runners-up from St. Vincents were Ganesh Hegde (now VIT) and Shivaji Marella (now BJMC) - the tag team of Shivaji-Ganeshan.

Salil said...

I was privileged to be a VERVE victim, and I can safely say that I've escaped with flying colours.

The tale right from the start...
Our college sent 2 teams - Ganesh and me in one, Siddharth and Kunal the other.
The elims as expected started 2 hours late. I don't know if it was the same female disciplinarian, but there was an excessively lipsticked Ms. behave-or-else-the-consequences-will-be-disastrous and her brood of 15-yr old EYF volunteers.

The elims were a joke. 'Horrendous' would be an understatement actually.
Digest this: the elims had negative marking !!??!!

Sample question: Elvis was born on ______ and died on ______ (we were thinking of writing 'Earth').

Another controversy: Scratching not permitted.
Yet another controversy: Negative marking for changed answers after scratching.

The finals...
I don't know where they got the moronic QM from, but he was definitely trying to do a Derek O'Brien: "Was that a guess?? It IS blah-blah-blah" or "Oh...I'm afraid...But it IS the right answer!!!"

Questions asked were picked by participants from a bunch of sheets.
Absolutely no comments on the questions.
One of the many arguments/controversies:-
Participant: How does a question on Robin Hood appear in the music round?
QM: Well I'm sure Robin Hood had an interest in music.

There were 2 freakish gamble rounds. Play it or leave it. If you play it, then +20 for a right ans, and -20 for wrong/pass.

1st: VIT (Salil Bijur, Ganesh Hegde)
2nd: BJMC (Vivek Venkataramani, Shivaji Marella)
COEP (Anup Mankar, Siddharth Natarajan)
SCOE/SIT (Rohan Gokhale, Chaitanya Kulkarni)
Don't recall the other team.

The relevance/importance of VERVE is in fact true. At our college gathering it was announced as our biggest achievement in quizzing.

(And btw the team from St. Vincents who came 3rd in the 2000 quiz were Ganesh (now VIT) and Shivaji (now BJMC))

Abhishek said...

An ' Outsider's ' View on VERVE

I don't think there is a dearth of verve victims is there, i for one will be the first one to give someone a reward for nabbing one of those EYF guys for sure,

It happened that the last year i had gone to see the quiz, and guess what a quiz the stature of verve was held it in a stinky classroom. (i suppose so coz i never went in) No kunla i doubt if Shaunak&Shakti ever won anything coz i'm sure they came back empty handed. Maybe they didn't have prizes for 3rd which i doubt coz the only good thing about VERVE is the prizes. So on a rainy day i and other QUEST members walk all the way from FC to Agriculture college(twice) to watch the quiz (the elims and the quiz were on different days). I go there to find out that the place is full(no surprise really coz the place probably held only 30 ppl half of them journalists and all their paraphernalia) and that i will have to stand outside. I could not even peep in coz the guys had the bright idea to close all the windoes and curtains so that we ppl outside will not 'disturb' anyone. On some protests from me and some other ppl these guys come up with the Buchanan inspired idea of rotation. Believe it or not 'Audience' rotation. The same lady probably tell me that 10 ppl would be moved out after 10 minutes and 10 new people would be admitted. Ingenious !!!. This does happen a couple of times (while i gnaw my teeth watching all the journalists having a bored look on their faces and wasting rather precious buttspace.) Anyways as luck (does not) have it by the time my chance comes - which is after 2 hours (and only twice has a namesake rotation be done) the quiz is over and all i get to hear i some stupid questions like name all the PMs of india from Rajiv Gandhi(was it him or nehru). Anways verver did get on my nerve but the only real reason i wanna go is the spanking new mobile phone which shaunak had set his eyes on !!

(we all discuss if quizzes should be audience centric or participant centric, verve is in a new category - journo-centric !!)


Samrat said...

Both the Verve quizzes I participated in 99,00 were howlers. It was pure Russian Roullete. Luckily me and Srikanth cashed in both times to come second, it greatly enhanced our reputation in college. A first would have been even better, but i dont think we minded it a bit. As I reminsce now it all seems so ludicruous, thanks a ton JR for writing down these thoughts, had a nice laugh after a long time.

Anonymous said...

Dude! Just answer one question

If teh quiz questions were awful, boring and obvious why didnt you win?

Stop whining and join EYF to make a difference if that matters to you so much

GuNs said...

Was looking up Google for an official VERVE website. Apparently, there is none such.

Its been almost two years since I finished college and the last verve I attended was probably in 2002. I am desperate to look up more information on it so that maybe next year when I am back in India, I can go back to Verve and relive my otherwise sucky college days.

Check my blog out when you get time. I write pretty much random stuff but maybe you will come across something interesting.


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