Thursday, March 10, 2005

Your time starts NOW!

What’s the last thing you’d expect on a Sunday night, in a Mexican pub frequented by Indians, with a Sri Lankan band belting out pop melodies?

20 points and a free Mexican fiesta platter if you guessed ‘a quiz show’.

If I hadn’t been at Beyond El Rancho’s at the Marco Polo Hotel in Deira, I would never have guessed, for sure. Dubai’s nightlife is famed for many reasons, but none of them are inherently cerebral.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Dubai has a quizzing culture, and a flourishing one, at that. Most of the pubs in the city have a designated Quiz Nite and there are a couple of big quizzes each year – on the lines of the Brand Equity Quiz – conducted by the grand daddies of Indian quizzing, Siddhartha ‘Mastermind’ Basu and Derek ‘BQC’ O’brien. The prizes range from liquor company freebies to dinner vouchers at 5-star restaurants to gizmos and even, luxury cruises.

I got the lowdown on all of this courtesy two pals of mine - old timers on the Mumbai quizzing circuit, who even have a Brand Equity win to their credit. As it turns out, they’ve continued their winning spree on this side of the Arabian Sea as well, winning several of the pub quizzes and even an IT quiz. Now, with both of them in the same advertising agency here, and in between working on deadlines due ‘yesterday’, they came up with a plan to host an Indian quiz nite. (Apparently most pub quizzes are dominated by Brit quizzers and have a Brit trivia slant.)

The Marco Polo Hotel isn’t the most convenient location, especially on a weeknight (Sunday night, Muddle East… have I mentioned it before?) But there are a few regulars who drop by especially for the quiz. Some unwary stragglers are also coerced to participate with the assurance that it’s a ‘simple quiz, no dimaag ka dahi’.

The quiz follows a simple format: 40 questions, Bollywood-sports-trivia, a visual round, and a most generous sprinkling of ‘clues’. One of the questions last Sunday was, ‘Name the captain in the book Moby Dick?’ Faces turned into question marks. The clues all but spelt out the name. Sample: It’s an unusual name. Starts with A. Ends with B. One team piped up, “How many letters?”

The merits of flipping through the Bombay Times and other P3P-loving papers became apparent when I accurately guessed Ayesha Takia in the visual round. The need to stay updated on sports also became clear when I wrote Walter Matthau for Richard Hadlee. Actually, the poor lighting was to blame. That, and the watermelon breezer.

After two weeks of coming in a close third, my teammate and I claimed the top spot last Sunday. 33 out of 40. It was a thrilling moment. No Lexus, no 100 kilos gold, no 55” plasma TV, but it still felt good. Later, the Sri Lankan band, ‘Damage’, took over and apart, from a mutilated, non-recognisable ‘Imagine’, did a pretty good job on the other melodies. Not a bad way to spend an evening at all.

At the end of the evening, the only question that had us stumped was: How do you divide one XL Heineken t-shirt, three Jack Daniels beer glasses, one Dove sample kit and one Amstel light cushion between two teammates?

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