How I learnt to avoid the worst question ever: ‘What else?’

According to an article I read recently, the topics people usually end up talking about in most social settings are work, maids, children etc. I guess that’s because these are the things they have in common (or think they do).

The easiest way to connect with people and converse with them *is* to find commonality, no doubt about it. Think of any group you enjoy being part of – there is some commonality that binds the group and conversations are fun because everyone ‘gets’ the jokes. Learning more about the interests of your friends – what they like, what they hate – helps in finding more topics of commonality and helps you connect better. This is where quizzing has helped me a lot – to connect with strangers as well as friends and relatives! If I’m sitting in a pub and someone answers a question on House M.D. or Sherlock, there is an unconscious connection made (though Sherlock would find it difficult to connect with them. Humans, that is).

Quizzing helps you in avoiding that worse case scenario when it comes to conversations: What else? It is all pretty much downhill from there. The best friends I have are the ones I found through the world of quizzing. I have many friends that I first met outside of the world of quizzing, but the best conversations that I have had with them have happened courtesy quizzing. Quizzing or the game of Q&A (whether you’re asking or answering) is after all, a manifestation of the most innate qualities that defines us as human beings – curiosity. You’re not just a passive consumer but are alive to the conversation. We owe it to ourselves and our friends to have better conversations!

To give you an example: Luigi Galvani had once proposed the idea of animal electricity based on the twitching of a dead frog’s leg. Allesandro Volta later found that it just proved there was no such thing as animal electricity; the frog’s leg was simply a conductor of electricity. Now, a Galvanic reaction is also the principle used in primary batteries to generate electrical voltage. I studied metallurgy, hence this is of added significance to me. A few years ago, I had an accident on a two-wheeler as I lost my balance while trying to avoid crushing a frog that was crossing the road. Luckily I didn’t hurt myself too badly. Couple of days later, I was recounting this story to two of my friends and one of them quips,”Oh! You had a Galvanic reaction!” Now that you know the background, I’m sure my friend’s response to my accident makes lot of sense and explains why I enjoyed it so much and remember it 13 years later.

It’s simple. The interesting conversations stay with you, the boring / mediocre ones don’t. Isn’t it time we skewed the ratio?

What else?

 Harish is co-founder, Choose To Thinq and Thinq2Win

Grey Cells Matter at S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research


Choose To Thinq was invited to conduct a quiz at the prestigious S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai on the 7th of December 2016. Grey Matter is a quiz with the aim of engaging and bringing together people from different programs in the institute, who otherwise do not mingle with each other. This included faculty, staff and PG students. Thus the age of the participants ranged from 30 to 70 years! We even lent them a hand to promote the quiz internally, by providing questions.


The quizmaster for the day was J. Ramanand. It was coordinated with the help of Deven Deshpande.


The quiz was on general knowledge, with a slight emphasis on 'Business', since it was in a management institution. Almost 30 3-member teams participated. The top 4 teams were taken into the finals with 2 more from among the faculty and staff. The quiz had a tight finish as all the participants were well prepared and quick to recall and deduce the answers from the clues provided. The winner was declared by the last question, that too on a buzzer!

We strive to add something different in every quiz or engagement event we do. This time was no different. We has a special third 'Super-Sub' round. In this round, one member of each team was replaced with members from teams which had just missed out: the 'honourable' mentions. Needless to say this was very-well received and added to fulfilling the objective of the event: Engaging with people in the institute you don't generally interact with on a daily basis.

The organization was efficient (management institute after all! :) ) and the audience added to the excitement with their active participation.

Overall, another successful wrap!


EPL at the BCL: SparQs Fly!

3rd of December, 2016, saw Choose To Thinq conduct a SparQ session at the British Council Library. It was themed on the English Premier League. A SparQ session involves discussion, retelling of experiences and learning new things about the subject through a quiz. With a knowledgeable fan base to entertain itself, share opinions and argue statistics, the session was charged with EPL-mania. Our veteran host for the evening, Pranav 'Floyd' Joshi captained the team well with interesting questions and facts. In the spirit of the session, he showed yellow and red cards for foul play. The person who answered the most number of correct answers even got a whistle.

Lasting about an hour, the gathered spectators' only grumble was the lack of overtime.  And as always, our true satisfaction lied in facilitating this interaction and learning a few new things ourselves

Some Questions. Can you answer them?

  1. This club’s nickname doesn’t derive from the current name of the Football Club as believed by many. It infact derives from the club’s earlier name which was ‘Thames Ironworks’.

What nickname, that also features on the club’s crest, is being talked about?

  1. “When the fixtures come out I usually look for three games – City, Liverpool and Everton. This time I checked the Sunderland game. If there is one team that I want to beat this season it will be Sunderland.” Which player said this ahead of his team’s 2012 fixture against Sunderland and why?
  1. What connects this exhaustive list?

Begovic - Stoke v Southampton, 2013. Howard - Everton v Bolton, 2012. Robinson - Tottenham v Watford, 2007. Friedel - Blackburn v Charlton, 2004. Schmeichel - Aston Villa v Everton, 2001

Comment your answers below. Also suggest interesting topics for us to conduct more sessions on!

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In the post-match press reports:


Magic SparQs

On the 1st of October, 2016, Choose To Thinq conducted a SparQ session on Harry Potter. This was conducted at Pagdandi Books Chai Cafe in Baner, Pune. A SparQ session involves discussion, retelling of experiences and learning new things about the subject through a quiz. We had a full house, with more than 70 people attending! The small and cozy venue was bursting with Potterheads, all eager to participate. What surprised us (or didn't actually!) was the difference between the age limits of the wizards and witches. While the youngest were around 5 and 6 years, the eldest crossed the 50s mark.

Lasting about an hour, the enthusiasm never fell till the end. Then the children and adults alike became quizmasters, showing off and learning new Harry Potter and J K Rowling facts. Our true satisfaction lied in facilitating this and learning a few new things ourselves ;)

Some Questions:

Gallery: img_20161001_111823  img_20161001_112602  img_20161001_113349  img_20161001_113405

Suggest interesting topics for us to conduct more sessions on!

Comment below :)

Ammunition, Nappies, Research Papers and a position in the Pune Municipal Corporation

Are you wondering what could have brought ammunition, nappies, research papers and a position in the Pune Municipal Corporation together in one sentence? Well, it all started last Thursday, when I got a call from K S Prakash, the MD of IDeaS (a SAS company) if we could host a quiz at the awards function for the 12th AJM Corporate Cricket tournament. The conversation was interesting :

Prakash: But are you comfortable with cricket as a topic?

Me : of course, I’m a fan!

Prakash : Right! I know that’s like asking someone ‘is the sky blue’ but just wanted to confirm :-)


We put together a fun and interesting set of questions that would appeal to the cricketers and the arm-chair fans alike and to top it all, Dilip Vengsarkar was the Chief Guest and gave away the awards.

Well, we had to ask a question about Mumbai batsmen and the Lord's honour board :

Before Ajinkya Rahane in 2014, who was the last Mumbai batsman to score a Test hundred at Lord’s?


The quiz was fun – with umpires being quizzed on their syllabus :

Which fielding position in cricket, beside deep cover on the boundary, shares its name with a defensive position in football, in which the defender is traditionally required to clear the ball off the goal line? It could also be someone employed by PMC.


The winning captain from TCS was asked about famous sledges



The most enthusiastic cricketer from Tech M was asked about Ammunition and cars :

And a 9 year-old was grilled on matches played between India and Pakistan in World Cups (he was spot on with his knowledge of matches played well before he even born).

This question on a research paper in Operational Research was fittingly cracked by Navin :

The writers published this paper in the Journal of the Operational Research Society in Mar 1998 and one of the two authors used to edit the newsletter of Royal Society of Statisticians. Who are these people?


And we ended the quiz with this question


Some thoughts that stayed with me :

  • Dilip Vengsarkar talked about grabbing an opportunity when it presents itself  - he did that with his famous knock in the Irani Trophy against the best Indian bowlers. He spoke about the importance of grabbing your chances again when talking about his stint as the Chairman of Selectors.
  • The whole genesis of the Ankur Joglekar Memorial corp. cricket tournament really struck a chord. He was a young man - passionate about cricket, whose real-life innings was tragically cut short in a road accident. Since then, the family, friends and more importantly, his employer IDeaS have put in lot of efforts to keep his spirit and the fire going.  IDeaS has been organizing the tournament every year – this was the 12th edition and by all accounts, it has now developed into a well-organized,  much sought-after annual feature of the corporate cricket calendar in Pune.
  • Dilip Vengsarkar told a story about Javed Miandad which was another great example of why he was called street-smart (and a great business lesson for me) I’m not sure if I should recount it here but at the end of it, when Vengsarkar said,”Well that’s Javed for you” – even those who heard this story for the first time, nodded knowingly!!!
  • While we have asked about the century Vengsarkar missed while playing at Sialkot in 1984 when the match was abandoned, I learned that day that he almost got timed out in Australia once when he was scheduled to come in at No. 3 after Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan.

It was a great evening with some very knowledgeable cricket fans and excellent amateur players – all getting together to have some fun. The biggest learning for me, though, was – when the prizes for the quiz are as good as a bat autographed by the Lord of the Lord’s, I should ask the organizers to reserve one prize for myself.

Why Agatha Christie hid two manuscripts in a safe.

2015 is the 125th birth anniversary of "The Queen of Crime", Agatha Christie. The 2015 Pune International Literary Festival celebrated the best-selling author with a special exhibition and a quiz that Choose To Thinq hosted on the occasion. Harish and Ramanand at P.I.L.F. 2015

The quiz was jointly presented by British Council, Pune and Choose To Thinq - this was based on a SparQue session conducted earlier in the year.

Some of the participants at the Agatha Christie Quiz

About 50 enthusiastic Agatha Christie fans took part, with ages ranging from 10 to 70+. The quiz was hosted Ramanand; incidentally, his Mastermind India-winning performance included a specialist quizzing round on "The Tommy & Tuppence books of Agatha Christie".

Participants also discussed their favourite Christie books, their most loved characters, how they got into reading Agatha Christie books, and recommended books to each other.

Some of the crowd's recommendations for the one Agatha Christie book that you should read if you are new to her books:

  • And Then There Were None
  • Murder in Mesopotamia
  • Murder on the Orient Express

Some questions from the quiz:

Q. The first and last mysteries that AC published were, respectively, Poirot and Marple novels. Name them. A. "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" and "Sleeping Murder".

Q. This form of poisoning was used in The Pale Horse. Agatha Christie was sometimes blamed for bringing it to the notice of would-be poisoners! This poison was in which chemical element's sulphate form? A. Thallium

Q. "Curtain" and "Sleeping Murder" (the last cases of Poirot and Marple respectively) were published after AC's death in the mid-1970s. However, these had been written 35-odd years ago. AC had put these stories in a safe and asked them to be published only after her death. Why did she do all this?

A. She wrote them during the beginning of World War II in Britain as she wasn’t sure if she would survive the war and its outcome. She wanted to ensure a proper ending to both Poirot and Marple, so she wrote their final books long before. She did survive the war!

Our quiz at VMware to recruit cricketers!

With the cricketing season around the corner, the willow-wielding enthusiasts at VMWare were keen to bring on board new employees who might be interested in being a part of the company's vibrant cricket activities. With the previous quiz on Bollywood high on their minds, this time they thought a cricket quiz would be the perfect opportunity to spot hidden fanatics in the techie crowd - as also use the occasion to make newbies aware of their cricket program. So one late afternoon, we did a special cricket quiz for the employees of the software company that tested their knowledge about interesting anecdotes, trivia, records and moments from the game that captures everyone so.

Here are some of the questions we posed. Have a go!

1. Which term connects something plant-lovers do in the yard, to something batsmen do on the pitch? 2. Three out of four times this event took place, India won the match by exactly 153 runs. What event are we talking about? 3. Which team has chased a target of 300+ the most number of times (thrice) in the history of World Cup cricket? 4. FR Spofforth ended with figures of 14-90 at The Oval in 1882, helping Australia win by 7 runs against England. This led to something that has now become a regular in cricket. What? 5. “There was a slight interruption there for athletics…”Commentator Richie Benaud’s gentlemanly description of something that had just stopped play.What was he referring to?


1. Gardening 2. An Indian scoring 200+ in an ODI! 3. Ireland 4. The "Ashes" obituary notice that gave the Aus-Eng Test series its name 5. A streaker at Lord's

SparQue - Harry Potter!

Harry Potter - SparQue session "Accio!"

Summoning all Potter fans to a special SparQue session on, you guessed it, the World of Harry Potter.

A "SparQue" session is a quiz based on a popular topic that lets you learn about a books & movies and also lets you express yourself to like-minded people. The session will be participative and you don't have to have read or watched the series in question. In the process, we will also explore interesting ideas from the series.

Why should I attend: - if you are interested or want to get interested in such books/films/series - if you like mentally stimulating, fun activities - if you have a point of view on the book/film/series

This edition of SparQue will cover the entire spectrum of the Potter universe, from the books to the movies to the characters. We'll try to send a Confundo charm your way, so bring your wand!

Entry is free for all, including non-members. Feel free to get your friends along!

To know more, visit the event page here.