What connects a yellow tennis ball, a black and white football and a foxtrax hockey puck?
while you mull over this, let me tell you about my first visit to the Music academy in Chennai. The year was 1994 and strangely, my visit was neither musical nor academically inclined. It was a holiday (like all 15ths of August) and I had seen an ad in The Hindu about some ‘Landmark quiz’. When you are an introvertish 17, with a fetish for trivia and have just gotten the attention of a few girls in class, thanks to a good run in the school quiz last month, these things on the newspaper grab your attention. Of course there was one other thing.
By the way, The yellow of the tennis ball, the black pentagon of the football and the glow of the foxtrax puck were all enhancements made to the respective sport, for ease of viewing on television.That wasnt testy, no? Talking of which, do you know which product has to pass the chicken gun test to be able to make it to the market?
While you mull this over, let me tell you about this ‘other thing’. During the time I was in school, they opened this small book store in Nungambakkam called ‘Landmark’. It was almost invisible, tucked away in the basement of a busy business centre and they had this strange logo, which I will always remember as a bunch of weird children sitting atop each other and reading comics. But I digress. When I first set foot inside the store, I remember getting a sense of ‘homecoming’. That Landmark store had everything you wanted as a kid – books, comics, crazy stationery, audio tapes, funny cards, hell even ‘Hot wheels’. You could spend an entire day or your pocket money, whichever ended first. So you can imagine my excitement when the two things I have come to love, presented themselves together on that morning paper.
By the way, the chicken shot test is for windshields of aeroplanes to check if they will withstand a bird hit. Yeah, they throw dead chicken at them at super speeds. Its so messy it should be banned, dont you think? That reminds me of this one time (read 1609) when ownership of weapons was banned in this Japanese island. Do you know what hand-based art form, this gave birth to?
So I took the bus, pulled together two friends and gave our team a name (apparently there was a prize for the quirkiest one!) and headed to Music Academy. Little did I know that it would become a ritual I would repeat every year for the next 16 years. Over time, I grew wiser and started bringing along smarter people as my team; Our names started getting crazy – like ‘Two large Romanaovs and a Fresh Lime’. But there were always crazier ones out there like ‘Pundit Queens’ (three lady professors, in the year of ‘Bandit Queen’) and ‘Haseena ki Paseena’ (Shashi Tharoor & family, sweat equity, you get the drift).
The Japanese island is Okinawa and the art is Karate, which literally means ’empty hand’. Talking of ’empty’, during the British Raj, a Lord Pembroke signed an act that transferred the ownership of empty lands that did not belong to anyone, automatically to the government. How does this act live on today in Tamil Nadu?
A quiz is never about right or wrong answers to a question. That is always a worthless detail. The real high is when you hear a question that you know nothing about and then sometimes in a nano second, a possibility presents itself and the awesomeness of the trivia hits you. LQ is about these magical moments.
What makes those magical moments possible in LQ are a bunch of things, which have now become tradition in Chennai – The irreplaceable quiz master Dr. Navin Jayakumar, who besides being a well known ophthalmologist in the city, is also the soul of LQ and has remained so for most of it. The two times that Derek O Brien stood in for him was like watching Australia play a test match without Warney. I know, right? There is also the participants. The tribe. As the largest open quiz in this part of the World, LQ traditionally has had about 600+ teams in Chennai. Thats about 2000 people – from fifth graders, to IITians to ‘Ambi mamas’.
Lord Pembroke lives on in Tamil as the slang ‘Porambokku’, which to this day refers to land that has no papers. Oh that brings me to this little paper sketch that a NY school kid did in 1967. He named this after his best friend in class, a certain Lucy O’Donnell. What was inspired by this and eventually made it to your life and mine?
LQ has become much bigger now and happens in five cities. And L itself has become a TATA company. That fun quiz down TTK road is now called the ‘National Finals’. The prices are huge and the lights, huger. But what has not changed is the awesomeness of the trivia. Like the ones in this post (which are all LQ questions). That kid in class? It was Julian Lennon and he showed it to John that day who came to pick him up and said “Dad, I am gonna call this Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds!”. And like all regular fathers, that reminded John of LSD. But thats for another day…