The Pragati Quiz

Use the Little Grey Cells!

This is the 11th installment of The Pragati Quiz, our weekly dose of stimulation for readers who are curious about the world.


(Answers at the bottom.)

  1. Who was the first member of the Rajya Sabha to become the Prime Minister of India?
  2. William Dampier, the first Englishman to visit Australia, was both a buccaneer and a keen natural historian and explorer. He circumnavigated the world twice between 1708 and 1711, and is best remembered for a remarkable rescue that he affected during this voyage in 1709. Whom did he rescue, or what did this lead to?
  3. Which iconic Japanese institution was inaugurated on October 1, 1964 in conjunction with the opening of the Tokyo Olympics in the same month that year?
  4. Who was the only fictional character ever to receive an obituary on the front page of the New York Times on August 6, 1975, along with this ‘painting’ by W. Smithson Broadhead? 
  5. Enjoy this clip, and identify the classic 1948 film. What is this creature, the only venomous lizard native to the United States?
  6. This garment with four pockets was popularized by Ernest Hemingway in the 1950s, and later by Roger Moore as James Bond. It was much-used in India, so much so that the popular song Sasural genda phool from Delhi-6 (2009) mentions it in the lyrics. It got both its common names because it was originally created for jungle hunting expeditions in South Africa.What garment? Either name will do.
  7. Which UNESCO World Heritage site in India comprises three independent locations far away from each other — near New Jalpaiguri in north West Bengal, Ooty in Tamil Nadu, and Shimla in Himachal Pradesh?
  8. During the 24-hour Le Mans race of 1955, Pierre Levegh’s car crashed into the crowd killing the driver and some 80 spectators. As a mark of respect, which team withdrew from all motor sport racing, returning only in 1987? 
  9. Which 19th century secret network, whose name is actually a metaphor, do the following sculptures and memorials depict literally?
  10. On February 6, 1971, what did the astronaut Alan Shepard aboard Apollo-14 do on the moon that earned him a reprimand “for littering”?
  11. The name of which historical trade route was derived from the German term Seidenstrasse, coined by Baron Ferdinand von Richthofenin the 19th century, but entered general usage with the publication of Sven Hedin’s 1938 travelogue of the same name?
  12. At first, the founder wanted to call the site S’new, a contraction of “What’s new?” When the current name prevailed, the earlier idea was tweaked to provide the name for the site’s mascot that has been described as “a teletubby (especially Po) without the space suit.”Which site and mascot are we talking about?
  13. What is etymologically common to the following — the obstetric procedure commonly known as the Caesarean Section, the ribbon-like pasta called tagliatelle, and the white mozzarella cheese typically used in pizzas?
  14. After a private performance at his palace, Maharaja Hanwant Singh of Jodhpur gifted a ‘commoner’ a set of royal attire — a sherwani, a pagdi and a taj of glittering gems — in recognition of his extraordinary ability. This attire then became this person’s trademark. Who?
  15. Which is the largest irrigated crop/plant in the US by area? It occupies about three times the area of corn, which is next on the list.
  16. The Giant Tortoise (both the Aldabran and Galapagos varieties) did not receive a scientific name or get a proper classification for over 300 years due to which reason? Incidentally, Charles Darwin too failed in this matter, and for the same reason.
  17. In the 19th century, animal furs from rabbits and beavers were treated with mercuric nitrate (a process called ‘carroting’) to make felt, which was widely used in the production of men’s hats. In treated felts, a slow reaction released volatile elemental mercury, afflicting industrial workers in hat production with a neurological disorder called mercuric erethism.Which phrase in the language arose as a result?
  18. To this day, where might we get to see the sky over Rio de Janeiro on the morning of 15 November 1889, the day the First Brazilian Republic was proclaimed?
  19. Deriving its name for the ancient Greek word for “experience”, which theory states that knowledge comes primarily from sensory experience? The most elaborate and influential presentation of it was made by John Locke in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), though Francis Bacon and René Descartes are considered its founders.
  20. On June 22, 2017, NASA launched a femtosatellite – a 3D printed probe weighing just 64 grams and fitted in a 3.8 cm cube – which may be the smallest ever. It was built by an Indian high school student team, led by Rifath Sharook, an 18-year-old from the town of Pallapatti in Tamil Nadu.After whom is the satellite named? 




  1. Indira Gandhi in her first years as PM (1966-67)
  2. Alexander Selkirk, on Juan Fernandez Islands. Selkirk had spent four years on the island after being marooned there and his experiences formed the basis of Daniel Defoe’s classic novel Robinson Crusoe.
  3. Shinkansen, or the Bullet Train
  4. Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective created by Dame Agatha Christie
  5. The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948),  and the Gila Monster 
  6. Bush Shirt/Jacket, or the Safari Suit. The ‘bush’ refers to the African jungle where you might go on a safari. 
  7. The Mountain Railways of India — the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and the Kalka-Shimla Railway. 
  8. Mercedes
  9. The Underground Railroad, organized by anti-slavery activists, philanthropists, church leaders and black Americans which helped men, women, and children escape from slavery to freedom. It was neither physically underground, nor an actual railroad.
  10. He hit a couple of one-handed golf shots with a makeshift six-iron and did not retrieve the balls from the moon.
  11. The Silk Road 
  12. Snoo the alien is the mascot of Reddit. 
  13. All derive from the verb “to cut” in different languages                                                                                                                                                                          – Latin caedo – “to cut”– Italian tagliare – “to cut”

    – Italian mozzare – “to cut off”

  14. P C Sorcar. The Maharaja was a keen amateur magician himself. 
  15. Lawn or Turf Grass
  16. Due to their great taste. They were so delicious that no specimens ever made it back to Europe for classification without being eaten on the long voyage.
  17. Mad as a hatter (popularized by Lewis Carroll as the Mad Hatter in Alice In Wonderland)
  18. On the flag of Brazil – the blue circle and stars 
  19. Empiricism (from empeiria)
  20. Kalam SAT is named after the late president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

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.