Quiz as test of knowledge or as infotainment is available all over, but you have to come to Tripura to see Quiz as a local festival.
In its fourth year now, the Tripurainfo 'All Tripura Mega quiz' isonly getting bigger and bigger - more contestants, bigger audiences, more sponsors and ever-greater impact in society.
For the organizers, managing more than five hundred contestants and a full house at the spacious Town Hall is not easy. More so, because the audience is vociferous, often excitable, very involved in the proceedings and often as well informed as the contestants.
It is a challenge for us, the quizmasters. Three of us who run thistruly Mega quiz have to be on our toes for twelve hours (9 to 9), because even a minor slip, could mean big trouble.
What helps is all three of us are homegrown people, we know the audience, the people, the state. I belong to one of the oldest Tripura families and I am proud of my roots, though I don't live here anymore. My BBC job has taken me away from the state. Abhijit Bhattacharya is a superb science teacher who has made a great career in teaching and training with his School of Science. Again, he is an Agartala boy. Jayanchandran Panicker is from Kerala but he grew up in Agartala where his father taught physics in the local MBB college. He now practices medicine in the state. We complement each other's strengths and weaknesses.
The challenge is even greater for the anchor of the event, Subhrajit Bhattacharjee - because he is the lone anchor of the whole event. So while the quizmasters get some rest between their sessions, Subhrajitis the lone ranger, the man for all seasons.
The team of scorers and the Info volunteer team handling the event logistics also get no rest for twelve hours but they keep smiling. Our physical fitness and mental agility is tested to the limits. But thew hole Tripurainfo team rises to the occasion as one.
We are also learning - all the time. The regulations are evolving through experience. And the contest is getting bigger and better. So when we get a tie for the top positions - for the first, second and third place - we think on our feet and decide how we resolve the deadlock. That happened this year. The top two teams were tied at seventy points, the next two at fifty-five. All Tripura Mega quiz 2009 was indeed turning out to be the "battle of Stalingrad" as I predictedhalfway through the contest when that great battle of second World Warcame up for reference.
The audience was vocal and noisy, but they helped us with ideas on how to resolve the deadlock. It was a football style tie-break that was used to decide the winners. It was heart-break for some - comeuppance for others, those who made it. But the audience loved the tension, the uncertainty and finally the best team won.
But the mega quiz is no longer a test of knowledge or infotainment in Tripura - it has become a local festival for a large number of people. It makes page one news, it makes it to the TV bulletins. That rarely happens in any other state - surely not in the northeast.
Whole families turn up to celebrate the great contest of knowledge - and many go back happy, not only because they win prizes at audience rounds or their boys and girls win the contest, but because they love the sparring, the "rapid-fire" and the brain teasers that we throw atthem.
။ Photos : Tripura Info and Parthajit Dutta
( Subir Bhaumik is the BBC's East India Correspondent and a quizmasterin All Tripura Mega Quiz )