If you are in a team that has Shouvik Guha, you can safely sit back, watch the show and collect the prize booty at the end. In other words, he’s simply the best — and that means a lot in an arena dotted with some of the finest quizzing minds in the country.
Guha, 52, at present a commissioner of income tax, cut his teeth in quizzing while in school in the Seventies and won the regional finals of Bournvita Quiz Contest for Don Bosco, Park Circus. Bournvita, a Sunday afternoon radio programme, was then the holy grail of quizzing.
Guha went on to study economics at Presidency College from where he went to IIM-Bangalore. All the while, quizzing remained a constant companion. Guha’s interest in acquiring knowledge came in handy when he appeared in the UPSC exam in 1986 and made it to the Indian Revenue Service.
A voracious reader, Guha’s interests are varied — from history, international relations, politics, science to literature, films and the arts, there’s not much that slips past the father of two. His strengths are in-depth knowledge and extraordinary recall power.
At a recent quiz, he correctly identified a sketch as Santiago Calatrava’s original drawing while planning the iconic Turning Torso skyscraper in Malmo (Sweden). The question foxed the other contestants, some of who have actually seen the Turning Torso. Guha had seen the sketches of Calatrava some years ago but such are his recall abilities that he came up with the stunning answer.
For someone who has worn possibly every quizzing laurel that is there, why does he still quiz? “To keep my faculties in order and also to relax given that we are all into high-pressure jobs,” says the humble taxman. And as long as he is there in the circuit, the others will have to settle for second best. After all, there is only one Shouvik Guha and he is the best.
Seldom at sea
When not bobbing on the high seas with elan, Abhijit Banerjee, 54, fields questions like “How is Meyrick Clifton James better known to the world” with ease.
A chartered engineer who graduated from the Marine Engineering College of DMET, Calcutta, Banerjee — better known as Abu’da — is among the city’s most respected quizzers and shippies.
His tryst with the world of Q&As began way back in January 1974 when he started representing St. Xavier’s School. His first open quiz was in the summer of that year at the prestigious DI Open where the school team stood second. There was no looking back — Banerjee was the All-India winner of the Bournvita Quiz Contest in 1974 and 1976, and twice national runner-up at the All-India Round Table Open Quiz.
In addition, he achieved a solo first in an All-New South Wales open competition in Sydney, Australia, where he had gone for his marine engineering certification exams.
Then, quizzing fatigue set in. From 1987 to 2002, Banerjee stayed away from the circuit to find out how a “normal person” goes about life. After his self-imposed exile of 15 years, Banerjee decided to return to the circuit, cajoled and coaxed by contemporaries. Since then, he has been a regular with top open teams such as DI, Octette and Inmaniacs.
If tackling verbal missiles hurled at him is like second nature, there’s a reason for it. In May 1983, he had to abandon ship and escape on a lifeboat, following his vessel getting hit by an Exocet missile fired by the Iraqis in the Iran-Iraq war. Banerjee finally made land amid hostile air raids and transiting mine-infested waters. No wonder he glides through quizzing minefields when the rest fall to posers such as the one on Meyrick Clifton James, the man who resembled World War II hero Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.
When Abu’da answers “Monty’s double”, it’s with the confidence of a man who’s been there and seen it all.
Mad about quizzing
Why is Inmaniacs — possibly India’s oldest active quiz team — named so? Nope, they are not a bunch of lunatics; rather the name was derived from IIM Calcutta’s telegraphic address Inman — a concept alien in today’s world. The team was conceived by a bunch of IIMC students spearheaded by Gautam Ghosh or GG (picture right) in January 1976, making a modest beginning with the now defunct Rangers Open Quiz and the JS Lipton Quiz in October of that year.
It remained a team of IIMC alumni till about the mid-1980s, with three or all four members of the team being past students of the Joka B-school. But with Calcutta ceasing to be the professional destination of IIMC grads, the team had to look for members from other spheres.
Ghosh, who schooled in Patna before taking an electrical engineering degree from IIT Kanpur, now remains the only IIMC alumnus in the Inmaniacs team. But it’s a tribute to his perseverance that the team has survived — he is known to coax and cajole lazy quizzers to get out of their homes on a Sunday afternoon and head to a quiz.
Inmaniacs has had the distinction of having won most of the regular open quizzes that were held in Calcutta — the DI Open, Eddie Hyde Quiz, Grail Club Open and the Argus Open. It has additionally won the National Final of the Round Table Open Quiz in 1978, which incidentally was India’s first national-level open quiz. It has continued to perform well in recent quizzes as well and won the Grand KQF Quiz at last week’s Kolkata Quiz Festival.
What has been the secret of Inmaniacs’s success and longevity? “A combination of love for the pastime, hoping to win, and having fun. One basic guiding principle of Inmaniacs is that, while we have been competitive, we have also looked at the lighter side of quizzing, and have never played dirty. We have taken the QMs errors — and we have encountered many — in our stride,” says Ghosh.
There’s been a long list of quizzers who have been part of Team Inmaniacs over the years — Partha Datta, Pracheta Mukherjee, Indrajit Gupta, Firoza Ardhesir, Ian Zachariah, Dayita Datta and more recently Anirudh Chari and Malavika Banerjee.
But GG has been the glue, keeping the team intact and getting members if he feels they fit the bill. Ask any recent Inmaniac, they will tell you of the afternoon calls.
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