No quick-fire rounds, buzzers, fancy gifts or hampers… only the joy of learning something new, finding answers to a question from clues as a team and celebratory high-fives in the end. Here is K-Circle Quiz Club (KC to its members), a 50-year-old quizzing group of Hyderabad, the oldest in the city. Nothing can stop this motley group of passionate quizzers from meeting every Saturday at 5pm, not even the city’s weekend traffic congestion.
Celebrating a milestone
K-Circle Quiz Club celebrates its golden jubilee by hosting Kaikuu 2023, a quiz festival for the quizzers of India in October at the Bhaskara Auditorium, Hyderabad
The conference hall on the top floor of Columbus Hospital Institute of Psychiatry and De-addiction in Begumpet is where men and women of different age groups and walks of life — all K-Circlers and therefore avid quizzers— have gathered. Ten teams of have their eyes glued to a screen as quiz master Nitin Kishore Sai Samala, points towards a number in a screenshot of a PayTm transaction and asks: ‘What is the purpose of this number in front of the merchant’s name? How does it change or relate to currency notes? As murmurs fill the room, the quiz master hops from one group to another, asking for answers. The answers by the two teams are close. The right answer: Transaction counter, the number indicates the number of transactions made to that merchant that day and identifies if the transaction is valid.
With more than 40 questions on different topics, the two-hour session sees members test their memory and knowledge. Generations of Hyderabadis have known and experienced this passion for quizzing, owing to K-Circle.
With members as old as 63, Sivaram Mulugu, a senior cement industry executive to 16-year-old students Suhas Krishna and Sai Charan, of Chinmaya Vidyalaya and Gitanjali Senior School, the club founded by Srivats Iyengar in 1971 has a glorious history. “This was in 1969-72, during the first Telangana agitation, when schools and colleges suspended classes A group of people led by Srivats Iyengar launched a forum so that people could continue to learn,” recalls Devarajan Padmanabhan, who joined the group as a teenager in 1978. Although many such clubs were launched at the time, including a history and science club, only two survived, K-Circle and the Young Orators Club.
KC meetups took off with only 10 members, meeting on Fridays at the YMCA in Secunderabad. Now, 50 years later, with 2,500 weekly quizzes (no cash prize) and 50 annual events (held in auditoriums so that the money raised is given as cash prizes to encourage the hobby), its participants run into thousands (not all regular attendees but ardent admirers). A large part of the admiration stems from the exposure that the club has inadvertently given them.
Rohan Naidu’s connection with KC began in 2004 when he was eight. “The questions covering diverse topics opened the world to me; the notes I took, the books I read and the movies I watched after getting introduced to them shaped my worldview,” says the astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who is currently in Hyderabad.
KC gave leadership opportunities to Hyderabadis. Besides being a productive way to spend time, it was a platform to network, meet new people and discover professions. “We found mentors and got inspired by each other. We had doctors pursuing PhDs, some from IAS and IPS cadre and people from the advertising and banking industries too.”
With the changing work culture, thanks to the growth of the IT industry in Madhapur, KC’s story took a turn in 2002 as Fridays became tough days to meet for office-goers.
“People began writing its obituary in 2005,” recalls Devarajan, who returned to the club after a 20-year gap in 2004 and along with key members EM Bhargava and Dr Srinivas Kotamarthi changed the slot to Saturday evenings to keep it going. “It was important for people like us who are proud of what the club did for us to come and repay.”
COVID-19 caused the change of venue to Columbus Hospital from YMCA Secunderabad. The group did not keep the YMCA membership due to subsequent lockdowns and Dr Naresh Vadlamani who runs Columbus donated the space for them to regroup. Now, the group wants to get back to YMCA.
Inserting slides manually
From attending the session through St Patrick’s High School in 1986to becoming its president, life has come a full circle for Prasanna Karmarkar, a former IT professional-turned-freelance writer. “It is easy to make slides these days but in the 90s, one had to insert them manually,” he recollects, giving an example of quiz master Sushil Chandani, a scientist from CSIR-CCMB (Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology), Hyderabad, and later at Boston University, who used to create small slides to insert them one by one into a projector. “One had to play from one VHS (Video Home System) and record in another to get a sound clip. If not projected, the questions would be read out. So much effort used to go in to create these quizzing sessions.”
The sessions have evolved over the years attracting new members. One has to book slots at least two months in advance to be a quizmaster. The unwritten rule is to prepare questions to make one go ‘wow’. “There is a perspective to every question,” states Devarajan. Prasanna explains, “Something unusual or an attention-grabbing detail is linked to the questions, like a question on writer Mark Twain could have a Halley’s Comet query because Mark Twain was born when the comet appeared in 1835 and died 74 years later when it came again in 1905.”
Nitin, a staff data scientist adds, “Trivia is fact-based. You either know the answer or you don’t. In a quiz, you can deduce the answer from the hints even if you’re not aware of the context. It’s a fun mental exercise where you reach into the recesses of your mind for obscure facts or stuff you come across or use in daily life,”
While the president and board of members change every year, random teams are created during sessions to help members make new friends. Debjit Dasgupta, an IT professional, made a lifelong bond with the group when he won a quiz and landed his first job too. “Cognizant had an event including a KC quiz which we won; We were expecting only an iPod shuffle but landed a job as the prize.”
We couldn’t agree more with Devarajan, a private equity fund investor’s statement: Passion sustains us to be one of the oldest surviving groups.