Quiz master Neil O'Brien passes away

Quiz master Neil O'Brien passes away

Neil O’Brien, the man who turned quizzing into a national pastime, passed away in the city on Friday.

Arguably the pioneer of quiz in India, O’Brien hosted the country’s first formal quiz show in Kolkata almost half a century ago, making the game of questions and answers popular among all ages.

An educationist and leader of the Anglo-Indian community, O’Brien was admitted to a hospital in Kolkata with various age-related ailments on June 17.

He passed away at his Kolkata residence on Friday afternoon, informed his eldest son and national spokesperson of Trinamool Congress, Derek. “Saddest tweet I’ve ever written. Dad Neil O’Brien gone. Passed at home Kolkata. Quiz pioneer, ex ICSE chief, AI community icon, educationist,” Derek tweeted. In another tweet, Derek, who also shot to fame as a quizmaster, following in his father’s footsteps, wrote, “When the Great Questioner in the Sky asks u that Final Question even a quiz legend does not have an answer. Neil O’Brien my dad. My champion.”

Even though Neil also served as the head of the also Council for Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), it was his fame as a quizmaster that made him a household name across India. A former Lok Sabha MP, Neil he was a three-time nominated Anglo-Indian MLA in Bengal.

While quizzing in India is different from the game played in the US or England, it developed its own, unique flavour under Neil, who rustled up questions from diverse genres, catering to different parts of India and age groups. After returning from England in 1967, where he went to pursue higher studies, he organised the country’s first formal quiz show at Christ the King Church Parish Hall in Kolkata. Neil had borrowed the idea from the culture of pub quiz in England and turned it into a game for everyone.

Although initially limited to Kolkata’s thriving Anglo-Indian community, of which he became one of the most prominent members and a community leader, Neil hosted a number of popular quiz show broadcasts in radio and on television, which drew interest from all quarters. He also ran regular quiz columns in a number of daily newspapers across the country even till an advanced age.

“Extremely saddened to hear about the passing away of the very talented Neil O’Brien. He will be missed by lakhs of quiz fans across India,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee mourned his death through a tweet.

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