(I wrote this in 2006 perhaps. 16 years ago. I had not revisited Asansol for a quiz since. But someday..)
Do they still quiz in Asansol? Is the Graduates’ Association quiz still held every year on that quaint tree-lined street in Burnpur? What about the one at the Asansol Book Fair every year, jostling for space with poetry-reading sessions of Joy Goswami and Sunil Gangopadhyay? Does Kamalendu Mishra still conduct quizzes there? And who conducts the Inter-school Rotary club quiz at Asansol Club nowadays?
Are there, even now, questions asked whose answer could be Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopastnostyi? Do you still see rather gauche, under-confident young boys from Bengali medium schools there, who pronounce the word ‘quiz’ with a ‘j’ at the end, but who also have a record of winning quite a few major events in the city? Do you still see mothers sitting in the first row of the audience, discussing the relative merits of their children’s mathematics tutors and sometimes gesticulating frenetically at the daughter, on stage, who has forgotten the name of the first person to give a speech in Hindi at the UN general assembly? And sometimes enthusiastic teachers from St. Vincent’s and St. Patrick’s too, surrounded by a bagful of tiny 12-year olds, vehemently cheering two of their boys who have qualified for the finals and are on stage.
How do they quiz in Salem? And Chikmagalur, and Meerut, and Bokaro, and Vaapi, and Bhilai? Can you find dapper quizmasters with unbridled enthusiasm who ask questions in three languages (sometimes simultaneously in the same quiz), and who do not mind having a word or two with the parents of the kid whose team has come fourth, there? Do you have champion quizzers in your city, dear readers from Chikmagalur and Bokaro, who are inconspicuous, polite, mild gentlemen who answer to the name of Kanhaiyalaal Sharma, or brash, shockingly knowledgeable 15-year old enfant-terribles like Subhadeep Barman? Do you find teams of 15 year olds as winners of the most prestigious quizzing trophy in the city?
Will you find a few 60 year olds, trying their luck in the quizzes, teaming up with their grandchildren? Will you find wide-eyed 13-year olds in half-pants, who scream at their teammates when they miss a question, leading their mothers to stop talking to each other in the middle of a particularly important and interesting gossip? Will you find Tiffin-box adorned mothers asking their sons whether they have been able to answer the one on the full name of Jyoti Basu, in the qualifiers? Do they have prize money yet, in quizzes, in your hometown?
Is there an Asansol in every small town in India?