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.
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]
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.
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].
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]
Finalists: BVP [Swapnil+1], PUMBA[Javed+1], SIFT(?).
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](?)
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>
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.)
2nd: BJMC [Shivaji, Vivek](?)
3rd: BJMC 
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.