Shubhro and Dwipang looked stressed as they took their seats on the podium, coming out of the myriads of other contestants. It had been three nights since they had had any sleep but they understood that it was worth it. The competition was the biggest one organized in the college all year and they knew what it meant to win it. For three days, they had been navigating their way through multiple screenings to finally be there. Much more than the rewarding cash prizes, they cared for the big win. And they had a reason to be apprehensive.
A year earlier, they had participated in the same contest, together as a team , and had fought their way to the finals, much like this time. But they didn’t win then. They couldn’t. They had put in days and nights for that moment of glory but on that big moment, it eluded them and went on to someone else. They couldn’t let the same happen to them this time. They wouldn’t. Today, they sat for a win as the quizmaster called the rest of the finalists.
The very second name he called was to comprise Team No. 2 of the contest. But he was a single participant and no team. They looked at him and they jolted. All these years in the contest, no single participant had ever made it to the finals and they knew that he had certainly made an impact. They also knew that the way ahead wasn’t going to be easy.
The first round began with simple one to one questions and they answered 2 out of 4 correct. This other guy in Team 2 answered the first two correct and they crossed their fingers at the thought of having him surpass them. Either they got lucky or the guy got unlucky, he got two of the most unheard of questions and both of their scores tied with one other team, while the rest three teams could only answer 1 out of 4. Dwipang told Shubhro they were hooked.
Round two began with a quick-fire. The quizmaster would go about asking questions from every team one by one in succession with few seconds for everyone. He would begin with their team and they would fail to answer. They would ask him and he would tell the answer much before the time after question could even be started. “Maybe because he has no one to consult with and has to focus only on what he knows”, Dipang told Shubhro. The quizmaster would go on the other teams and return to the two big ones eventually six times in the round and the duo would answer just three while he would get 6 out of six right. The crowd was cheering by now and they made a hush everytime the quizmaster would come to team 2 as the guy would ruthlessly switch his mike on and enounce the right answer. When the round was done, Shubhro and Dwipang saw their dream crumbling.
To ease the tension around the podium and the hall, the organizers declared the lunch break for everyone. They weren’t to leave for anywhere and refreshments would be provided at everyone’s seat. Shubhro grabbed the patties out of the hands of the guy distributing them and handed one over to Dwipang. In their anxiety since morning, they had had nothing except water and they were hungry as hell. As Dwipang got rid of the patty and raised the pack of juice to his mouth, he saw out of his stare that the team 2 guy hadn’t touched a thing!
He had denied taking a patty or juice and when someone handed him a bottle of packaged water, he just kept it with him not even turning the cap. He seemed to have an air of condescension around him and Dwipang started getting those terrible vibes from him which he always feared. He told Shubhro about it and he asked him not to fear. “Hope for the best and pray for the rest. Everything will be fine”, he told Dwipang.
The next round was introduced and suddenly, the projector broke down. It was supposed to be a buzzer round and although it would not involve those audio-visuals like the previous ones, certain illustrations could help. Shubhro looked at the points table with the guy leading, them on second position and another team at third and everyone else down under. He then looked at the tech guy failing to see the problem and the organizers deciding to go with a plain oral one. The buzzer screen was still working and there wouldn’t be any problems. The quizmaster told them that each question answered correctly in the round would win them double the points they got before but that they would be awarded negative points for the wrong answer. The audience was hooked, the contestants firm with their hands on the buzzers as the quizmaster began.
He asked the first question and before he could finish, Shubhro pressed the buzzer. He stopped then and there telling him he was not going to read the question any further. Shubhro still answered what he had read the night before. It was the right answer. There would then be a flurry of questions and Shubhro will just keep on answering first. Sometimes, their buzzer would almost tie with the Team 2 guy but they would come up with the faster one. Frustrated at the buzzer, the guy suddenly got off his seat and complained the quizmaster to get his buzzer looked. Some guy would come up quickly and show him that his buzzer worked just fine. The questions would begin again and the guy would be back on fire. But Dipang would then get the better of him in the final three and when the round would end, they would be 40 points ahead of him.
The final and conclusive round would begin with little cheer from the crowd. Shubhro and Dwipang were way ahead in their scores and the Team 2 guy was a distant second. The other 4, well, had just the race to the third among them. To the utter dismay of everyone on top of this, the quizmaster announced that the round was of 6 questions for each team, to be answered within 90 seconds and that there were just 10 points for every correct answer. This time, however, he started from Team 6 working up the line. When the Team 2 guy’s turn came, the settled third spot score was nowhere around his present. But for the first time in the contest, he looked tensed. He looked towards Team 1, with just a momentary glance and turned to the quizmaster. He fired the questions at him and he just kept coming and coming. But he eventually got one wrong.
When he was done, Shubhro and Dwipang needed to answer 2 out of six and take all glory home with them. They looked at the guy, with apprehension avid in his eyes but ruggedness still spread on his face. And the quizmaster began his questions. The first one, wrong, the second pass, the third correct, the fourth wrong and the fifth wrong as the crowd came back in business. There still were 30 seconds on the clock and their scores were tied. Everybody was on their heels as the quizmaster asked back the passed question. Dwipang told Shubhro an answer but he wasn’t sure. Shubhro suggested another bud it didn’t ring a bell for Dwipang. With mere seconds left, they went with their initial guess and the quizmaster shouted “Correct” as the crowd erupted. THEY HAD WON.