Sunday, August 27, 2006

Almost Famous

[The title and subject of this post have been heavily internalised from this post by Greatbong. However, the experiences described here are very much my own.]

I think everybody has, at some point in their life, a dream to appear on TV. I was no exception (to be honest I should say I am no exception, but let’s not go deeper into that). So when a teacher walked into our 7th standard classroom to announce that a team was to be sent to Bournvita Quiz Contest (BQC), I felt interested. Not that the name BQC meant a lot to me… no! In fact I had never heard the name before since there was no cable TV connection in our house. But the other boys in my class said that they watched the quiz conducted by Derek O’Brien every Sunday on Zee TV and it would be a nice opportunity to get oneself on TV.

Each team was to comprise two members: one from class 7 and the other from class 8. The next day I appeared in the written quiz that was conducted by our teachers to select the representatives from our school. I had not prepared for it since our final exams were round the corner, and naturally I was quite surprised when I came to know that I had been selected, along with Sharad Raj from class 8.

Just a couple of days after the exams were over, we had the actual quiz where one team would be selected from Allahabad. It was held in St. Joseph’s College, a school that we considered the academic equivalent of Pakistan (if our school can be considered the equivalent of India). Both of us were quite excited about it, but hadn’t got enough time to prepare much. When we reached there, we found that the quiz was a written one, conducted by a person from Big Ideas, the company that conducted the Bournvita Quiz Contest. There were 30 questions to be answered.

Winning was a piece of cake. None of the other schools turned up, probably due to exams. The St. Joseph’s College team managed a pathetic 13 out of 30 in comparison to our 23. Then the gentleman told us that the quiz episode would be shot in Mumbai sometime in May-June, and we would be given an all-expense paid trip to Mumbai to present ourselves for the shooting. We were suddenly stars in our school.

The real preparation started now. I don’t know what Sharad did, but in the summer vacations I studied whole day from quiz books bought by my father. But the final dates or the invitation letters did not arrive even in the second week of May. Then we had to leave for Hooghly for there were some ceremonies in our house.

We returned on 1st June. That very day, a letter arrived from Big Ideas stating that the shooting was on 17th/18th June. They had tried contacting our school, but had got no response, and if they did not hear from us by 2nd June, they’d replace us with another team. My father called them up immediately, only to learn that they had spoken to our principal the previous day, and apparently he had said he was “not interested”.

That afternoon we went to my school, my father and I. We spoke to Mr. Egbert, the vice principal. He was very enthusiastic about the whole thing and said he was ready to take me and Sharad to Mumbai if our principal gave the green signal. Then we went to meet Mr. C.V Innes, our principal. First he was reluctant to meet us, because he was busy strolling in his garden, and his guard tried his best to show us the door. Then my father told the guard to tell Mr. Innes that we had come about a TV programme in Mumbai etc. We were sure the guard will not be able to explain things to him, and sure enough, Mr. Innes agreed to meet us. Probably he felt that someone had come from Mumbai to interview him for a TV programme, and the temptation to show his face on TV was too much even for him. He must have been badly disappointed to see us!

The story pretty much ends here. Nothing more to add, except that we tried to convince him to give his consent on our going, and he kept on saying he couldn’t, citing a stupid reason like “no reservations available”. I still don’t understand why he was so adamant about not even trying, but the end result was that my first chance of appearing on TV went down the drain.

I think I should end this post with the time when I finally did appear on TV. It was Durga Puja time in … I think 2003. We were in a pandal in Salt Lake where a team from a local cable TV channel was asking people questions. One question was, “Which bird has no wings?” I answered “Kiwi”. Oh boy, then you should have seen the commotion! They adjusted the lights, the mikes and the camera, moved back the crowd, and said, “We’ll ask that question again to you, will you please answer it again for us?” So the anchor asked it again, this time in a more stylish way, adding “Amader chhotto bhaiti sothik uttor diye diyechhe” (Our little brother has answered it correctly) at the end. He also managed to stick his foot firmly in his mouth by telling my younger sister, “Kakima, ektu sore daran.” (Aunty, please move to the side a bit). While I did not mind being called “little brother” as long as my face appeared on TV (though I was in 3rd year at the time), my sister surely did not like being called “Aunty”. If a stare could kill, that anchor would have dropped dead then and there.

The programme was aired on the local channel a few weeks later. I was away attending a wedding that day, and I think the only person in the world who saw that telecast was my maternal grandmother, who fought with everybody else in the house to keep the TV tuned to the local channel to catch a glimpse of my face.

I appeared on TV once more last December, when I was shopping at a handicrafts fair in Hyderabad with my friend Smita. It was on ETV, which is a Telugu channel available all over India. However, this time it was Smita’s interview and I was just there in the background.

Another time a newspaper published my photo talking to a Nobel Prize winning scientist, but that’s another story. In spite of everything, however, I still rue the fact that I got the chance of appearing in BQC and couldn’t make it because of somebody else’s fault.


  1. Nice post. The only time I was interviewed ever was when the oscars were held in an auditorium outside our univ and we were hanging out trying to catch a glimpse of the stars coming in. So some newsperson asked questions like , so how are you feeling, blah blah. I am sure the footage was cut off :)

  2. You went to school in Allahabad? I grew up not too far from there (close to Banaras.)

  3. @shreemoyee: Oh my God! Who are the stars that you caught a glimpse of?

    @km: Oh, Banaras is only three hours' journey from my house.

  4. Actually no one. We were almost in, and then temporary madness caught grip and we walked out leaving our place for some lucky onlookers to fill. We watched it on TV, just across the street. You have to be terribly silly to do something like that. :)

  5. No harm in being a bit of a celebrity I guess. These days my name too is appearing in the newspapers and I don't mind frankly saying that I am loving it.

  6. Oops! Saugata you really missed something tha i cravd fo during my school years, due to more or less the same reason-indifferent School principal.
    Mine was missing National Maths Olympiad in my 11th and Brain of Bihar in 11th again. I was so infuriated and frustrated that i vowed never to participate in any National or regional Competition where I would be representing my school.

  7. @shreemoyee: That link does not work...

    @hiren: And why is your name appearing in newspapers? Gosh! Some really famous people are commenting here now!

    @aamikalyan: I fully sympathise with you. I, however, went on to represent my school in the all UP Science Quiz conducted by National Academy of Sciences a few years later, and won it for two consecutive years.