An Ode to Swachhata
by Anagha Sridhar
“I am not a quizzer, I am here for learning differently!”, is what I proudly announce with a smirk on my face whenever somebody asks me about my role in a quizzing company.
A theory about the origin of the word ‘QUIZ’ goes way back to the late 1700s when a Dublin theatre manager, Richard Daly, had a bet with his friends to make a word, particularly a word with no meaning, a famous one in forty-eight hours. He then instructed his employees to write the word ‘QUIZ’ on all the walls of the city. In two days, wherever the people of the city turned, all they could see was a quiz!
Recently, when a student of mine narrated this story, all I could think was that I was in the same headspace as those citizens, seeing quizzes everywhere.
My introduction to the world of quizzing, and in particular the Swachh Quizzes, started with quick translations of the questions to Kannada in the year 2018.
The Swachh Quizzes are series of quizzes are conduct by Walnut in collaboration with the Government of Karnataka to spread awareness among the young citizens about cleanliness, waste disposal, open defecation and environment protection. The 2019 series of Swachh Quizzes was in collaboration with the Karnataka Rural Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Department. The quizzes are conducted in all the districts of Karnataka with support from the Zilla Panchayats and education departments of the respective districts.
Then the journey progressed to me accompanying the team to a Swachh Quiz in Ramanagara, which is about an hour’s drive from Bengaluru.
These small stints opened a new door to a land of wonder, laughter, cries of ‘I know the answers’, and a lot of conversations with young minds. I came to understand how incredibly bright, humble, and curious these children from rural backgrounds truly were, having been exposed to a world entirely different from that we knew in the urban jungles.
The 2019 Swachh Quiz had an extra layer added from the 2017-18 version – semi-finals and finals. Our journey ahead looked like this: district quizzes in all the thirty districts of Karnataka, followed by four semi-finals for four divisions where the districts have been grouped into, and one grand finale.
Our first milestone was Bengaluru Urban – our home ground. The preparation was pretty tight in terms of what goes into the questions, what goes in the answers, what is to be done at what time-- even who should be doing what was articulated down to the T. On the day of the quiz, everything started smoothly as we had expected. But I had a zoo in my stomach howling like it was the apocalypse. Well, as they say, animals can detect disasters. Surely enough, we faced our first boulder with time. We were running late and had to pause the finals mid-way so that the children who had gathered could grab some lunch. This made us realize how to modify our procedures to make sure the children are comfortable and have a good time!
It was a delight to see the children eager to answer the questions without bothering whether the answer was right or not.
Even though our first milestone was a home district, that moment of 'mind-blown' was in our first circuit of districts – North Karnataka. How happy those children were when they got the answer right! Their efforts in preparation for the quiz, to know about keeping the environment clean, hygienic and safe were visible when the questions on these topics, received the loudest shout of answers.
Ballari district particularly amazed us when a government school team accumulated the highest number of points across all the districts.
The next circuit of districts – Hassan, Shivamogga, Chikkamagaluru, Mysuru, Mangaluru, Udupi, Uttara Kannada, etc. not only satisfied the child in me who loves travelling around places with trees, flowers, animals, birds, good food, warm houses, old buildings and lots of history; it also made the teacher in me happy when I saw that the children knew what was going on around them and were excited to express themselves freely without an ounce of hesitation.
The journey not just made me look at the wonderful places like Gol Gumbaz, Hampi stone chariot, Kuvempu’s house, Chitradurga fort, Jog falls and old forgotten forts and tombs as a tourist who goes around just clicking selfies in such a way that the place itself is not seen, but as an educator looking at little pieces of information about the place so that I can use that to engage with the children on a daily basis a better way.
Once we finished all the thirsty districts, it was time for the divisional rounds. It was a challenge for the team, both in terms of logistics and the creation of content. We had to make sure the questions were challenging enough for the children but also provided a level platform for all the children from all the districts. Even though it seemed like an impossible task, our confidence in the children's enthusiasm and efforts made us take the leap. As usual, the children amazed us with answers and their knowledge. Every question landed like how we expected them to. Additionally, it was the children who motivated us to challenge them more in the Grand Finale with questions and information that were even more complicated, but that could be worked out.
The district champions from Mangaluru, Adith, and Prajwal from Sharada P.U. college declared happily that the Swachh Quiz has made them look deeper into a topic and has made them more observant.
Vineet and Chaitanya from Chetan Public School, Hubli who were the district champions of Dharwad and went on to become the state champions were happy to tell us, “The quiz has overall made me curious, all the questions were interesting and very workable all questions were something we knew and we learned something new from each question. There are always chances to come back and win the quiz no matter what!”.
Azharuddin and Moolappa Naik from Government P.U. College, Hukkeri who were the district champions of Belagavi district told us, “The quiz gave me the confidence to speak and take guesses even though we might be wrong, Swachh provided us with an opportunity we are generally not given in our schools. This has prepared me for more competitions and I want to take part in more such quizzes”.
At Walnut, we are educators who develop a program named QShala that strives to equip children with 21st-century skills. We do that by making them more aware of the world and by piquing their curiosity. In the organization, we wear such feedback from children as proud badges. As an organization which is working to make a difference in the way children learn, it is music to our ears to hear that children think about constant learning as something that keeps their mind sharp, keeps them up to date and separates them from the crowd.
Not just praises, pats-on-the-back, and loud applause, we were delighted to get some valuable suggestions from our most valued customers about the questions, structure of the quiz, what rounds would they like and what would challenge them.
Personally, the entire journey in a train, a bus, a cab, in a flight and even by foot for me physically and mountains, rivers, flower beds and cliffs for me mentally, was definitely exhausting but extremely eye-opening in terms of culture, experience and loads and loads of knowledge!
At times when I am doubting myself about doing my job properly, I always go back to something this tenth grader, Arlyn from Madikeri mentioned. Her team was selected for the semi-finals, but during the competition, they were unable to accumulate many points, so she said, "Ma'am, it doesn't matter if we win any prize or not. Being part of quizzes like these, interacting with other students from different schools not just gives us a peek into a universe of knowledge that we can ponder upon, it also gives us the confidence to speak up!”.
Apart from the warmth of the student community, the research and preparation for the entire journey have made me more conscious of my room, home, street, locality, work-place and even myself. I have been carrying my cutlery, a spare cloth bag and a one-litre water bottle (which I keep forgetting at places and buy new ones!), striving to be a zero-waste individual.
What made a better individual is that a ninety-odd days expedition filled with the sound of buzzers, projectors, screens, certificates, cash prizes, preliminary rounds, final rounds, reports, potpourri, connect, three clues, ever-enthusiastic audience, Zilla panchayat, education department, going up the Gol Gumbaz, walking around the streets of Hampi, eating a khadak roti on the side of a road with some groundnut chutney, standing below a tree begging for the monkey to throw my wallet down after it snatched from me (okay, I threw my wallet at it as I was scared!) and constantly booking travel, was a great company that I had and the team that knew how to have fun while working tirelessly.
Honestly, I always wonder in a state as vast and diverse as Karnataka, who can proudly say that they have visited all the thirty districts?
I hold my head high, cross my arms and announce out loud, that I have been to all the districts and have truly experienced the tourism department’s motto – One State, Many Worlds!
I believe I will continue to do what I do for small moments of joy like this.
“I am not a quizzer!", I still say to anybody who asks me about my role in a quizzing company; "But, asking questions and answering questions has made me believe in learning by being curious, thinking critically and communicating effectively”.
Anagha Sridhar is a Senior Engagement Associate with QShala.