One afternoon, in the mid 90’s, struggling to stay awake after a good meal, the phone on my desk rang. It was the branch head of Times of India, Bangalore on the other side. A couple of us were summoned to the conference room for a meeting on launching a special page for school children called ‘Offspring’. It was a forerunner to what has now evolved as NIE, Newspaper in Education. The Times of India, at the time, was a distant fourth in circulation in the Bangalore market but was being powered by aggressive plans including the impending launch of a daily colour edition (newspapers were only black and white then).
The meeting on what would go into the ‘Offspring’ page, among other areas, listed the need for a quiz column. Time went by and the pages were now being designed to launch the section. Colleagues in the office knew I was a quizzer and asked me to contribute to the quiz column. Two days before the launch, the dummy pages were presented to the editor. He read the quiz column and said “Nice questions, but we cannot carry Giri’s name. He is not from the editorial team.” In those days, only editorial team members were allowed by-lines and I was part of the Brand Team.
One of them suggested a pseudonym under which I could write. The idea was accepted and we started hunting for something that would fit. Brainmaster, Mr.Know and Quizzo were some of those considered, that I can still recall. Back home that evening I was sitting and scribbling some more options and my father chipped in. A witty man, he quickly arrived at Brain Pick and we then swapped it to Pickbrain as it had a better sound beat. The logic was simple. A quizmaster picks on the human brain. The name was accepted the next day and I started writing the column.
Weeks went by and we suddenly realised there were student responses and mails (note: postal era not emails) addressed to Pickbrain. I started replying with that identity and in the next few months we were host an inter-school quiz. Sure enough I hosted that quiz and kids got to know me better. However, it was one afternoon that I walking around at a book shop called Gangarams, in Bangalore, when a bunch of school kids saw me and one screamed, “Hey Pickbrain is here”. It dawned on me then, that Pickbrain was here to stay.