Arul Saravanan and Yogesh Pai recently put Coimbatore on the National quizzing map, after winning the Tata Crucible Business Quiz 2012

It was Clement Attlee to the rescue. ‘Name the British Prime Minister who once taught at the Sir Ratan Tata Department at the London School of Economics.’ “Winston Churchill,” said one team and lost 10 precious points.

That was when an excited Yogesh Pai pressed the buzzer and gave the correct answer. With that, quizzers Arul Saravanan and Yogesh were declared national champs of the non-Tata track of the ninth edition of Tata Crucible, the business quiz.

The colleagues (both work with the export division of The Chennai Silks, Tirupur), were avid quizzers through school and college. Yogesh was even part of the iconic Quiz Time. A chance meeting at the 2006 edition of Quiz Trac in Coimbatore six years ago saw them ask each other: “What are you doing here? Do you quiz?” They turned partners and gave themselves the name, ‘Tirupur Tughlaks’. “No one had anything nice to say about Tirupur, where we live. In fact, they would even skip asking us certain questions, wondering what a Tirupur team would know. We decided to celebrate our city,” says Yogesh, 44, who has lived there for 21 years. Arul, 39, has been there for 13 years now.

Today, they’ve cracked most of the major quizzes in town. And, when they walk into a quiz, there’s a palpable sense of disappointment in the other participants.

Sundays are devoted to the Coimbatore Quiz Circle, of which they are among the founding members.

They’re different

You can’t find two more diverse people. If Arul is the meditative one, Yogesh is spontaneous. Yogesh loves films, history and books; Arul, current affairs and sports. The one common love is food. In Mumbai for the Tata Crucible finals this year, they headed to Chowpatty, tucked into chaat and relaxed before they entered the spotlight, hoping they would be fourth-time lucky.

For, a title at this event, considered the holy grail of quizzing, had eluded them for three long years. The first year, they played safe, happy to settle for second spot. Only to realise there was no second prize in the finals. “This year was ours,” laughs Arul. “We were aggressive from the beginning and took chances. That paid off,” adds Yogesh, whose daughter Adithi got him a ‘Congratulations’ card long before he even went up the stage.

In the rapid quiz, contestants have to answer 30 questions in about 40 minutes. It called for a lot of preparation. Arul concedes that Yogesh was the better partner. So, how do they prepare? “Just before a quiz we spend time to decide our strategy,” says Arul. They research on the Net and Yogesh’s wife Anuradha chips in, culling out interesting information she thinks they should know. They also jot down anything interesting. “We tuck it away in the mind, and recall it when needed,” says Arul. As for managing work with quizzing, they say their employers have been more than encouraging. It also helps that their families understand when they travel extensively on work and return home, only to quiz, says Arul, father of two.

Once back from any big quiz, they share the questions with members of the Coimbatore Quiz Circle. “There’s no point being seniors if we don’t share knowledge,” says Arul. They say quizzing has seen a huge transformation — from being a game where memory was tested, to one that tests your ability to think. Which is why they love trivia. “We are not great with dates. Thankfully, not many questions these days relate to dates,” says Yogesh.

The two also want to popularise quizzing in Tirupur. “There’s not much of a quizzing culture there, and we plan to get the school kids interested,” says Arul.

The win at Mumbai has not yet sunk in. But, they are delighted at having put Coimbatore on the national quizzing map. “In the first year at Tata Crucible, many participants asked us where Coimbatore was. Now, we’ve also shown everyone what Coimbatore is,” says Yogesh.

After the title and the whopping prize money of Rs. 5 lakh, what next? The next quiz, says Yogesh. “The Tata Crucible is fast-paced, like a 20:20 match. But, we also love languorous quizzes such as Quiz Trac. There’s an old-world charm about a two-and-a-half-hour quiz, and we are old-world people!”

QUIZMASTERS’TAL

Giri Pickbrain, Quizmaster, Tata Crucible

Arul and Yogesh remind me of Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble. They never intimidate or look threatening, but can be extremely destructive. In corporate quizzes, one of the team members is always more dominant. Not so with them. Their consistency is very high. They are very contrasting characters, but complement each other as a team. They trust each other implicitly.

M. Rangarajan, Quizmaster

Theirs is a team with perfect understanding. Both of them have grey areas that the other partner rushes to fill in. Today, quizzing is all about working out questions, and they have figured out a winning way to do that. Sometimes, Yogesh takes centrestage. Certain other times, Arul provides the base on which Yogesh builds the right answer.