The Pragati Quiz

Young Man, There’s No Need To Feel Down!

This is the 8th installment of The Pragati Quiz, our weekly dose of stimulation for readers who are curious about the world.


(Answers at the bottom.)

  1. India made a certain change in 1957, with the prefix ‘new’  being added for distinction. In 1964, the old had been completely phased out and the prefix was quietly dropped. The same change was made in the UK in 1971, using the same prefix ‘new’, which was again done away with in 1982. What ‘change’ are we talking about?
  2. Writing with ink and quill used to be a laborious exercise. The ink did not dry quickly, and your writing could smudge if you were not careful. An absorbent powder was often used to accelerate the drying. What common phrase in the English language, now denoting the absolute completion of a task, originates from this practice?
  3. Which institution connects the invention of the popular sports basketball, volleyball and futsal? It is actually not as coincidental as it appears.
  4. If you were appearing at an audition for an established Western Classical orchestra, you would probably be asked to take off your shoes before you got on to the stage. Why?
  5. Burger King pitched in and expressed its support for an Internet movement countering telecom companies, by trying to explain which confusing concept, with ads like these in early 2018?
  6. Which English (specially US English) colloquial term meaning nonsense or silly talk, ultimately derives from a food product (left) that is named after a city (right)? 
  7. Before the Bushes (41 and 43), there has been only one other father-son duo to become presidents of the US. Who are they?
  8. Small tablets made of jasper (a semi-precious variety of silica), black basalt, lydite, fieldstone or slate have been used since the Indus Valley Civilization for a specific purpose. As they have a finely grained surface, soft metals leave a visible trace or mark on them. What purpose? What are such stones called as a result?
  9. It is a type of stage lighting once used in theatres and music halls. An intense illumination is created when an oxyhydrogen flame is directed at a cylinder of calcium oxide, which can be heated to over 2,500°C before melting. While this form of lighting has long since been replaced by electrical lights, its name lives on in the language as – what? 
  10. These three names are derived from Arabic:
    •Alnitak – “the girdle”
    •Alnilam – “the sapphire”
    •Mintaka – “the sash”

    Together, they are sometimes called the Three Kings or Three Sisters. But by what two-word name do we better know them?

  11. His larger-than-life statue was unveiled on a grey, drizzly day in 2017 on the threshold of the building he once described as a cross between a girls’ boarding school and a lunatic asylum. Who and where? 
  12. When Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore, and his wife Fakhr-un-Nisa did not have children for many years, the couple visited this tomb of a renowned Sufi saint in Arcot town, Vellore district to pray for a child. Name the saint. 
  13. Which national capital was founded in February 1541 near a small hill called Huelén beside the river Mapocho, by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, and named after the biblical figure of St. James, the patron saint of Spain?
  14. These two place names mean ‘wide island’ and ‘long cape.’ These monuments in the city are designed to remind the people of the past. Name both places, which are inextricably linked in our memory.
  15. It is almost the size of Germany. Its name may be an Uyghur borrowing from the Persian for “abandoned place”, or of the phrase “once you get in, you’ll never get out.” Two branches of the Silk Road respectfully skirt it on its northern and southern edges, meeting at Kashgar. What are we talking about?
  16. In 1521, Guru Nanak was passing through Hasan Abdalin Pakistan. A local holy man, Shah Wali Qandhari, took exception to the Guru’s presence, and in his rage threw a part of a mountain towards the Guru from the top of the hill. The Guru stopped the hurled rock with his hand and left an imprint on it. At which specific location can we now see this rock with the imprint?
  17. What word in the English language is derived from the Palatine Hill, the centermost of the seven hills of Rome, where the emperors Augustus, Tiberius and Domitian (among others) built their mansions? They were followed by many other wealthy Romans.
  18. Identify the “fishing hamlet” that the title is talking about. 
  19. At the First Battle of Bull Run in the American Civil War, General Barnard Bee, trying to rally his retreating and demoralized troops, shouted to them, “Look, men! There is X standing like a _____ ____! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer! Rally behind the Virginians!”What are the two missing words, which became X’s nickname?
  20. This Google Doodle appeared on the 84th birthday of which famous Indian, who died in April 2013? The calculator screen refers to this person’s amazing ability with numbers. 


  1. Decimalisation of the currency: The paise and the pence both had a prefix ‘naya’ or ‘new’ 
  2. Done and dusted
  3. All these were invented at the YMCA – most of them had restricted spaces but enthusiastic participants. James Naismith, invented basketball in 1891 while studying at the YMCA International Training School at Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1930, Juan Carlos Ceriani  from the YMCA of Montevideo, Uruguay, invented futsal as an indoor version of football. William G. Morgan from the YMCA of Holyoke, Massachusetts, invented volleyball in 1895 for older YMCA members.
  4. These auditions are now blind auditions to correct for inherent bias, especially against women. Shoes are out as the sound of women’s shoes on the wooden boards is a giveaway.
  5. Net Neutrality (“Whopper” Neutrality is what they cheekily called the campaign)
  6. Baloney, that is derived from the Bologna Sausage
  7. John Adams (2) and John Quincy Adams (6)
  8. Testing the purity of gold (in an alloy) – these are called Touchstones 
  9. Lime light, which lives on in the phrase “in the limelight.” Calcium oxide is commonly called ‘quicklime.’
  10. Orion’s Belt — The three bright stars in a line that define the belt of Orion. 
  11. George Orwell, looming over the BBC, where he worked from 1941-43. The quote is from Animal Farm.
  12. (Hazrat) Tipu Mastan Aulia. The child was named after him as Tipu Sultan
  13. Santiago, the capital of Chile. Santiago is a local Galician evolution of Vulgar Latin Sanctu Iacobu, “Saint James.” St James is called San Diego in Spain.
  14. Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. The Peace Stupa in Hiroshima is the only one made from metal (rather than stone). The other leg of this tori in Nagasaki was toppled in the explosion and preserved as such.
  15. Taklamakan Desert 
  16. Gurdwara Panja Sahib. The boulder with the palm is its most famous relic. 
  17. Palace (from Palatium, the Latin name for the Palatine Hill)
  18. Thumba, the first rocket launching station in India.
  19. Stone Wall, which is how Gen. Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson got his nickname.
  20. Shakuntala Devi, the human computer

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.