Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I was pleasantly surprised to note that Kimi Raikkonnen won the Belgian GP the other day. Unfortunately, as with the other McLaren victories these past two years (both of them), I missed it. Also, Schumacher seems to have won this year's championship too, barring an Epiphany (note to VIT: you got to pay me for this reference) or an Apocalypse or something. But now I think the question on every McLaren fans' (I think that's just me and Anup by now) minds is: Can McLaren beat Sauber Petronas? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Malhar 2004 IV - Acronymns and Abbreviations

LA - The literary arts department

OC - Member of the Organising Committee of Malhar. The OC in a department is the head of that department.

OG - Organiser. The OGs are the lieutenants of the OCs in their departments.

NCA - Non college assistant for Performing Arts (PA) events, eg light and sound guys, accompanists.

Admin - Administration, the guys who make the rules and regs for the events, and try and enforce them.

Texxx - The Technicals Department, the guys who handle the lights, the sound system and the buzzers in quizzes.

Moffis - The Malhar Office.

OTSE - On the spot entry. As only one team per college per event is allowed, those not in the college teams must take this route. The college doesnt get points for it, and cross college teams are perforce OTSE.

Malhar 2004 III - Revenge!

The third day of Malhar 2004 seemed to follow a predictable pattern at first, apart from a few minor details. After an interesting one hour local ride from Thane to CST (my first solo), I got together with my contingent (they were staying at a hotel near Xaviers, I was staying with my cousin Varun, an Admin volunteer at Malhar). We had our predictable problems with Malhar Security and were 45 minutes late for our event, North by Northwest. Fortunately, so were the other participants.

The All Topic Quiz

The All Topic Quiz was called North by Northwest, and we were told it would have a travel format. On the elims day, the QM (Khaliq) had loudly asserted, "THIS IS NOT A GEOGRAPHY QUIZ". We were apprehensive, given the previous day's experiences. However, as I later told one of the QMs, it was the best quiz in Malhar. I think the poor chap actually took that as a compliment.

The FC team in North by Northwest consisted of Ulka Athale, Puranjay Parchure and me. The QMs were a guy named Khaliq and a girl called Rutuja (I think). The other teams were FC, IIT, Xaviers, HR College and an unknown OTSE team.

The quiz did have a funny format. There would be 3 rounds of D&P 10+5 at first followed by a buzzer round (+10,-5), following which 2 teams would be eliminated, and the format would change. We took an early lead, answering all the questions in the first round. The questions weren't like those in the Book Quiz (ie they were answerable). We continued this form throughout the first phase, finishing 30-40 points clear of the opposition. IIT came second with Xaviers at third. The HR and OTSE team were eliminated.

In the break between the two phases, some audience questions were asked by the sponsor, DHL. It was an obvious gimmick, as the three answers began with the letters D, H and L. Unsportingly, the prizes were all taken by Jhavierite LA volunteers.

A little while later, the second phase began. A map of the world with a route from Bombay to Delhi going all around the world with stops at various cities of the world was projected with profuse thanks to the Texx guy who sat up all night making it (I still dont know why it took him so long). The funda was basically this, all teams start from Bombay. If you answer correctly, you advance to the next city with 10 points. If you dont answer in two turns, you advance to the next city with a penalty of 2 points. You answer questions on the neighbourhood of the city you are on. Also, no passes. However, as the quiz was a race to Delhi, this was effectively a Ganga Snan of the points we had earned thus far. If my memory serves me, the cities were Bombay, Dhaka, Colombo, Bangkok, Jakarta, Canberra, Suva, Ascuncion, Pretoria, Cairo, Baghdad, Ankara, Rome, London, Paris, Stockholm, Washington, Caracas, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow, Islamabad and Delhi.

Here we got stuck on our India questions, and the other teams both went a place ahead. When we were asked where Vijayalakshmi Pandit became India's first ambassador, I answered the UN (it was the USSR). The Jhavieite sitting behind me snickered, "Khaliq had asked where she was ambassador. How can it be the UN? So ignorant!"(or something to that effect). Yeah sister, you showed me which one of us was ignorant. Anyway, we made up this gap at Dhaka, and were a place ahead of our competitors. Not many questions here stand out, so I wont repeat them here. We kept our slight advantage right through to Europe. At Paris we were asked, "What began as a carrier pigeon service in Paris Berlin, etc etc?" We answered "DHL" (it was Reuters). I only mention this as this was one of the few times the Jhavierites laughed with us, not at us. We noticed that although we were not so succesful with our own questions, we answered almost every single one IIT and Xaviers couldnt. In fact, whenever Khaliq couldnt get an answer to the questions from them, he turned to us, not the audience.

Soon we were at Moscow, two places ahead. Khaliq was QM for the round. An evil smile spread across his face. "Give me the funda" he sneered, "on the RNS Kursk." "What funda?" I querried. "The complete funda" he said, evil smile growing. "Ok" I said, evil smile now on my face, "The RNS Kursk was a Russian Golf class SSGN cruise missile submarine based at Murmansk with the Red Banner Norhtern Fleet. She was named after the battle of Kursk aginst the Germans in 1943. She was lost in the White Sea with all hands, taking 110 men to their graves. Her captain was...". "Ok, ok" Khaliq stammered, looking like he'd just been tackled by Joe Rockococo, "I'll give it to you". You may floor me with your lit question, dazzle me with your India trivia or confound me with your knowledge of music, but no one, no Jhavierite at least, screws with me on military technology and hardware.

We were now at Islamabad, the home stretch now visible. A chastened Khaliq asked us, "Who persuaded Imran Khan to rejoin the cricket team in 1988?" We answered "Zia ul Haq", and that was it, we had won! We had finally beaten IIT! Mood-I 2003 was fully avenged, and we (FC) had our first victory outside Pune since 1998.

We (Puranjay, Varun Datar and I) went to Cafe Mondegar for a very expensive but well deserved celebration of this victory, then left for Pune on the Deccan Queen with our contingent.

On the whole, I'd say Malhar 2004 was a success for us. Apart from the quizzing results, FC won a second place in the Instrumental fusion and a third in the Hindi Film script writing. We just narrowly missed winning the LA trophy, which went to IIT (Damn!). We won a lot of (useless) prizes and got ourselves the (all important) certies. Although there were some bad experiences, on the whole Malhar wasnt too bad ;-). Although I had vehemently declared on Saturday that I was never coming back to Malhar, I dont think so now. I shall return!

Monday, August 16, 2004

Malhar 2004 II - IITian Someones: What not to ask at Malhar

After the qualifying rounds of Malhar, the inter college uber-fest of St. Xavier's College Mumbai, on the 8th of August we went back there for the finals a week later on the 14th. The size of our contingent had gone down from 35 to 13, 8 of these being participants. All in all, I'd say we were one of the smaller contingents at Malhar.

Our first conatct with the Jhavierite-Malharites was the with brown clad Neanderthals with "SECURITY" printed on their shirts, which they had "customised" (read "mutilated") with scissors. In Malhar the various departments wear their own tshirts. Admin, for instance wears green, Security wears brown (no doubt inspired by Ernst Roehm's Nazi Brownshirts), Assistance wears red, LA wears white, etc. Anyway, as we got to the gate, we came across the security guys. After seeing that we were participants (participants are bullied less) they directed us to the participants entrance. 10 minutes, various wannabe sarcastic comments and a rigorous frisking later, we were in. We went straight to our book quiz, Pulp Fiction which was at 12:30.

The Book Quiz

To say that the book quiz was arbitrary, unnecessarily complex or unfair would be an understatement to shock an English butler. One word immediately comes to mind (with which I'm sure you are quite aquainted by now), and that is Maaz.

The quiz was set and conducted by an LA OG, Toru Nair. Ulka Athale and I represented FC. We should have known what we were in for when a Jhavierite volunteer shouted, "When the quiz goes down to the wire/ We all turn to Toru Nair". The Jhavierites all cheered and guffawed like it was the funniest thing they had ever heard. I suppose if you are a maazlela Jhavierite who doesnt fit in with the real world, you need to find humour in some pretty "unconventional" places.

The questions were, in a word, bad. Even so, we took an early lead, and were 40 points clear of the competition. Of course the D&P 20+10 format may have had much to do with that. However, as we realised, the questions weren't fixed for any team. Miss Nair had a list, and she changed the order many times midway, unintentionally (I hope) favouring one team over the other.

Then came the piece de resistance. IIT Powai, then in 2nd place had a direct question. "What" asks Toru, "is the funda behind the title of Chetan Bhagat's 'Five Point Someone'?" The smug "I am in IIT, I kick ass' look the that we had wiped off the IITian's faces came back on again. Out of all the literary questions that one might ask an IItian team, that had to be the biggest sitter. And it couldnt even have happened by accident. Toru had previously not asked us the next question in her list because "it is too easy for you", and given us a tougher (read unanswerable by sane humans) question.

The rest of the quiz was a blur. Miss Nair was the rudest quizmaster (or is it quizmistress?) I have ever seen, and that is saying a lot. Comments like, "How could you not answer that, it was so easy", "Thats a stupid answer" and even "You should be kicked out of Lit class for that" were legion. Soon IIT, and even the Xaviers team pulled ahead of us. There were 4 or 5 buzzer rounds with the stupidest format I have ever seen. 10 points for the first buzz, 5 for the second and no negatives. No negatives in a buzzer round!? Taking advantage of this, we jammed the buzzer and reduced the opposition's points tally a bit. In fact our first spurt was due to this spark of insanity on the part of the organisers.

The quiz dragged on and on. 12 rounds, 15 rounds, and I lost count. Even the flies on the walls dropped off due to extreme boredom. Finally Toru said those 7 magical words, "I'm sorry, we're running out of time". The last round started and it was on the buzzer. We repeated our earlier form and pulled ahead of Xaviers. Mood-I 2003 was avenged: We had beaten Xaviers in their own Book quiz! IIT, however remained unvanquished.


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Malhar 2004 - I

Maaz. More Maaz. And Acronyms. Oh, and did I mention the Maaz? If this is your idea of a kickass cultural fest, then Malhar is the fest for you.

Malhar is an inter-collegiate cultural extravaganza organised by St. Xaviers College, Mumbai, and as these things go, it's pretty big. It's in a league far apart from your Verves, your Silhouettes's or your Epiphanys, if you take my meaning (with apologies to the VITians and the AFMC guys). Where we Puneite backwoodsmen are content, nay, thrilled with a few hundred participants, the Jhavierites are disappointed if they do not get a few thousands. Where we Philistines may need to invite non-participants to our "small" events, Malhar volunteers are accustomed to beating off pass-seekers with blunt objects. Its BIG.

We went there as a coningent of 35 other Fergussonians. 35 wide eyed, innocent kids (well maybe not that innocent) carrying the burden of the honour and reputation of their city and their college on their shoulders. To my knowledge, no Pune college has ever achieved a first place at anything at Malhar, but then my knowledge doesnt stretch very far. We had people paricipating in three quizzes, a debate, two dances, a play and a band competition. We were told we were the biggest outstation contingent. More like the bigger outstation contingent. But we did okay, as you will find out.

The quizzes were alright, nothing spectacular. There were three, a book quiz (Pulp Fiction), an entertainment quiz (Cinema Paradiso) and a travel/general/trivia/whatever quiz (North by Northwest). We rated our chances as best in Cinema Paradiso and North by Northwest, but we qualified for Pulp Fiction (Ulka and I) and North by Northwest (Puranjay, Ulka and I) instead. Although some questions were quite vague and arbitrary (as BC quizzers will soon find out), they weren't that bad (read Mood-I bad). Our guys also qualified in Indian classical vocals (Radhika Joshi) and the band competition (Chris, Arthur and Prateek).

And now for the Maaz. Everything in Malhar reeks of maaz. For example, in the participants meeting, we were directed to a darkened hall, which looked more suited to a cabalistic ritual than a meeting of culturally enthu people. They made us stand in a line, and slowly we trickled into the hall. Throught the gloom, one could discern Malhar volunteers guiding participants to their seats with flashlights. Was this for some sort of A/V presentation? A movie, perhaps? Or were they going to have a sound-and-light show? No, they weren't. All that happened then was that all the Malhar OCs (more on the acronyms later) spoke to us. 30 straight minutes of maazurda Bombay Scottish types droning on and on in their ICSE accents. It was awfull. And what did we, the participants learn? "All ACLs should note that NCAs must be registered with the OC PA, or PWQOZ will happen. Please speak to the OG in the Moffis." And then, the grand finale. The lights dimmed (so the hall was almost in darkness). Fog was released on stage. Multicoloured lights started flashing. The music went up several notches. Was someone really important coming on stage? Was there going to be some sort of entertainment? Were htey going to sing the Malhar song? No. Thats all there was. The lights, the fog, and the earsplittingly loud music. And this is just a trailer of the maaz.

Well, Malhar wasnt all bad. Many (but not all) the volunteers were friendly. It was kinda well organised. The bird-watching was pretty awesome. The Performing Arts events (those that we were allowed to see) were quite entertaining.

There's more, and also two more days of Mahar to go (the finals days, the 14th and 15th of August). So expect more Malhar posts after this long winded and boring one. Hasta luego!