This question always haunted me like hell since I was in college. I had just entered NIT Kurukshetra, one of the Top-25 engineering colleges in India. I was there because I did well in AIEEE, an exam meant for blokes like us who could not get through the IITs. But hey, the rest of us did well in that exam too. We were all there. So what made me different?
Then started the studies. Being a very studious person, I aspired to top the college (It looks like a joke but I am serious!). I worked pretty hard. My friends (Rajesh, Anuj and Sushanth) co-operated with me very well. I can't forget those days when we 4 shared the same room and worked together. It was a new experience working in groups as I was mainly an individualist. And that made me realize what I was like to share stuff. I really don't know how to thank Rajesh and Anuj for all that I got from them. My first year survival, I can say without any doubts, was because of these two fabulous fellas - Thank you dudes!!!!
I tried my best to study the various subjects. But I was very much dependant on the teacher (I still am!) as my primary source of knowledge. Books were always secondary for me. But in engineering, books and notes were the main stuff. I tried my best in the first semester, but managed a comparatively lesser score. Mission failed became Mission Impossible when I heard that it was a CGPA system and not the older %age system. That meant another change in my strategy and my dream of becoming a topper were squashed.
Then came the third semester, where I was introduced to the actual engineering stuff - Electronics! I realized soon enough that I was not meant for doing ECE (Electronics and Communication Engg) anyways. Then I met two new friends who had an important role in shaping my future life - Ujjal and Vidyasagar. They had similar views in some issues and contradictory views on many. Just hearing them speak opened up a whole new world for me - a world where there was naxalism, terrorism and many other societal problems. They introduced me to the real world, the world I never wanted to know about. If I am in an IIM, it's all because of what I learnt through their talks. My GD was with them only - No amount of GD can give me the same ideas as they did.
But I was still another RECKER (What our seniors were called then). What made me unique? I didn't know. The reason was that there was no such point that made me unique. I had no specific skills. I was just a mixture of lots of stuff.
Then came the real challenge in my life - Quizzing. I don't know if you know this, but quizzing is my bread and butter. It has been the same since 2004 and the enthusiasm has only died down in the recent months due to MBA pressures. Very few people know how I was introduced to quizzing. The story goes as such: I was always into quizzing from my school days. But I never gave it any serious thought. Two years in Intermediate college grilled me for my life ahead. But I never took quizzing seriously. In NIT KKR, I saw that many quizzes used to take place in the college fests. I asked Ujjal (perhaps he asked me, I am not sure about this) if we could team up for one of them and he agreed. We went for the "Brainstorm" (November, 2004) quiz. There, we faced such a huge barrage of questions - not the numbers but the toughness level. It was so tough that I was stunned. The biggest shock came to me when Ujjal's senior, who was one of the quizmasters, told Ujjal that this was one of the easiest quizzes in the last 3 years. I remember Ujjal clearly telling me what Anda (his senior) had told him then, "Shame on you fellas, this is a real easy one. Easier than all the quizzes in the last 3 years". One word hit me - SHAME. I never liked being ashamed and humiliated. And no one used that word before me before. This got my blood boiling. And I changed my mission - I will show them who's the boss. They want a quizzer, they will get one. And they won't get any ordinary quizzer - They will get the best one.
It's not easy being a quizzer. Life is hard when you don't win any quizzes and when you fail to qualify the prelims. But nothing could deter me. I sent Ujjal to ask his senior for some help. His senor gave him a set of cards which had around 120+ questions in them that they had used for quizzes in the last year. I didn't know the answer to a single one of them. So whenever I was free, I used to surf the Internet (Google is the more specific word) and try to get the answers for those questions.
I stumbled upon a website - http://www.kcircle.com/. It is a quiz club in Hyderabad itself and is regarded as one of the best in the country. There were close to 200 quizzes, each having an average of 15 questions - that makes it 3000 questions in total. I found out that this was the main source for all the questions that they used for their quizzers. It was like discovering the Holy Grail, only that I could not reveal it to anyone else. I just told Ujjal about it and we guarded this secret like our lives depended on it.
December 2004: I went home for the holidays - 15 days of action. I took the printouts of all the quizzes and analysed each question thoroughly. I managed to remember the answers for more than 80% of the questions. Then came the main test - the quiz. In that quiz, I managed to come second in the prelims (Thanks to some cheating done by the crooked team that came first in the prelims; they got their due in the finals by scoring a zero) and almost won the finals. The second-best team till then was indeed stunned - Who on earth was this new team? Who was Varun? How did they manage to beat us?
A few hours had made me a somebody. I was now one of the few recognized quizzers in my year. Mission accomplished - Naa. This was just my second year in college.
Then came the new challenge - Year 3. My competitors became my quizmasters. I had to do something fast. And then came a fellow quizzer - Mr. Kiran. this guy is amazing. Very silent, but very fast too! He showed me the new world of Internet quizzing - Quizgroups! I got hooked up and that kept me afresh!! I now knew how others quizzed and had a platform where I could post my quizzes and play quizmaster for once.
Now I was armed. And virtually became a one-man army for my team (I never liked being one though). We three (I, Ujjal and Vidyasagar) became a great team. We became a famous trio in our batch. We were "Team Anonymous" (I still retain this name wherever possible)
Confluence 2006 was the peak of my quizzing in NIT KKR. But then disaster struck - Ujjal was not willing to participate. He was tired of quizzing and also felt something else (I can't write that here, else he will kill me). We were left one integral member short. But Mr. Kiran filled in and we won the Sports Quiz. Srijan co-operated with me and Vidyasagar and we took the second place in the Trivia Quiz. Mr. Kiran again teamed up with us for a third place in "The Audio-Visual Quiz". And I won the solo quiz "Prodigy", which I still feel is the highest point in my career so far. Nothing can match that win, which I managed in the tie-breaker overcoming a stiff competition. I felt that my junior, Anup had a great chance, but fate had other plans. But that made me respect other quizzers more. I had to know more about them too. After-all, I will become the quizmaster next year!!!
The last event "SAVANTE" was in Literati, 2006. I, Vidyasagar and Mr. Kiran won that one with a close margin of 130-120. And it was my best win ever as a team. All of us gelled together for the quiz and it was my best sleepless night ever. I rushed for mass the next morning in sheer joy!!! I didn't sleep the whole day either!!! So I am short on sleep by 10 hours still, technically speaking...
The 4th year was great - I was the Quizmaster at last!! But then, being a single quimaster isn't easy. I had to manage college, CAT, GDs and Interviews, all for the sake of quizzing. I was determined to leave the college with a good rapport with my juniors. I managed to get eve a team from my own state interested in quizzing, with a little patronage. That was the best thing I did to my college - keeping the quizzing spirits alive, not letting them dwindle after the departure of our senior batch, who were HBO - Simply the best!!!
(contd in the next post....)