Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Open Quiz 2005

Disclaimer: This is just a sample of all the had happened during The Open. The post is not intended to hurt anybody's feelings or to point finger at somebody's wrong doings. All readers are urged to take in a more positive sense. Beware, the post is quite long.

This post has been coming for a long time now. It has been a draft for four months now. Here it is at last. The making of IIT Madras Open Quiz 2005. The post may look quite boasting, but I dont intend to tone-down the rigour of it, for that is the truth.

It all started on the day when Shamanth said, i have to help him out organising the Open Quiz 2005 (henceforth to be refered as The Open). I was very reluctant to take up but was made to take on assurances that Siddhartha and Nisheeth would help in all possible administrative things and i would have very minimal work only. I did believe it is going to turn out that way and did accept to be a part of it, without knowing what was coming.

Later I was informed that Shamanth has decided and appointed a core group, and we had instructed the Publicity core Abhijeet to put up ip's asking people to apply for the various co-ordships. The aspirants were asked to mail to one of the administratively involved people and it was just hectic to first of all get all the mails into one id. Then as declared by Shamanth, all those who applied were given some co-ordship or the other for The Open. Thus there were about 60 people who were appointed co-ords. Some of whom dint even know that they had applied. We said to ourselves that "Its not a problem with excess co-ords for anything. That way atleast one of'em would work" After announcing the list, there was one particular bloke who came over and said, "I am a third year guy and i get some stupid thing like hospi and some freshie with no experience got spons. I want u to give me spons" I was like, "Talk to Shamanth". Shamanth was like "Talk to Bhaand". Atlast after a lot of fight, he did make his way to the spons group and after that did nothing after all.

If nothing else, this served to prove the demerits of centralizing any major decision making process. With coordships disbursed as if so much dross, the seeds for the woes to come were sown right here.

All this done, the date for the quiz was announed to be January 15th, just before Saarang. This is when things get more problematic. The two Aruns who were the cul-secs, now started lobbying around us (Shamanth and yours truly) to get The Open postponed to beyond Saarang in the best interests of Saarang. They were not offering us anything in return. Shamanth said, "Promise us spons, we'll have it whenever u want". The bigger Arun went on saying "We'll take care of all the organisational work from the Saarang team da, have it after Saarang. We dont know how much money we will get for Saarang only da." This being unacceptable, it was not heading anywhere and the talk ended abruptly. I still do not know what was the outcome of all the negotiations to the benefit of The Open for we did postpone to beyond Saarang without getting anything out of it.

Then the Spons Core said, he is not happy with the set of co-ords he is blessed with and announced for more. At the end of this second round of finding co-ords, he had a good cricket team of spons co-ords for The Open.

We made a tentative budget and a schedule of things to be done for the quiz to be conducted on a convinient Saturday which was identified to be the 12th of March. All that approved, we had to generate the money for conducting it. I got the Design of the Sponsorship Brochure and the official website approved with much ado after the Dean had complaints over the design, the colour and every other thing possible on the brochure and the website. The most interesting complaint of his being, "Why black of all colors? Mihir uses black,Nisheeth uses black, can't they be more original?". He did not know that i like the colour black till then. Nisheeth and Deepak who had done the designing were not happy with me to get things changed. Some of the things were changed while most of the others were not. I got the Website up after the Dean let us have it for using Jim Morrison and a bottle of Scotch as graphic fillers and was informed the Spons work started.

Ads had to be placed in 'The Hindu'. Abhijeet had done the ground work for the rates and how much space would be needed and how much we would need to shell out and the number was rather big at Rs 30k for our reaches. With no spons finalised yet, I had gone to meet The Director with Abhijeet asking him to get the ad free. The Director said, its better the insti spends on the ad now, and then ask for free ad's when we ask for ad's for things like Saarang and Shaastra where we may have to spend in lakhs. Thankfully, the institute accepted to pay for the ad. Also we had started to talk to some writers on The Hindu get an article or two in. We started to get some breathing news from the Spons team, with AirTel sounding positive to come in as the main sponsor, though for a price less than what we quoted. There was also talk that DELL would give laptops to the winning team.

Murphy's Law now started to operate. Shamanth starts to complain that his co-quiz masters are not all that co-operative and that the Research core, who is supposed to get some video and audio files is not responding to e-mails. And then, the spons team comes back telling that there are more and more of rejections to offers we make and hence there is nothing working out. Arvind, the Spons Core who was handling AirTel was not so communicative, rather shall I put it as vehement in conforming and striking a deal with them as he was in the hopes of something else bigger. In the meanwhile, I had got a few contacts from the Dean and had handed over them to the Spons team for them to do the needful.

The Spons Team claimed to speak to every company possible. The driving force which the core was suppose to induce in the team, was lacking in him only. All he had driving force was, for his two wheeler with his friend from the fairer sex riding behind. I could not expect him to get his co-ords to work.

Thus, till about 15 days before the scheduled time for the quiz, there was no spons in hand. The content part was not ready. The people who had to do the organisational work had to start. The Ambience Team started off on a rather sad note, with no cash for them to do anything. Arvind, the Ambience core, started off on spending his money and then I could thankfully get a decent amount advanced from the institute and hence could have him some air to work with. From day one, the Ambience team had started serious work drawing up an immensely detailed and VERY professional blueprint at inception and had agreed to, after some haggling, a planned schedule to finish off the thing on time. Their planning did pay off.

It was just less than a couple of weeks to the quiz and with no spons and the content in a jeopardised state, I met the Dean and talk him to pay the Organisational expenses with hopes of some last minute miracle to atleast cover the prize money, which was advertised to the tune of Rupess One Lakh in total. This is also the time when all those who thought they can get any trifle of money started doing some spons related work. Arvind, the Spons core, got a Deal for some Books from the Oxford University Press. While the others went around finding coupons of discount and dinners from various hotels and other shops. One over enthu charecter, Venkat, infact went and asked the Dean to sign some MOU with some shop just outside the campus to get some 4-5 gift vouchers worth a fraction of a thousand in all and had to face a nice long lecture of what needs to be signed by whom. This prompted the Dean to call the consequential lot and give us all a talk on what is the worth of the event and the person sitting in the post and so on.

In this time, one of the Spons guys proved a bit sensible in seeking Krishna's help and hence a small sum was assured from the State Bank of India. Around this time, one of the evenings, I visit Tapti to meet Arvind, the spons core to get him to do something and get the money necessary for things to happen. I happen to pass thro' a room of well known people with Siddhartha in the middle. This is the man who was suppose to share my burden of administrative work along side finishing up the content, lying down happily with no tensions in the middle of somebody else's room happily chatting his time out. All the Samaritans they were, enquired about the status of The Open. I being the honest self, blurted saying, Things dont look all that healthy, if we dont churn out all the money, the event may not happen at all. I hope i dont have to cancel it. While others kept to themselves, whatever they had to tell on the issue, Siddhartha says, "you cannot cancel it da, we have the content ready." When the arch-angel shall announce the crack of doom, our dear friend shall nonchalantly say, "Come back later, old chap. We have a quiz to get done with." Shamanth had mailed me that morning that the content of the quiz was not ready at all. Even the questions were not finalised. The essential accessories in the form of audio and video were yet to get acquired by the Research core, who did nothing in that direction till then. Poor Shamanth(who will not any be poor) who was in Bangalore had thankfully tried and made arrangements for most of the videos and audios he needed for his questions.

Siddhartha and Subramanya had to get their questions ready and the necessary supplimentary material. Karthik who was also conceived to be another content provider and quiz master was suppose to consult with siddhartha about what would be his share and get it ready. Poor Siddhartha was too busy(with minesweeper predominantly, amongst other similarly "important" things) that he could not spend a few minutes to talk to Karthik till the last minute that Karthik could not be a part of the Quiz team at all.

Arvind, the spons guy has more bad news for me which he delivered very reluctantly after having eluding our efforts to talk to him for three straight days by keeping his cell off and not venturing near his room. The high hoping TCS said, they could not come in and this long wait for them, lost the AirTel deal also. The DELL thing was lost in thin air. People tried to talk to other places but nothing seemed to be working. However, the Spons team does not feel the urgency of the situation. The Spons core, just laughs at everything. All of the co-ords blame each other and the core for not getting each and everything. While one guy come and claims loudly that, they did try their best, just that they could not deliver, which I thought was the necessity. As a life saving measure, on my request, the Dean spoke to somebody he knew in TCS and we had to wait for two days to get an answer.

The Ambience People have their work going in full swing. The Publicity people have done their job to a very good level and have to be appreciated. There were OQ posters at Palace Grounds in Blore at the Dire Straits show. The Organisational work of General Arrangements,Transportation facilites, Projectors, Computers, Screens and Public Address System and all the other necessities were also initiated under the direct supervision of Nisheeth and things were happening smoothly but for the fact that, we had to tell them every step of what is to be done and how it is to be done. People have started to talk and get some people to have food stalls at the venue. A Video for the quiz was planned and has been coming quite well.

Shamanth is now in town and is trying to get the contents into some shape. Before that, he has a bone to pick with the already frazzled Nisheeth, "Why is YOUR name on the Hindu ad, and not mine?" It has not occured to him that he has not been in town or in touch for a month and has NO IDEA as to what to tell callers should they call him rather than me. He is rather heatedly advised to go boil his head. A similar incident occurs with the spons brochure, with the designer sending it through anonymously and finding three names, postal addresses, phone numbers, astrological signs and what not tacked on below in the printed preview. The designer is left with a rather unflattering opinion of his comrades' self-image.

Thankfully the Research core has made arrangements for some half-a-dozen videos if not a couple more for the purposes of Siddhartha predominantly, Subramanya probably managed to be blessed with one or two which of course was not put-in-place and i am told the whole thing is in the state of maximum entropy possible. The Dean thankfully gets a positive reply from the TCS for something which would along with all the other petty cash available, just cover the Prize Money.

The night before, rather early morning wee hours of the day when we last left them at the venue of the Quiz, the Ambience guys have everything ready. They are giving finshing touches to what was looking as the most beautiful set for any quiz or any other event in the history of IITM. The Questions are getting typed. The videos are being traced and acquired. While for non-traceble videos, the questions are scrapped. The Spons team is happily chilling out, as if it's not their job to even worry about how things are happening.

Nisheeth and I are running around with each and every possible thing. The morning of the quiz. The Stage is ready. The computers and projector are placed. The Screens arrive and the computers and projectors are connected and synchronised after Nisheeth had to tell them the technology and the equipment necessary and sending the hirers to get them all. I am going around getting the Prize Money cheques made and having all the vouchers and the other prices in kind orderly arranged. The chairs and fans are being laid. Arrangements are going on. I am informed over phone by Shamanth that questions would hopefully be ready by 12 o clock.

It is all set. The chairs are set. The Set is ready. The stage is waiting for the quiz masters. The participants have started to arrive. There is no information about the Quiz Masters. I call up Siddhartha at One o clock, the appointed time of start, he says, we just finished and I am going for a bath. We will reach there in an hour's time. They all did arrive at their appointed time. Things start as usual at Indian Strechable time. I am still running around getting signature of the Advisor (culturals) and the Dean on the certificates. While the prelims are happening. The books are being packed.

The finals start. There is small misunderstanding between me and Abhijeet, and the rest of the quiz happens rather uneventfully, but for the fact that one has to bear the poor quality of the content in comparison to the previous year.

After the Quiz, is the more tougher job. I and Janani sit and collect all the bills and start working on getting them reimbursed. I am sanctioned only to treat people who did enough work by the Dean. He clearly states, I don't want people who didn't do enough work to get a treat.

After going thro' the bills and the vouchers and all that, atlast one is able to see light with all the money reimbursed, with as much trouble in convincing the Gymkhana for each expense as much it took to actually do it. I decide on a date for the Treat and all those who deserved are invited. Some of them did not turn up on personal reasons but it was otherwise attended by all those who must attend although the joint offends Nisheeth's delicate gastronomical sensibilities. The only thing that was missing at the treat was Venkat's familiar face. Since we were scared of the evening being too perfect, elaborate cares were taken to mislead him so that he may not beg to be invited. All the accounts settled to all those who had given cash for conducting the show.

Months down the line. Venkat asks me for a treat on SMS and I saw that he does not get one and that those who deserve have got one and others don't. He goes on arguing over the message and infact at some points of time even begged for a treat. However, he did not have the guts to talk to me in person on this regard. I guess your man has some conscience. Well who has the money to treat him anyway... The next time he comes back to me, i m going to refer him to Nisheeth and see if he will go as far as argue about it with HIM. (not likely, though)

Nisheeth says "I have never been able to decide which I disliked most THAT day, his hideous orange kurta, or his obnoxious attitude".(in reference to Siddhartha)

Somebody starts something for personal gains. Somebody else later has to keep things going on sheer grounds of pressure and image and all that bull shit...

Well thats life.

(The post was co-authored by the two other administrators, Nisheeth and Shamanth)

i never knew that i'll have to go thru all this da!!! if had an inkling of what is in store for me i would have put one big kumbudu to dean and kept myself to my room!!!
anyways nice post.and i could see your emotional attachment to the OQ...why dont you lend us some of that and be a part of this years OQ too...

ps: we have our first appointment with fast track!!!
doing something once is by mistake. twice is crime.

I have committed a crime already. Not anymore...
Hmmm... Yennakkae treat illaya? Sigh... But it's ok, I guess... All I did was come up with a logo... Nisheeth RGed me off all the other design work...
but what a logo, it was thing of beauty. sorry it didn't find mention in the post, it was one of the brightest things about OQ 2005, for better or worse.

you do deserve a treat, start drinking and you'll get one post haste, I've sworn off so can sponsor your revelry :-P
Hehe... Thanks, but no thanks, man! I got a reputation to keep... :P
The ambience guys did us proud, da. They and the arrangement guys REALLY deserve applause(apart from the treat, which you have provided unto them).

I see our friends K Maruthapandian and M Karuthapandian have not found a mention here. Anyways, we shall guard their privacy.

The ambience guys did us proud, da. They and the arrangement guys REALLY deserve applause(apart from the treat, which you have provided unto them).

I see our friends K Maruthapandian and M Karuthapandian have not found a mention here. Anyways, we shall guard their privacy.

I must add, amazing logo da. Some Bangalore people who had come down for the Open made it a point to mention how beautiful and professional-looking the logo and ambience were.

'We said to ourselves that "Its not a problem with excess co-ords for anything. That way atleast one of'em would work"'.
I wish such a plan would work but it simply doesnt. Having more number of coords is never the solution. instead, having a small well knit team that can work together is the better option.
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