It happened during winter. My memory struggles, as to what the year was. Rang De Basanti was playing in theaters. Saket and I had spent the entire day writing a mock IIT entrance exam. We had planned to cool off in JNU later that night. Some of our OG batchmates had recently taken admission there. Since then, JNU had become a popular haunt with us.
We reached Munirka by bus and completed the remaining journey walking through its narrow alleys; some so narrow that they required us to walk one-by-one through them. The alleys gradually opened into the sky and a moderately busy road, across which was JNU. On reaching the campus, we found Mritunjay preparing for a quiz competition. He told us that it would take place in some residence hall after dinner. Mritunjay added that it would be big and attract all serious quizzers in JNU. He encouraged me to participate as the event was open to everyone. I had not been into quizzing for some time. But it hardly mattered. I decided to participate. I needed a team member. I called Purushottam, who lived nearby in Munirka. I asked him to get to the campus soon. We met at Ganga Dhaba and ate aloo paratha with anda bhurji. Sipping tea, we walked towards the venue.
The elimination round took place in some dining hall. The crowd at the venue made it distinct from distance. The spacious hall was packed. Some participants sat on the floor while writing answers. Purushottam and I cleared the elimination round. As we walked to the stage, our OG batchmates in the audience (Mritunjay, Shailesh, MGR and Saket) made some cheering noise. We smiled nervously as we took our seats. Some of the contenders were civil services aspirants, a few of whom had been clearing mains and prelims exams for quite some time. The quizmaster explained this while introducing the teams and their members. This fact was even more relieving than our lack of preparation. We went into the quiz to enjoy as much as possible. When asked to introduce, we said OG Rangers.
It is often believed that quizzing requires at least some broad, if not deep, knowledge. But, after participating in many quiz competitions during OG and KGP days (and luckily winning some of them), I have realized that a greater part of quizzing is about making associations with what one knows to what is asked and bridging the gaps with intelligent guesses. And, a relaxed mind and a joyful heart go a long way together in making associations and filling the gaps. It has somehow worked for me. Of course, broad range of reading and general curiosity help, but while quizzing, one should know to unlock such vaults where one has stowed away whatever one knows, which may not be even concrete but shapeless, amorphous information, somethings one may have read cursorily or heard in passing. More often these vaults are unlocked not by some metaphorical key of knowledge, but by some easy, careless associations, “intelligent guesses”. More clearly the vaults are simply broken by associations, making the database inside our mind one calm, clear river. Answers then just come bubbling forth through a quizzer’s mind and surface on his or her tongue. Maybe we were more relaxed while playing than our contenders, and therefore, in the end, we won.
After receiving the prize money (some five thousand rupees) and certificates, we walked towards Mritunjay, Shailesh, MGR and Saket in the audience. I remember Amal Verma, our OG senior, standing in the crowd, telling his friends – these guys are from my school. His beaming face suggested to me that something collective had won, and not just us. I could also feel that the event concluding before me was not merely happening into those moments, it also had an element of timelessness. As if it had always happened this way. I had always descended from some stage and met my smiling OG friends in the audience. Be it a stage for a quiz, or a cricket ground or a classroom, I had always heard this cheer. Perhaps, this was some sort of “OG consciousness” – if at all such a thing exists – it was playing on me.
We again went back to Ganga Dhaba, to just sit and chat and sip some tea, and spend whatever remained of the night. We discussed as to what we would do with the money we had just made. A grand breakfast was planned. We found grandeur in a small eatery in Munirka. From the leftover money, Saket and I watched Rang De Basanti in Chanakya. From the theater, Saket left for his classes. I had to go to my place in Zakir Nagar. I waited for a different bus at the bus stop. I suddenly realized that Saket had left and I had become alone. Then from some remote corner of my soul, from the past of my tired existence, I heard a sound. Somebody in my memory was cheering for OG. I struggled hard to make out to whom that voice belonged. I tried in vain. Listening to this by-gone voice, I boarded the bus home.
– Tabish Nawaz (2005 Batch)
Dr. Tabish Nawaz is an alumnus of OG, IIT Kharagpur and University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he earned his PhD. This article was shared on email by Tabish on March 31, 2019. This is his third submission on Oakgrovians Young & Old.