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"What students of Barak Valley need is more exposure to live quizzes": Jimut Deblaskar, quizmaster

To truly appreciate Jyoti’s flagship event NERICIQ, one first has to marvel at the sheer efforts of the vision of its members. 30 years on, this event probably still has no parallel in the whole country. Where else would you have 30-40 of the best colleges across 7-8 states invited, all expenses paid, for three days of high-intensity debate, quiz and a whole lot of learning and networking opportunities?

The multi-stage format for both debate and quiz means that teams have to consistently perform well in three contests to reach the finals and eventually win the glittering trophies and lucrative cash prizes. Two other events, though not hosted in the 2019 edition, are equally popular and unique in their own ways. The extempore speech contest is open to everyone and is a wonderful platform to observe and practice public speaking and stagecraft. As is the hugely popular Senior Citizens quiz, interestingly hosted by a quizmaster in his early teens. Many budding quizzers and debaters have had their first brush with fame through these two associate events.

The sheer logistical complexity of putting together an event of this scale – travel and hospitality, stage design, quiz/debate content and technology, funding and publicity, managing VIP guests and judges – is nothing short of herculean. You learn a lot of lessons for life by simply observing or better still, by being part of the organizing team. Jyoti members are hugely experienced successful professionals across fields and just to be in close proximity with them is a great takeaway for students.

Unlike the 90s and 2000s, Barak Valley doesn’t see too many quizzes and debates now apart from the in-house contests held at schools and colleges. While the written rounds to select the top 24 teams sprang a few surprises, the inexperience and lack of exposure clearly showed in the quarters and semis. The most experienced and senior teams, mostly from outside the valley, expectedly made the semis and finals. I observed that the Class 11 and 12 students from Barak Valley looked a bit overawed by the occasion. Top colleges as rivals, a big stage with a large audience, the need to think quickly on your feet and above all, questions on topics outside textbooks and general knowledge books fired at them by people who are not their teachers – these can intimidate the best of people fresh out of high school.

What impressed me the most in Barak Valley was seeing so many young ladies in action. The way these young men and women carried themselves and their speaking skills. Diversity in quizzing is rare across India and though the juniors answered very little, I found their diction and oratory skills to be better than their most established senior competitors from larger institutions outside the valley. You don’t just contest, you represent your institute and I felt the Barak Valley entrants were very good ambassadors for their colleges. Besides, the odd great answer which no one other team knew showed clearly, that the talent is very much there to be among the best.

Quizzing is not really general knowledge. I would prefer to call it general awareness – of things happening around the world, in the past and also during the quiz event. One needs to quickly understand texts, visuals and audios, understand the scoring formats used in modern quizzing and have a keen eye on what the quizmaster and other teams are saying or doing. This natural curiosity has to be a part of daily life, not just with an intention to win quizzes. This may sound difficult, but with a little practice, it can easily turn into a subconscious habit that can help anyone in various life situations.

I personally do not consider quizzing to be a very valuable skill. But the other traits that you develop while quizzing are important and potentially life-changing. Through participating in and organizing such events, students will automatically learn to be more aware, self-confident orators, establish contacts with students across states and above all, have a jolly good time outside smartphones and social media.

This year’s event took me back to my days when thanks to role-model seniors at inspirational groups like Jyoti and the culture prevailing at that time in Barak Valley, I was already 40-50 quizzes old across various media in my teens when pitted against graduate and post-graduate students. Every quiz gives both participants and audience new ideas on books/blogs/news/online quiz forums to follow, new genres of music and movies to hooked to, and so on. The Internet has totally democratized access to information; a factor that handicapped us a lot during our student days in such a remote corner of India. Barak Valley now has almost all the resources. What students of Barak Valley need is more exposure to live quizzes and the zeal to orchestrate such events. The knowledge, confidence and awards will automatically follow. It could even turn out to be stepping stone to an entertaining career in quizzing, broadcasting, performing arts, content writing or general management. And yes, if all this wasn’t incentive enough, winning quizzes can get students superstar status on social media too. Quizzing was always about having fun while learning, and there is no reason why that should ever change.

The author of this article, Mr. Jimut Deblaskar works as manager – technology (SAP), Deloitte India. He was the quizmaster of NERICIQ 2019.

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