The Pragati Quiz

The Road to Hell

This is the second installment of The Pragati Quiz, our weekly dose of stimulation to readers who are curious about the world.


(Answers at the bottom.)

  1. In Afghanistan, it is Dari. In Tajikistan, it is Tajik. In Uzbekistan, it is Tajik or Bukhori. What is it in Iran?
  2. According to a country’s mythology, Pangu the giant was born from a cosmic egg. As he grew inside the egg, he pushed the upper and lower halves of the shell, thereby separating them. How do we better know these upper and lower halves?
  3. In medieval times, to allay fears of being accidentally buried alive, some coffins were fitted with this contraption, so that a ‘corpse’ that came alive could call for a rescue. What common expression probably arose as a result?
  4. Which melon-flavoured liqueur made by Suntory is also the Japanese word for ‘green’?
  5. These birds often hide in the lee of ships during bad weather, so early sailors thought their advent presaged turbulence. This, coupled with their habit of seemingly walking on water, gave them which common name that is now a metaphor for someone with revolutionary views? 
  6. For what specific purpose has this parabolic reflector been put to use every Leap Year since 1936?
  7. When David Livingstone discovered the waterfalls on the river Zambezi, he named them after Queen Victoria. When Henry Morton Stanley discovered the falls on the Congo river, whom did he name them after?
  8. Tejpatta or the Indian bay leaf which as a seasoning infuses biriyani and other Indian dishes with a unique fragrance, is the leaf of a tree that gives us which other aromatic spice?
  9. Residents of this island in the Atlantic Ocean normally drive on the left side of the road. But in 1982, for 2 months, they drove on the right side. Which island and why?
  10. A racehorse must be medically examined and certified to ensure that it is in good health for the race to follow. This practice led to which English word commonly used in politics, business etc.? The word has accompanied much hand-wringing in the context of the global refugee crisis.
  11. Amir Timur was playing chess and was just about to castle his king when he received the news of his youngest son’s birth. He thus used the Persian word for ‘castling’ to name his son. However, another very famous personality bears the same name today. Which name?
  12. According to the American religious website, which “religion” stood 10th in the world in terms of following with 19 million followers in 2007, outnumbering Shinto, Judaism, Jainism and Spiritism? Its name means “self-reliance” in its language of origin.
  13. By Indian law, this particular object can only be made in nine sizes, ranging from Size 9: 6″ X 4″ to Size 1: 21′ X 14′. What is it?
  14. This sport was first played at a US college in 2005 and is gaining popularity around the world. What is it? And what role is played by the guy dressed in yellow, specifically with respect to the object inside the red box?
  15. This is a chart from Lancetsome years ago showing the harmful effects of drugs. The number one culprit – the only one that harms others more than it harms the user – has been blanked out. What is it? 
  16. According to Indian law, which tree belongs to the Government of India even when it grows on private property?
  17. The glass – usually safely encased in cloth – symbolically crushed underfoot at the end of a Jewish wedding, is a representation of the destruction of what? It reminds the attendees of the sufferings of the Jewish people through the ages.
  18. Which is the world’s only country whose one-word name begins with a small letter? Its name has been said to resemble “an alcoholic beverage ordered online.”
  19. Identify this infamous piece of equipment, #E610 as per official records:
  20. The old proverb goes – “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Examined by both John Locke and Adam Smith in an economic context, the modern retelling is due to Robert Merton in 1936. What two-word phrase is often used to describe it today?

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  1. The Persian language, or Farsi. These are its names in the different countries where it is spoken.
  2. Yin and Yang
  3. Saved by the bell
  4. Midori
  5. Storm/Stormy Petrel (The ‘petrel’ is derived from St. Peter.)
  6. To light the Olympic Flame (at Olympia). While the Olympic flame was first introduced at the 1928 Amsterdam Games, the practice of lighting it at Olympia began in 1936.
  7. David Livingstone (HM Stanley had gone to Africa to find him.)
  8. Cinnamon, from its bark
  9. The Falkland Islands controlled by Great Britain were taken over by Argentina leading to the short Falkland war.
  10. Vetting (a vet certifies the racehorse as being fit to race)
  11. Shahrukh (‘shah’ is king in Persian, and ‘rukh’ refers to the rook – the other chess piece involved in the castling move) 
  12. Juche — the philosophy promulgated by Kim Il-Sung and continued by Kim Jong-Il in North Korea.
  13. Indian National Flag. These are the only dimensions allowed under the Flag Code.
  14. (Muggle) Quidditch, from the Harry Potter universe. The guy in yellow is the Snitch- the opposing teams have to get the yellow tennis ball (sometimes a yellow sock) tied to his trousers.
  15. Alcohol
  16. Sandalwood
  17. Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, originally destroyed in 587 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar 
  18. eSwatini, erstwhile Swaziland was renamed by King Mswati recently.
  19. Tank E610 contained more than 40 tonnesof MIC in the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, and fatally leaked on the night of December 2, 1984
  20. Unintended Consequences

We acknowledge gratefully the contributions of Caleb Liu of the Asian Quiz Championship, Dr Chandrashekhar Rao and the Dubai BrainBuster team, and Quizicians Movin Miranda, Gopal Kidao and Rajiv Rai.

About the author

Anustup Datta

Anustup Datta lurks in Bangalore, consults for brands for a living, and quizzes to stay sane. Will happily travel to the ends of the world if there’s good food and/or single malt. Has a borderline pathological attachment to his Kindle.