What is all the fuss about Independence Day, anyway?

I'm unsure if it was 2005 or 2006. A childhood friend and I were going to attend some quiz competition we'd heard about from someone. We were refreshing our trivia prowess by asking each other questions. We came across what was an obscure fact to a bunch of 13-year-olds - "Adolf Hitler, son of a cobbler, tried to be a painter but was turned down by the Vienna art institute." A few hours later, inside Madras' very own Music Academy, a picture with two paintings was shown and the crowd was asked to guess the painter. Cheeky teenagers that we were, decided to let our newly acquired knowledge on the field. "Let's guess Hitler for this one!"

We were right. Still proud of that one, 11-12 years later.

Every year that followed, 2 pm on the 15th of August marked the moment when the Indian National Anthem reverberated around the majestic Music Academy main halls; brimming with people full of energy -- six-year-olds and sixty-year-olds alike - fiercely competing for the coveted stage at the Landmark Quiz.

The first year I attended it was my introduction to the bigwigs of the Indian quizzing circle. As a budding quizzer (who would remain a budding quizzer till retirement from all forms of quizzing...), my pride laid in identifying and identifying with the bigwigs. Swami, Samanth, Udupa, Arul, all of these became household names. This was followed by a decade and some years of being nearly good, and almost qualifying. But all the fun was in just being there, among that crowd. That was my crowd. I still remember one of those times when Kabbalah introduced himself as having come "all the way from Alwarpet" when there were people sitting next to him who'd come all the way from Mumbai and Delhi.

I'd grown from middle school to high school. First few facial hairs popped their heads out. First board exams. Plus one and plus two - senior years in school that went by as quickly as summer in Seattle. I started shaving. I entered college. I mixed and matched teams. I quizzed with a girl I liked. I progressed from taking the bus and train to taking a two-wheeler to Mylapore. I progressed from going back home and getting dinner to getting dinner on the way back. Progressed from "I should leave at 8 pm to get home on time", to, "It's only 10 pm and the quiz is nearly done?".

So many changes. So many faces. So many new teams, new people, but a few faces remained constant. My friends and I, those that were always only nearly qualified, we were the Barmy Army of Madras quizzing. Though we didn't go all the way to Lords to cheer for a cover drive, we traveled all the way from Madipakkam, and Guindy, and Nungambakkam to cheer for our teams.

All these changes, but what remained constant was the adrenalin rush that kicked in after the National Anthem was done echoing through the hall. The giant clock slides just past 2 pm and Dr. Navin would ask all the first timers to stand up. That rush, that never went away.

Landmark Quiz of my childhood is no more. But I have a lifetime of memories that I would keep revisiting; at least once every year, on the 15th of August at 2 pm.