The story of the BC quiz club as told by Shrirang Raddi
Installment 2. This one covers my FE and SE, the years before the Saturday Quizzes started.
COEP Days .. Pre- Saturday Club.
The batch that entered COEP in 1991 had a clutch of good quizzers. There was Maya Kamath, the finest lady quizzer I've known. There was Aniruddha Karve, Vishal Dalal (jaundice ensured he passed out a year behind us) and my Loyola quiz partner Nikhil Jakatdar. The last named was more an enthu quizzer than a great one; but to put things in perspective he is more famous today for having sold his startup for something in excess of $100 million.
The college quizzing scene was quite competitive. AFMC were the guys to beat - they had some strong teams and had made winning a habit. The other strong colleges were Fergusson and BJMC. COEP was always strong; but the one thing that distinguished us from the rest was the absence of a home quiz. AFMC had 2 - Shyam Bhat and Silhouettes, Fergusson had the Insynch quizzes (General and book quiz) .. and even BJMC had their annual Triviana quiz. We were the parasites, visiting each of these quizzes and never hosting one. And the reason was not just that the college authorities were not supportive. It had a lot to do with inertia on our part.
When I was in FE the 'senior' team was a pair in BE, Subhash Joshi and Ashok Gidwani. The stalwart from TE was one Niranjan Pednekar, SE had a few enthu people and there was this big bunch of us in FE. The first major event was the BJMC quiz. Nirya paired up with Aniruddha Karve, and I stuck to my Loyola pal Jakatdar. As usual there was a huge group of AFMC guys in their thick blazers; some Fergusson guys etc etc. Somehow the elims seemed pretty easy to the COEP contingent. As the compiling of answer sheets was going on we noticed some commotion happening in the background, and expectedly an AFMC guy was in the thick of it. What had happened was that in the top 6 teams, there were 4 COEP teams. Hence the fight from AFMC to impose a ' 2-team per college' limit. Well they got their wish and so I sat out that quiz. The 2 top COEP teams - Subhash and Ashok, and Niranjan and Aniruddha finished 2nd and 3rd I think. Insych -( the Fergusson cult-fest, died off soon ) - happened soon after, Niranjan and Aniruddha reached the quiz finals.
There also was a quiz conducted by Niranjan in our internal CultFest - this one was the first Boat Club lawns quiz I participated in (and finished an ignominous last)- as well as the MESA quiz conducted internally - but basically there were no major fireworks COEP caused anywhere until the Shyam Bhat quiz of 1992. The team of Nirya and Ana was by then well set as the No 1 team in COEP. I was floating around, wasn't planning to go for the quiz but there was another floater, Arun Pillai who needed a partner. So we went there and the rest is (I fondly believe) history.
An AFMC quiz, where 2 COEP teams qualified 1st and 2nd; tied for 1st place at the end of the quiz, a long way ahead of all others!! We wanted to share the trophy but the organizers insisted on a tie-break. Which was some vague Hindi audio clue I think, and Niranjan cracked it. So we finished 1 and 2, this being the first of many occasions I would finish 2nd in the Shyam Bhat. The spur-of-the-moment pairing clicked big time, and over the next 2 years Arun and I were the top team in COEP.
My SE started off with a bang. The traditional season-opener was the BJMC quiz 'Triviana', conducted as part of their Ganeshotsav fest. As expected Nirya and Ana, and Arun and I qualified for the final. Along with the usual AFMC and Fergusson suspects, there was a BJMC team too, and so the cheering contingent was huge. This was a dream day for us. We took the lead in Round 1, and had crossed 100 points by the time the last round started. (Team No. 2 was at 50.) This quiz was our breakthrough. Sample Question - "Which newspaper publishes 'all the news that's fit to print' ? " (The New York Times). - BJ always had someone famous as the chief guest - the prize distribution that year was done by famous Marathi actor Dilip Prabhawalkar aka 'Chiman Rao'.
Silhouettes happened, so did Shyam Bhat. More runners-up certificates happened. By now every quiz was more or less a COEP vs AFMC show. There was no animosity between us and the AFMC guys though; since every year it was the senior batch that would control the Silhouettes / Shyam Bhat quiz organization, and the juniors would generally curse the seniors (on stage as well as off stage!).
Insynch happened and Arun and I did manage to get a runners-up place in the book quiz. Insynch that year became a battleground between us and the organisers - Amit Verma amongst them, thanks to our loud complaints about rigging. Fergusson had a decent but highly erratic bunch of quizzers - there was Siddharth Madhusudan (nicknamed Mad Sid and fully lived up to the name), Devdan Chaudhari and Orgho something ('Aargh'). Their problem was that they had a lot of internal battles, which spilled over on stage. Everyone else enjoyed the fun. On one unforgettable occasion Fergusson were about 20 points behind us. There was some weird format by which they would get +15 if they got the answer right, and -15 if it was wrong. The question was 'In which Olympics was gymnastics included for the 1st time' (Athens 1896). Devdan knew it, and started to answer, but Mad Sid grabbed the mike, pushed Devdan's face away and confidently said 'Antwerp 1920' or something like that. At which Devdan threw his pen to the floor and stomped off stage, leaving the audience in splits.
Overall my first 2 years in COEP were fun. COEP was by no means the sole dominant force - AFMC won as many as we did - and though we always beat them, Fergie were good too. A lot of our success had to to with having a regular teammate - Niranjan and Aniruddha and Arun and I combined well, so we had the most consistent results. Others like Maya Kamath, Vishal etc. suffered because they did have a regular partner. Maya was the person in-demand whenever there was a 3-member quiz - the regular pairs would do their best to get her to join them.
The last quiz of my SE was something organised in Fergusson. This was the last time the Niranjan and Aniruddha pair competed together, Nirya being all set to leave for his MS. Once again it was basically a battle between 2 COEP teams and 1 AFMC team, and this time Arun and I pulled away in the second half and won quite comfortably. So that year COEP won 2 titles and finished at least runner-up everywhere else.
Internally not much happened. There were some sporadic informal quizzes, and the Boat Club was the hangout anyway. The dream of having a COEP quiz had long been forgotten. There was no recognition from the college authorities of our wins; and we didnt push for it anyway. We were perfectly happy living a parasitic existence, satisfied with the certificate or memento we'd get in every quiz.
Things were ripe for a change.