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For the Love of Quizzing – Interview with Major Chandrakant Nair

Loved by thousands and respected by the entire quizzing fraternity, Major Chandrakant Nair is a household name for any enthusiastic quizzer of the past decade. He was in Manipal to conduct the General Quiz of Questionable Intelligence, a featured category organised by the Literary, Debate and Quiz club of Manipal. Known for his composure and humble roots, he graciously obliged to sit down and have a chat with the MIT Post before hosting his quiz.

The Major’s Calling

You studied at Armed Forces Medical College and served as a major in the Army for a few years. What prompted you to take quizzing as a full-time career option?

I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my parents and become a doctor. I wanted to join the army because the Kargil War happened when I was in class ten. These two came together, which is why I decided to join AFMC. As a doctor, I realised that whatever else I wanted to do – travelling, reading, quizzing – took the back seat. Instead of giving up everything else to pursue one thing, I did the opposite. It was a tough decision to make.

A lot of people would think a lot before making such a life-changing decision. Would you suggest others who are passionate about their craft to give up on the stable job they have and direct all their attention to their hobby?

The best case would be to have a stable job and pursue your hobby alongside it. But that is never the case. If you want to only do quizzing as a full-time career, you need to put your heart and soul into it. You need to make the effort into making questions of a high standard. Once you achieve that, quizzers around the country will start appreciating your quizzes, which is the most important thing you need to make quizzing a viable financial option.

Personally, I do not wish to make quizzing my full-time occupation. I will give an example. During the three years when I was posted in the North-East, I was aloof from the outside world. Only after those many years, after I had come back home and back to regular quizzing, did I feel happy about myself. I would like to live my current lifestyle for four to five years more and then make a call, regarding my future.

Your life is very hectic. With all the places you travel to for conducting quizzes, what is the average day of Major Chandrakant Nair like?

My current life is more hectic than the job I quit. That is because it is not just about physically conducting those quizzes, it is also about making the questions, and that takes up most of my day. I spent sixteen hours a day making those questions.

I am a night-owl. I generally sleep late into the night. I get up at ten in the morning and right after freshening up, I start reading. Most of the questions I set for today’s quiz and my other quizzes, in general, are from what I have read three weeks prior. I have a habit of bookmarking stuff. So, I make a master power-point presentation, where I note down each bookmark, along with salient features on which I should concentrate on. This makes the job so much easier for me. If there are no quizzes in the near future, they get saved for later.

You conduct so many quizzes each year. How difficult is it to keep all your questions original?

What I must take into consideration is audience overlap. If I feel one of my questions have a high standard and deserve to be used in more than one quiz, I make sure that there is no chance of having common participants. If I like a question in today’s quiz, I will probably use it in my next quiz in Guwahati.  I also take time in re-characterising some of my questions. For example, if I read an article on Lord of the Rings and I conclude that I can construct several questions from this article, I will sprinkle the questions I make into many quizzes.

In the twenty-first century, with the advent of the internet, do you think that Google and its kin are more effective a source of information than any book?

Nothing can match the details a book can offer you. The internet can only give you immediate and effective information, but a much more rewarding experience would be reading a book. Books help you enrich your intellect, and to me, nothing gives me more happiness than that. This is the case with most of the good quizzers I know across the country. For the budding quizzer, books should be the primary source of information.

The common perception is that the internet is faster as compared to reading a five hundred page book. While I agree with them, perception differs from person to person. I was brought up in an age when we did not have the internet, which is why I prefer the book. Nothing can beat the internet as a source for quizzes, but I learn a lot more from books. Also, a lot of stuff that is there in books are not there on the internet. There are some questions in today’s quiz that you will simply not find on Google. So, anyone who reads and loves books will automatically be a good quizzer.

Finally, in the recent past, you have come to Manipal to conduct quizzes in our fests like Revels, Invictus and now Tech Tatva. So, is there something about  Manipal and our quizzing culture that intrigues you? Any message you would like to convey to the quizzers here?

I go to seventy-eighty colleges every year, but I’ll say that the facilities and the reception I receive in Manipal is just impeccable. I always love coming back here to conduct quizzes.

Coming to the quizzing culture here, I feel that you guys are as good as, if not better than the other quizzers across the country. The moment quizzers from Manipal start travelling to other cities in Karnataka or Kerala, the exposure will help you improve and become more known as a successful Quizzing Society. If you want people to attend Manipal fests, you need to participate in out-station fests. I wish you all the best. Continue to participate in quizzes and win!