When I was still contributing feature articles to the New Straits Times, one of the most curious assignments I had was to work on a story about a quiz master. I never forgot this story for a few reasons. One, a quiz master? What on earth was that? Two, the gentleman in question had a unique name (although I suspect that like most Indian names, it’s probably not unique in his hometown) – Phanindra. Three, Phanindra turned out to be one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever interviewed – you could practically feel the energy bouncing off him. Four – his general knowledge was vast.
Since that first meeting, we’ve kept in touch. In these past few months, when world news was depressing because of the devastation of COVID-19, Phanindra provided a daily dose of light relief. He’d send out a question (I’d like to say trivia, but none of the questions are trivial) via Whatsapp and I’d attempt to answer it. I will admit (or rather confess) that my competitive nature soon emerged and I became envious of those who regularly answered correctly. Then, I became aware that instead of giving a fleeting glance at any news about COVID-19, I started reading the stories in earnest with the thought ‘in case Phanindra asks about it’. When he suggested that I interview him again, I jumped at the chance. So, without further ado, I allow me to share this story about Phanindra Ivatury.
Aneeta: Phanindra, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Phanindra: Thank You Aneeta. It gives me great pleasure to be doing another interview with you after so long. I still fondly remember your splendid article on my Quizzing for the Malaysian daily New Strait Times way back in August 2013.
Aneeta: Let’s start with something about you. Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Where do you live now and what do you do for a living?
Phanindra: Well, to cut a long story short, I was born in Hyderabad, India and I grew up mostly in different cities of India and also briefly in Abadan, Iran during my schooling years, where my father was posted. I currently live in a city called Utrecht in the Netherlands where my family is settled. I have been working with the Government of India for the past 30 years till 2019. I had recently opted for a VR from the Indian Government and currently, I am a freelance Auditor, Quiz Master, Motivational Speaker and Content Writer.
Aneeta: Before we speak about your quizzes, let me ask you about your travels. I assume you’ve travelled extensively. Please share 3 places (countries or cities) you’ll remember the most and why? What’s the story behind these places that make them special to you?
Phanindra: God has been kind and has given me the opportunity to travel extensively around the world. It is hard to pick just 3 places from so many. But if I have to pick 3 countries which I remember the most, apart from my motherland, they would be
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for its fusion of three beautiful cultures, the rapid advancement you see there with every passing year, the warmth and affection of the people and media there towards me, my family and my Quizzing.
- Pyongyang, North Korea – Not many people in the world, however rich and influential they are, will get even a rare opportunity to travel to North Korea. My official Indian embassy audit trip to Pyongyang, North Korea for a week, way back in 2011 is one of the most memorable ones, which let me explore life and dynamics of such a secluded nation.
- Utrecht, Netherlands – I currently live in this picture-perfect postcard-like city in the Netherlands. The living is safe, simple, close to nature, away from the noise, pollution and traffic involved with big cities but at the same time with all necessary modern amenities and infrastructure. Even after living here for almost close to two and a half years, I am still in awe of the place, every time I go out.
Aneeta: Let’s turn to your passion for being a quiz master. How did this passion start and develop?
Phanindra: This question is probably, the most answered question of my life. Ever since childhood, I had this tremendous enthusiasm and zeal towards Quiz Shows. I used to regularly watch eminent Quiz Hosts like Siddhartha Basu and Derek O’ Brien perform on TV shows. But I became a Quiz Master myself, by accident and destiny. My spouse, a long time ago in 2002 was employed with a commercial bank in India. The Bank wanted someone to host a Quiz for their Annual Day. I volunteered and the journey started from there. Over the years, I wrote and hosted more than 270+ Quiz shows on various platforms across the globe.
Aneeta: What is the process of creating these quizzes? Indeed, is there a process?
Phanindra: I usually do “theme-based quizzing” based on the requirements of the organisers. We select a theme and I work on it for about two months to produce a Question set of 80 spread into 8 rounds of questioning including a Qualifying Round. All the questions I ask in these quizzes, are my very own creations. I never borrow questions from the internet, or books or from other Quiz Masters.
The process of framing an interesting question is most of the times “complex”. I believe in absolute quality and there are multiple parameters to be taken into account while framing a good question. The question should be first and foremost interesting, it should be relevant, have quality, there should not be any ambiguity concerning the answer, the answer should be established through a trustworthy source and most importantly it should appeal to the answerer and the audience in such a way that even if they do not know the answer, after knowing, they should be glad that they NOW know the answer.
Aneeta: In all your years of being a quiz master, which three events have been the most interesting of all and why?
Phanindra: It’s again hard to pick three events from 270+ I have hosted so far. They have all been precious for different reasons. But to list out three which gave me immense satisfaction –
- The Axis Bank 2017 Quizzing event in India for 150 school teams. There were 300 school children as participants alone, not to mention their fellow classmates, parents, relatives, Principals, VIPs. A mammoth indoor stadium was booked to host the event for such a humongous gathering.
- The Corporate Quiz I hosted for the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Indian Cultural Centre, Kuala Lumpur in 2013. Teams from some of the world’s biggest MNCs competed in that event for the top honours.
- To commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, upon the request of the Indian Embassy, Netherlands,, I had the rare opportunity to host a “Quiz on Gandhi” at the Gandhi Cultural Centre at Hague. I went through a lot of studying and detailing for two months, trying to gather a few gems from the life and times of the Mahatma, in order to convert them into Qs&As. Preparing for this theme was a hugely emotional and life-changing journey for me.
Aneeta: I know that you’re running one based on COVID-19. How did this begin and why?
Phanindra: The “COVID times online Quiz series” of mine on various social platforms is very unique or one of a kind. It’s virtual and a rare ‘non-live’ ongoing quiz show of mine. The most important purpose behind this quiz theme is to spread valuable/related news and information on COVID times among people, in Question-Answer form, sourcing material from authentic and trustworthy agencies. I post a question on my Whatsapp status every day for participants to answer. The answer is revealed the next day. The questions posed in this series are tricky in comparison with my live quizzes as the participants have the internet option to search for their answers. It started in March, 2020 and so far I had asked around 85 questions on this topic. Period.
The COVID times online series which had humble beginnings has now turned into a massive quiz campaign with a huge following. People are not just participating but are also sending me views, stories, media articles and inputs on COVID times which can be converted into potentially interesting Qs&As. This series has also been recently highlighted by the Malaysian National News Agency-Bernama.
Readers who are interested in knowing me can follow my Quizzing page “Quizdom” on Facebook which houses a collection of media articles, pictures and write ups on my quizzes. I can also be reached through my mail id – email@example.com.
Enthusiasts who would like to join the COVID-19 Quiz series can join through my India Whatsapp Number : +919717359140. They can also reach me by my Netherlands number : +310620666253.
Aneeta: What is the one benefit you’d treasure from running these quizzes?
Phanindra: This is my connection to the world, to people, to a mighty ocean called knowledge, to creative satisfaction. Even after I am long gone, a certain portion of the world will always remember me as a Quiz Master. A participant will never, ever forget the moment he gets applauded in a Quiz show, for a question he answers RIGHT, leave alone winning the competition. Even now, participants from my quiz shows in the distant past, come up to me and say “I answered this particular question right, in a quiz show you hosted, a decade back”. These kinds of moments give me the ultimate satisfaction and relieve me of all the stress and hard work I go through sometimes in framing a question.
Aneeta: Phanindra, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Phanindra: With utmost sincerity, I would like to thank all of my quizzing enthusiasts, participants and followers who have provided me such admirable support in this long journey so far.
I would like to thank my wife Ratna Ivatury and daughter Poojya Ivatury who have been such a vital part of my quizzing journey. A passion like quizzing, which entails enormous time, sometimes even eating away into your valuable family time, cannot be pursued without the support and patience of a loving family.
Last but not the least, I would like to sincerely thank you for showcasing me on your web interview series and for being a dear friend. Thank You.
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