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The O'Brien brand



Barry O'Brien

BARRY O' BRIEN. Does the name strike a bell? Well if your guess was that the name had to do something with the O'Brien family of quizzers you are bang on target. Barry is the brother of Derek O' Brien and son of Neil O' Brien. He was in the city recently to do what he does best -quiz young 'uns though he prefers to refer to himself as an educationist.

"I was teaching till 1996. Then I wanted to broaden the length and breadth of my classroom and so now I travel round the country conducting quiz shows. It's another way of not just spreading knowledge but also igniting young minds to pursue it. Quizzing's hidden agenda is to activate and and whet their appetite for knowledge," says this Bengali Badshah of hereditary quizmasters who feels that Kerala and Bengal have a lot of affinity in their palate and political tastes.

The stage, his love

He loves his job as he can mingle his avocation and vocation of reading, travelling and quizzing all into one. "My forte and love has been the stage. There are no cuts and double takes. In my programmes you will never find the audience as mute spectators. It's not a closed room approach that we take. They are participants too. It's all about making learning more fun." So you would find a lot of music and masti interspersing his brain storming sessions.

To be a good quizzer he believes that one must research the questions well. "It's not dead information that you want to pass on. I never ask wasteful questions. Ninety per cent of the questions should be answerable. Some should be answered directly, some should evoke thought and some should be able to come down to the audience. That's when you make quizzing entertaining for everyone."

Over 2000 live quizzes conducted so far has given him an impressive experience to create the right balance in edutainment. But a sense of humour is what he feels keeps the momentum going in such sessions. And he sure has loads of tricks up his sleeves to tickle the funny bone of his audience. And his glibness, free spirited approach and effusive personality sure has made him far above the mediocre.

"With so much triviality flowing into this area you have to maintain your distinctiveness and innovate at all times too. One can't be aggressive and also act like `Mr. Know All. You have to be familiar with the questions that you re posing, otherwise some clever guys can spring up a surprise on you and take you unawares. That's too embarrassing a situation."

For school curriculum

He has also conducted quiz programmes on TV, like the Green Teen Quiz on DD2, national Parliamentary quiz on DD1 and at present is doing a show for Zee Bengali. "It deals with the syllabus of the state schools and I want parents to tell their children to switch on their TV rather than the other way round and quizzing should also become a part of the school curriculum," is what this father of three girls strongly stresses.

He has also co-authored the book `Find Out' with his father Neil O' Brien who has been a member of the Bengal Legislative Assembly for three years and was recently the member of the Lok Sabha representing the Anglo-Indian community. The book is a GK series for Junior and Middle school children. Moreover `The Telegraph in Schools', a weekly paper for students edited by him, in Kolkata, has just won the prestigious World Association of Newspapers Award for the Best Young Reader's Paper in the world announced in Paris last month. The award will be given in Lisbon in November. Pertaining to this programme he has set up the Telegraph Education Foundation, which doles out scholarship schemes to the children of the underprivileged sections of society at Kolkata.

Pakistani students

He has also started a Friendship Movement with the youth of Pakistan whereby students from different cultural and financial backgrounds get to go to Lahore and interact with their brothers from across the border. And his most memorable moment was in Lahore too when he first went quizzing there and was the only Indian amidst 3000 Pakistanis.

"Getting Pakistan and India close together is one of the aims of my life and the issue is close to my heart," he says. And how does he like Kochi?

"Well this is just my second visit but just want to keep coming back to its old world charm and its small big city status," says he signing off.

RAKHEE MOHAN

Photo by Vipinchandran

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