Priya and Sheilendra Bhansali are successful chartered accountants but it is quizzing that gives them a buzz
They sit there gathering odds and ends of information, which the rest of the world would think is of no consequence. At the right time, they whip the information out and win contests! There is something about quizzers, don’t you think? And when they happen to be husband and wife, the X-factor goes up. Sheilendra and Priya Bhansali have kept the quiz flag of Coimbatore flying high. Sheilen was president of the Quiz Foundation, Coimbatore, and vice-president of Coimbatore Quiz Circle. He has conducted over 300 quizzes so far, including inter-school, inter-collegiate and national open quizzes.
A conversation with this couple forces you to rack your brains. Questions are posed, and while I do not exactly set the place on fire with my general knowledge, I can answer a handful of questions. But how do they find the space in their heads to keep all that information? “It is not like we sit down and learn up answers to questions. Over a period of time, I think, we sub-consciously start storing information, collating them and they come up at the right moment,” says Sheilen. “Not always, though,” laughs Priya, who says there have been quizzes where they have barely answered one or two questions. Both reiterate that it is not about being the most brainy.
“One should not be judgmental. Some days are good and others not so,” she says. “Even while preparing quizzes, the focus should be on disseminating information, not showing off,” says Sheilen. Both agree that technology has made things a lot easier in terms of finding information, though they find it has also come in the way of creativity. “Sometimes, it is all about finding stuff on Wiki and ‘cut pasting’ it. There is no depth to the questions.”
Sheilen asks me: “Do you know how the company we know as Mahindra and Mahindra got its name?” Of course, I do not. The answer is: The company was originally Mahindra and Muhammed. But with Partition, Malik Ghulam Muhammed moved to Pakistan where he became its first finance minister. Back home Mahindra was left with heaps of stationery with M&M on it. Rather than throwing it all away, they decided to call themselves Mahindra and Mahindra!
Sheilen and Priya confess that they conduct more quizzes than they participate in, but they still love the challenge and thrill of participating. “I remember the first time I won prize money,” says Shailendra. “I came home and handed it to my grandfather who was furious. He thought I had won it in gambling or worse. He couldn’t believe anyone would pay money to a school boy for answering questions.” That was a long time ago.
Sheilendra and Priya have won many, many quizzes in the meanwhile and say that is their favourite form of entertainment. They have been runners-up five times at the Tata Crucible regional-level corporate quiz. “The quizmaster asked us if we had copyrighted that position!” says Priya. They are regulars at the Coimbatore Quiz Circle every other Sunday.
Was it quizzing that drew them together? That would be a great story, but it was not. “I was not a quizzer in school. But when I married Sheilen I watched how he and his friends prepared for quizzes. The dining table was covered with books, newspaper cuttings and magazines and they sat around for hours discussing, collating and preparing. I assisted in their work and one day decided I would participate too,” says Priya.
Sheilen remembers how there was a time when they would take the newspaper and magazine cuttings to K. Maruthachalam of Photo Centre who would photograph them and send them off to Mumbai to process into slides. “We would show those images with a slide projector. We were one of the first to have a power point quiz in Coimbatore.” Similarly, DJs Channi and Parmesh would record the audio bits.
Sheilen and Priya are deeply in love with quizzing and they find it an ideal way to de-stress. Their daughters are keen quizzers too. Both believe that it is a great way of bridging the generation gap and keeping themselves young. “There is nothing to equal this adrenaline rush,” declares Sheilen.
Do they have a favourite subject for quizzes? Priya says she knows something about Hindi songs and business. Sheilen says that he is honing his skills in Greek and Roman mythology. That is his Achilles heel.
Priya and Sheilen are successful chartered accountants with their own company with branches in Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Priya has several distinctions that include being the first-ever elected lady of the Council of ICAI since its inception in 1949. She was only 28 then. Sheilen specialises in corporate re-structuring, internal and management audits, bank investigations and financial planning and deals with corporate and high net worth individuals.
The Bhansalis have sent in these questions. Do you know the answers?
1. Who won the Ramon Magsaysay award for Eminent Leadership in 2006?
2. Which cricketer’s nickname is “Hash”?
3. Name the new retail trade platform developed by Infosys in association with Proctor & Gamble.
4. Which popular tourist island would you be visiting if you land at the capital town of Denpasar, bargain for paintings at Ubud, play at the Kuta beach and while away the evening watching a Legong dance performance?
5. When Potti Sriramulu undertook a fast-unto-death for the creation of a separate Andhra state, which city did he demand be made the capital of the Andhra state?
6. In the 1920s, new airplanes allowed people to fly higher and farther. Many US Army Air Service pilots reported that the glare from the sun was causing headaches and altitude sickness. In 1929, a US Army Air Corps, Lieutenant General John MacCready, asked New York-based medical equipment manufacturer Bausch & Lomb to find a solution. What was it?
7. There have been only three recipients, all artistes, honoured with all the four civilian awards of India —Bharat Ratna, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and Padma Shri. Two of them are Bismillah Khan and Bhimsen Joshi who was the third?
8. Which opening in chess is named after a 16th Century Spanish Monk who also wrote one of the first definitive books on modern chess?
1. Arvind Kejriwal
2. Hashim Amla (full name: Memon Hashim Mohammad Amla)
6. The Ray Ban Aviator sun-glasses
7. Satyajit Ray
8. Ruy Lopez Opening, named after Ruy Lopez De Segura