The Pragati Quiz

Sailors With Dirty Hands

This is the 7th installment of The Pragati Quiz, our weekly dose of stimulation for readers who are curious about the world.


(Answers at the bottom.)

1. What initiative connects the following?

  • 1913: Maharaja Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV of Mysore
  • 1917: Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala
  • 1941: Mir Osman Ali Khan (the last Nizam of Hyderabad)
  • 1943/ 44: Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner & Ramnath Podar
  • 1945: Sri Chithira Thirunal Varma (through his Divan) of Travancore

2. Music CDs first hit the stores in the 1980’s. Initially, they were sold in the long box format. Why this format, when the now-standard jewel case would have been more than enough to accommodate them?

3. An important political institution across (mostly Islamic) nations like Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan shares the same Arabic name. What?

4. Which country issued this set of stamps celebrating the various sporting inventions that happened there?

5. Sailors typically have to work a lot belowdecks with grease and muck, making their hands dirty. This simple fact is considered the basic reason for what difference between Army and Navy traditions?

6. When Alfonso X ‘The Wise’ (1221-1284), King of Castile, León and Galicia became ill, his physician advised him to eat small snacks between meals to help soak up the wine that he was constantly sipping. The King took the advice and evidently got much relief.

What cultural tradition originated thus?

7. What did this guy manage to do with one ringgit in 2001?

8. The name of this small island translates literally to “Sulphur Island.” It has been the subject of at least three Hollywood films, one in 1949 and two in 2006. One of these films had all its actors speak in Japanese.

We probably know it best through an iconic photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press that later featured on a postage stamp.

Name the island.

9. Maud Watson was the first lady Wimbledon tennis champion. At the 1884 event, she wore a woollen, ankle length, bustled ensemble, and worried about sweating as it was a hot summer. How did she innovate to minimize the problem that gave rise to a tradition?

10. The default time in iPhone ads was always set to 9:41 – why? It has changed a bit since 2011 though.

11. What term for the physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat was coined by American psychologist Walter [Bradford] Cannon in this paper?

We now know that it is because of two competing hormones – adrenaline and noradrenaline – that are released by the adrenal glands in response to the threat.

12. What is the libretto or text of this ‘opera’ entirely made up of?

13. This is the Kwita Izina, an annual christening ceremony held in Musanze town in Rwanda.

Who or what is named in this ceremony? Look carefully at the picture.

14. The Economist’s weekly column on American politics is named after the Kentucky town where the first battle of the American war of independence took place on April 19, 1775.

What town, often denoted with the suffix “-Fayette”?

15. The puranas state that this place was submerged under the Satisaras lake controlled by the demon Jalodbhava, until Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a boar and struck the mountain at its base with his tusks. The water drained out and the town (and the adjoining areas) was created.

Thus, which town on the bank of the Jhelum gets its name from the Sanskrit for ‘boar’s molar’?

16. In 1984, the Ogori Shoji Co, based in Ube (in the Yamaguchi prefecture), opened a new unisex casual wear store in Hiroshima under the name “Unique Clothing Warehouse”.

How do we know this brand better, from an erroneous contraction of its name?

17. Published in July 2018, Andrew Shaffer’s crime fiction novel Hope Never Dies has been described by the New York Times as “an escapist fantasy that will likely appeal to liberals pining for the previous administration.”

Who are the crime-fighting duo of detectives in the novel?

18. As Japan gears up to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and cater to a surging influx of foreign visitors, it is planning to replace the traditional manji symbol used to identify Buddhist temples on maps, with this.

Describe a manji, or explain the reason for the change.

19. It was originally a technique of carving an object such as an engraved gem, item of jewellery or vessel, featuring a raised (positive) relief image.

We are however more familiar with it in a cinematic context today, where it is applied metaphorically to something that “stands out.”

What word?

20. For most of the 18th and 19th centuries, English schoolchildren reciting their ABCs would have ended the alphabet with which ‘letter’?

(Hint: It is not Z!)



1. Subsidiaries of the State Bank of India (which are now all merged with the parent) – Mysore, Patiala, Hyderabad, Bikaner & Jaipur, and Travancore.

2. Music stores were full of display racks for LPs which they didn’t want to discard. Two long box formats fitted into the space of one LP display slot.

3. Majlis – for their parliament.

4. Canada. The stamps are bilingual in French and English.

5. Army and Navy Salutes

The Army salutes with palm visible, the Navy salutes with palm down to hide dirty hands. The Air Force salute is in-between the two.

6. The custom of eating tapas in Spain (in bars).

7. Tony Fernandes bought the debt-laden Air Asia from the Malaysian government in September 2001 for MYR 1, and built it into one of the world’s most successful budget  carriers.

8. Iwo Jima. Raising The Flag On Iwo Jima is one of the most iconic images of WWII.

9. She wore an all-white ensemble to keep cool, starting the Wimbledon tradition.

10. The estimated time when Steve Jobs was to present the product.

The big reveal typically happened about 40 minutes into the launch event, so the time on the audience’s watches matched what they saw on screen. Jobs passed away in 2011.

11. Fight or Flight.

12. Lines from Taylor Swift songs!

13. Baby Mountain Gorillas.

Gorilla-related tourism brings half a billion USD annually to Rwanda’s economy. The structure behind the stage is built to resemble a gorilla.

14. Lexington (Lexington-Fayette).

15. Baramulla from Varaha-mula.

16. Uniqlo.

17. Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

18. Manji is a counter-clockwise swastika (reverse of the Nazi symbol). The change is to avoid any association with anti-Semitism and the Nazis, for hypersensitive Western tourists.

Japan’s main Buddhist group is not worried as the change doesn’t affect domestic maps.

19. Cameo, used for guest appearances that “stand out” in the film.

20. & (Ampersand).

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.