The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Teen duo takes quiz route to Pakistan

Antariksha Das and Srayan Mukherjee are going where Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar cannot. The two 17-year-olds are headed for Islamabad, in India colours, to take on the neighbouring countries for a mind-game finale. The fourth annual Saarc Radio Quiz will be held in the Pakistan capital later this month. And the South Point duo will be the first representatives from this quiz-crazy city to the Saarc showdown.

“This is an annual exercise in international relations that we carry out with the radio stations of our neighbours,” says Ashim Kumar Rej, station director, All India Radio, Calcutta.

Buried in books in the middle of half-yearly exams, neither Class XI science student could suppress the “excitement” over the December destination. Both insist that their parents are “not worried”, though most friends and relatives clearly are. Antariksha, in fact, has a more ‘sporting’ concern. “My first thoughts on coming to know of the venue was whether there would be fair play, whether we would be discriminated against. Participants from the other nations surely would not have to bother about such things. It is all because of the political tension between the two countries,” he says.

Another cause for concern is the possible curb on local travel. “We surely will not go off sight-seeing on our own. After all, it is Pakistan,” Srayan points out.

But given a choice, they wouldn’t change Islamabad to a Dhaka or a Colombo. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit a neighbour that is practically out-of-bounds in terms of tourism,” says Antariksha. “We are looking forward to meeting fellow-students and other people of Pakistan, to find out what they think of us.”

The two came to know about the quiz just three days ahead of the regional round. After qualifying for the national finals, beating four other city schools, and reaching the Parliament Street AIR station in Delhi, the duo was told to take the questions individually. This, just half-an-hour before the broadcast recording button was to be pressed. “Since we had been competing as a team ever since Class VI, we could not bear the thought of one of us qualifying. In the inaugural rounds, Antariksha surged ahead while I won some vital points at the end,” recounts Srayan, who topped the nationals with 80. His friend and schoolmate lagged by just five points, leaving behind the rest of the field by 20 points, says assistant station director and local coordinator S.K. Acharya.

With D-Day set for December 21, preparations will start only after the school exams are dealt with. “We might just look up a little information on the Saarc countries, what else,” they shrug.

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