Countdown to the D-Day Part I

This very day, April 6th last year will go down as the day that triggered or should say the day that determined my future path. Just as when I had a feeling, I had quite a tough stroll in the park, did a good job of going through it. But it Happened One Evening. The day being a Sunday, 6th of April, 2008. I was able to appreciate it better because of few events that preceded this day. Although, one cannot fathom the relevance, but personally, all the events were important for what I turned out to be on that day.
This goes back to December 2007, when I was making plans about visiting Rajasthan with my mother. It was just two of us. I had made all the plans of visit.
I got a mail from a very revered senior from my college about teaming up for an All India Cricket Quiz, sponsored by History Channel. I agreed. The next few days, it was calls at the most unexpected times, No hello, Just a funda (an appreciated factoid) from cricket would pop up, when I was working, sleeping or while having food. That was the passion he had, or the superior managerial skills to pump up the intensity before a contest.

The quiz was to be held in Delhi on the last week of January 2008. We did well to weather the cold in the first place. It so happened, I got myself acquainted with a friend (Deepthi) of mine in Gurgaon. She was kind enough to allow me stay in her house, make Pav Bhaji one evening, went out with her friends to have a hot cup of chai (tea) in the mid-night. That was cold and never had I experienced so much (2 degrees) before coming to Switzerland.
Pradeep and I dreamt about smashing the quiz in our very own style. This was the second time we paired up as a team, the first one being for the Cricinfo Quiz conducted by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan and George Binoy in Bangalore.
The theme was cricket, and we qualified for the finals and felt a bit warm inside the auditorium. The finals didn’t turn out the way we wanted. We missed quite a few sitters, coming third in the end. We left the auditorium disappointed and off we went to airport. I messaged him early next morning about taking part in the second round at Mumbai.
I was running short of cash, since I had made all the arrangements for a long Rajasthan trip. But, something inside me was haunting throughout. It was a case of redemption for me and for us as a team in general. Its not often we get a chance to prove ourselves that we are one among the league of very good Sports Quizzers in India. We knew we had to do it for ourselves if not for Rs 50000 as cash prize for winners.
A fortnight later, Mumbai it was. On the Valentine’s Day I land in Mumbai. Oh, Ya, Good way to celebrate it, isn’t it? In my case, it was the best possible way to ward off any feelings whatsoever.
Next day, while he had some work to finish, I took this opportunity to meet a good friend of mine Keith. We chatted after a long time, ever since he settled down in Mumbai.
Post Lunch, Pradeep and I were back for some Quizzing action. Bang bang, we were right on target from the go. Topped the prelims by miles and it felt good for us in the finals.
The form continued in the finals as we thrashed everyone by 130 point margin. It was ruthless, felt for a while, as to why I idolise Sachin, Schumacher and Sampras. It was for kicks for being sheer ruthless, not quite the way that undermine others though. It was a point to prove scenario for ourselves. To restore our pride, in some way, lost pride.
“How about the All India Motorsports quiz?” – Pradeep
I said – “We will do it mate”.
While I sat on a late night flight to Bangalore from Mumbai, I wondered, Can we repeat this again. Let’s see, for the moment I was looking forward for my trip to Rajasthan.

Countdown to the D-Day – Part III

I was quite superstitious about my hair. I just had too many things running on my head from mid 2007. It turned out to be a nice fodder for my hair. I just liked it, long hair; I took a good care of it. It didn’t matter, I was working, because never I had doubts I would cut my hair, owing to some pressure at work or family. And people who mattered at work and at home, never pressurised me either. They knew I wouldn’t budge. Actually, in a way, it turned out better. I was able to do a lot of work which I enjoyed, meeting clients across Bangalore and Chennai. Ok, it was a coincidence that Dhoni too had long hair at that time. But who cares, he was successful and often few people referred me as Dhoni. Coming back, March first week 2008, I flew to Mumbai for the zonal qualifying. We had four zones of qualifying Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. Top two teams are selected for the semi finals in Mumbai followed by finals very same day. After a nice lunch at Pradeep’s place, we go the auditorium. We didn’t qualify, it wasn’t about Formula 1 alone, it was about the entire Motorsports and that was something. We both were shocked, but to be honest, weren’t disappointed. There was a lot of quality in the teams. We felt out of place at some times when we watched the finals.
We asked if we could take part in the Chennai round with the quiz master Avinash Mudaliar. Since we had not qualified, we were allowed to take part.
Boy, the next two weeks was to determine our capabilities. Pradeep just called at odd hours and this time he was asking me to put fundas. Once, he even asked his girlfriend to speak to me about focussing on the task ahead and not waste time with girls and other stuff. He was funny, and I admire his unique ways of pushing his partner to achieve a common goal. He knew I had it in me.
We went to Chennai two weeks later, and guess what; it turned to be one of the toughest motorsports prelims we had ever encountered. We topped the prelims again. It was the final round of qualifying, so in a way, we weren’t dished out Formula1 etc, it was hardcore motorsports. All forms of Motorsports. We were introduced as one of the best Sports Quizzers by Avinash Mudaliar, quite sarcastic though. We had a point to prove. Till the last round, Man, we had lost it. There was no way unless for the miracles in the buzzer round, we could make it. We had to answer 3 questions correct and hope others answered it incorrect or not answer at all. This was to take the second spot.
First Question, we answer. Second Question, 5th Team (team which is in second answers), Third Question, the leading team answers. We still had a chance if we answered two correctly and hope the last one went unanswered.
4th Question, a toughie, we press the buzzer and answer. Hi-fi’s exchanged, c’mon we can do it. 5th Question, no clue, we press the buzzer, we worked out in short time and Pradeep answered Bughatti. Perfect. We were 2nd. The last question went unanswered, as we didn’t have to take a chance.
We got a round of appreciation for our late effort. In fact it was the final two rounds, we went overboard.
Ok, we made it. At least, the sarcasm we proved we were good enough for the finals. Now, we were among the Top 8 teams in India. After a month round of qualifying,

We felt Barcelona a bit closer. Yes, the winning team won an all expense trip to Spanish Grand Prix 2008. Pradeep from the beginning had one aim, Barcelona.
And in the end, it turned out; we did this quiz, travelling crazily one place after the other in search of this. This was what one calls, chasing one’s dreams.
That night, at Chennai Airport, I was reflecting on few things. I wondered, did my hair play any role, I know, I was being superstitious about it. But, I had a feeling, I had all the luck and I got everything I wanted, because I had long hair. I somehow didn’t like to be under this assumption. I saw Dhoni winning in Australia ODI series with his short hair. Sometimes, we need to break out of this shell to understand who we are. It’s good to be getting things done, not because of the hair, because of the capabilities. Next few days, I went about pondering, to have a hair cut or not. Fine, let me have it. And I felt a change, I was not the same guy, who went about being ruthless in his work, I felt, I was reborn and I knew I was transformed emotionally and now I was ready to look at life from a different perspective.

Just a week before the finals, I had my hair cut. I feel, one of the bold moves I ever made considering the stake of the finals. I didn’t want this hair, I wanted to get out of this, it was sort of force that was holding me. I wanted to be liberated. Liberated I was after the haircut.
The finals were to be held at ITC Shearton, Mumbai. All expense paid by Times of India and BP (Bharat Petroleum). Flights, hotel stay, commuting etc