My first quiz ended in tears.
As a child, I never met an encyclopedia that failed to dazzle me. I remember being mad about a book about flags (and drawing the flag of Togo), and excited about random encounters with facts such as the 'state execution of Z.A.Bhutto' in a book which had turned up in a trunk in my house.
I had a good memory that helped me score marks in the regular random regurgitation of facts we otherwise called 'Unit Tests'.
The signs were there. Yes, I was going to be a quizzer.
However, it wasn't until the 8th standard that I even got to take part in a quiz for the first time. It was an Inter-Class Science Quiz at school. The team-making was a farce - it was by draw of lots (unfair!) from among anyone who was interested. My name came up (the universe is a fair place!) but I was randomly teamed with someone else, who wasn't very good at science or quizzing. Then horror: suddenly, a change in rules. A few more teams were permitted to be formed. My close friends, also good at quizzing skills and with whom I should have gone, made teams. Unfair!
In the elimination round, we huffed and puffed. Got a few, missed a few. Human memory is fiercely protective and mine conveniently assures me that I was carrying the team on my shoulders.
The last question: score, and we would make it to the finals.
"Which is the smallest bone in the human body?" I knew this! I had read it in a slim science book I had at home.
"Stirrup", I confidently said.
"Wrong", said the quizmaster, the Science Secretary of the school and the brother of one of my friends. Turned out he wanted "Stapes" as the answer.
I was devastated. Years of reading Enid Blyton had infused a stiff upper lip that lasted till I got home. I'm not ashamed to say I sobbed in a corner.
Then, I got out the said book. It said "Stapes is also known as stirrup". Woo hoo! Here was proof! I was right. All I had to do was show the Science Secy the book and all wrongs would be righted and oh and maybe while we were at it, we'd solve Kashmir and Palestine and block greenhouse gases.
I confronted him the next day. He did me a service by preparing me for rough decisions at quizzes in the future.
"No, 'stirrup' can only be used as a trio with 'hammer-anvil-stirrup'. It's like 'Lal-Bal-Pal'. You can't just say 'Pal', can you?".
In effect, it was a succinct way of saying "QM's decision is final and I knew I screwed up but I'm not admitting that and going back and changing things and telling the teacher-in-charge all this and hey, by the way, who's senior?".
I only managed to quiz a couple of times more in school. It was only in college that did I actually get to quiz regularly. Since then, at quizzes, I've been angry, mad, resigned, sad, fuming, frustrated, despondent, or sought a hole to bury myself. I've made far worse goof ups as a QM myself. But I haven't wept again (so far).
J. Ramanand won Mastermind India in 2002 and appeared on KBC as a guest panelist in 2014. He is a Quizmaker and Quizmaster here at Thinq2Win.