In Conversation with Major Chandrakant Nair

It’s not every day that you come across a person who gave up a conventionally glorified profession to follow his passion. We, at MTTN, had the opportunity to interview Major Chandrakant Nair – an alumnus of AFMC Pune, who served in the Indian army for seven years before taking up quizzing as a full-time profession. Here are few excerpts from our conversation with him.
How did you start your journey of quizzing?
I started quizzing way back in the mid-90s during my school days. My dad was a quizzer and just to keep me and my brothers from creating ruckus at home, he used to keep us preoccupied by quizzing us and rewarded us with toffees. That’s how I got attracted to quizzing. I pursued it at school, then in college and I have been continuing it for more than twenty-five years now.
Taking up quizzing as a profession seems like a leap of faith. How has it worked out for you?
It has worked out very well for me.  In the end, it all boils down to what you want in life – whether to go after money or to do what you love doing. I had developed a passion for quizzing, way back and I was keen to pursue it. So, I had a choice either to be a doctor and give up everything else or to do everything that I love doing and not be a doctor. I chose the latter. It was a tough decision, but for me everything turned out well, after I started. I’ve been lucky to have the chance to keep travelling to various locations across the country, go to numerous colleges and keep meeting many young people. I absolutely enjoy what I’m doing and I’ve been having a great time.
What goes into your process of preparing for a quiz?
For every quiz one needs to read up a lot, and find-out something that is interesting, thought-provoking and something that people will relate with. The process starts with findings those very things, framing them into a question format and then distilling it down to a palatable form for most audience. It’s no exaggeration that a couple of hours of effort goes into every question that is asked in the quiz.  With nearly eighty questions in each quiz and one or two quizzes conducted every week, you can imagine the kind of effort that needs to be put in. I have to put in nearly fifteen to sixteen hours of work every day. Also considering the fact that many enthusiastic quizzers travel across the country to participate in various quizzes, I cannot ask the same set of questions. For example, if I ask a question at a quiz in Bangalore, I cannot repeat it elsewhere in the country, because of which I need to prepare a fresh set of questions for every quiz I conduct.  So, it is indeed as time-consuming and highly demanding as a conventional job, if not more.  But, if you enjoy it, there could be nothing more fulfilling.
What do you love the most about quizzing?
Quizzing is all about being intrigued by the things you come across in daily life and questioning the reason behind the way they are.
For example, as a child I learnt about the reason behind the phrase “Ayyo!”- a common exclamation used in South India. It is said that Ayyo is the name of the wife of Yamaraj (the god of death) and using it almost signifies his arrival. That’s why it is supposed to be used in the most unfortunate circumstances.
You gain a lot of pleasure from learning new facts every day about trivial stuff, even though you know that they are useless in real life. It makes you a happy quizzer.
In the current Indian scenario of quizzing, is there anything in particular that you would want to see a change in?
Of late, business quizzing has come up in a big way, with attractive prize money attached to them. These quizzes also tend to attract better sponsorship as it is viewed as a branding exercise by the corporate sponsors.  Lot of people get lured into quizzing only for the sake of money, rather than their interest in quizzing, per se.  If at all I would like to see any change, I would only expect more supporters and sponsors also for the General Quizzes, as much as they support biz-quizzes.
With the numerous quizzes you conduct throughout the year, which are the ones you look most forward to? What makes them special?
Well, I’m not of the opinion that some quizzes are better than the others. Every single quiz has its own charm and its own significance. But, I do always keenly look forward to visiting new venues where I get to meet a new set of people. For example, the first time I visited Manipal was in 2015, and that edition of the quiz was exciting and memorable to me, as I got to meet a new set of quizzers here.
You have visited Manipal before for previous fests. What do you think about the quizzing scenario here?
Manipal has some exceptionally brilliant people. I have seen some real top teams out here. But as I’ve always said, they need to travel and venture out of Manipal. Generally I get to see quizzers from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, etc. But, I don’t often come across quizzers from Manipal outside of Manipal. I would love to see more of them in other locations as well.
You are popularly known as “Captain”.  Is there a particular reason or any story behind this nickname?
I was in the Army and people started knowing me when I was a Captain.  Although I left the Army as a Major, people knew me as a Quiz Master since the time I was a Captain.  So, I guess, people continue to call me as Captain.

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