Nihilanth 2016: A Personal Account


In this guest post, Varun Murthy pens down an account of the IIT Madras Quiz Club’s journey to Nihilanth (the Inter IIT-IIM Quiz Competition), achieving their four-time unbroken string of wins.


PSA: A horrifyingly long account of the Quiz club’s activities follows.


There are a few times in a person’s life where he or she truly believes that they were a part of something special, a far cry from the monotony of everyday activities. One such occasion for me was the recently concluded Inter IIT and IIM quizzing championship – Nihilanth 2017 at IIM Lucknow, which IIT-M won for an unprecedented fourth time in a row.


Let’s start at the very beginning. There was the train journey to Lucknow, which took off to a false start when we found out that our train had been delayed by eight hours. This meant that we could enjoy another night’s sleep in our own beds (personally, a luxury, given that I had left my room for Lone Wolf finals at Saarang roughly a week ago and returned only briefly to pack and collect my luggage). However, filled with nervous energy as we were, none of us could sleep and ended up at Chennai Central like a bunch of characters who had walked off a set for The Walking Dead.


A fairly uneventful train journey came to life the next morning when we realised that we were so late that we would miss our connecting train at Delhi. This meant getting down at Jhansi and making our way to Lucknow by bus. What had started as a peaceful train journey had become an impromptu road trip. Stopping at small towns in the UP hinterland, sampling the samosas and chai at every stop, the team were brought together as no other team-bonding exercise could. Finally, we got to Lucknow after two days of travel and (thankfully!) in time for the quizzes.


This is where talk of the actual quizzing starts. We got to the venue only to find that the organisers had changed the scoring patterns, presumably with a view to end IIT-M’s domination of the event. The India Quiz was first up, and we were favourites to win the event. However, a tiff with the organisers and all the travel had left us disoriented, and none of our teams even qualified into the finals. We returned to our freezing dorm room with the buoyant mood that one gets from being three-time champions suddenly gone.


Shashwat Salgaocar and Rushabh Menon (ex-Convenor) against the final scores table


This is when that truly special thing happened. The senior members of the squad returned from a further meeting with the organisers and, for the first time, were confronted with the possibility that we may not win Nihilanth this year. Enthused by a competitive spirit hitherto unseen at any Nihilanth I’ve been to, we decided to make our comeback in the Business Quiz and actually prepare for it. The entire contingent managed to hook into an undercurrent of energy emanating from the seniors and, at the risk of sounding trite, get into “The Zone”. Facts were flying around the room, possible questions were being discussed, and the mood was transformed just as easily as the first time. For all our efforts though, we finished third, leaving us with just one point after two quizzes and a five-point deficit to overcome.


We woke up early for the Lone Wolf Quiz the next morning, and Rushabh Menon (the only member of the contingent to have been a part of all four winning teams) and Shashwat Salgaocar made it into the finals. Watching them during the finals was an absolute treat, exchanging the lead between themselves, as they finished second and first respectively. We could almost predict which question they would answer correctly – a hangover from that undercurrent of energy that had been there the previous day. They made up the points deficit, and the playing field was levelled with four quizzes to go.


The MELA (Music, Entertainment, Lit and Arts) quiz has traditionally been our strong point, and this quiz proved no different. We got three teams through to the finals. After a rollercoaster of a finals, where all the places were decided on the last question, IIT-B finished first and we finished second. This meant that we had ceded ground in the points tally once again. However, we needn’t have worried too much because the Sports Quiz was next up. Again, we managed to get two teams into the finals. While Rushabh, Shashwat and Abheek raced away to victory, the second team narrowly lost out on the places after being in touch throughout the quiz on the last question.


Having been a part of both the finals, I can attest as to how emotionally draining those quizzes were. They turned out to be a test of endurance, rather than that of trivia and wits. We returned to our room at 5 AM, absolutely spent (pardon the quizzing reference) and only managed a few hours of sleep before it was time for the next quiz. The SciTech Quiz had been our personal fiefdom, with two insti teams tied for first place last year. This year saw some disambiguation, as we finished with a one-two result for the second time. This would prove sufficient in the end, and the final General Quiz turned out to be a much more relaxed event.


Varun Murthy and Rushabh Menon (ex-Convenor) after the team's win
Varun Murthy and Rushabh Menon (ex-Convenor) after the team’s win


Some might ask why I have gone into so much detail when describing something as drab as a quiz competition. The IITM QC story mirrors every classic sports story arc – from underdogs four years ago to dominant winners for the next two years to grizzly competitors seeing off new challengers. But that is not the point of this post. The real point is to record all the different experiences that I have been fortunate to undergo as a part of this contingent. To try and catalogue the events of the last week, the magnitude of which will only sink in as the days go by. To locate the transformation that the team and its members have undergone over the years, with numerous passouts and absentees this year. To capture that feeling after the unmitigated disaster of a first quiz, where we had 20 people all tuned in to the same frequency and deriving answers as if they were being issued from the same source. And to serve as a reminder for those members of QC fortunate to be able to go through this all over again that their watch is not yet ended.

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