Everyone loves a good radio quiz. Nothing lights up a radio station’s call lines like a show host asking ‘What’s the capital of Peru?’ (It’s Lima.) But for years, nefarious forces have sought to derail these lighthearted games taking place on Australian airwaves with prank calls — and it can all be traced back to a chain email.
‘India’ is back
On early on Friday morning, a member of the ABC’s unofficial Facebook group for its late night radio program posted his dissatisfaction to the group.
“Oh dear the boys of ‘india’ are back, how many will we have?’ he wrote in text superimposed over the poo emoji.
This post referred to something that unfolded on air just before. During the call-in quiz, a prankster had answered a question with a nonsequitur: ‘India’.
A similar post was made in the group back in 2018. “Why are there people out there?,who want to stuff up Sunday night quiz on ABC by saying India?, it’s unfair to all listeners,” another late night radio fan.
Other members of the groups had referenced the times that the ABC’s hosts had been inundated with calls with people just answering ‘India’.
These weren’t limited to just the public broadcaster. In fact, this quintessentially Australian radio prank (not unlike the one that unfolded with Trump’s ‘voter fraud’ hotline) can be traced back more than a decade.
The chain email
In 2006, Sydney radio host Graeme Gilbert had a (largely unpopular) program on 2SM radio.
One night, his normally uneventful show was upended when caller after caller would say ‘India’ in response to his quiz questions.
But how did this prank — which has struck fear into the hearts of radio hosts for years since — come about?
According to the ABC’s Media Watch program back in 2006, this willing army of quiz crusaders was recruited by chain email.
The show obtained an email co-ordinating efforts to thwart Gilbert’s game.
“Tonight Graeme is having a quiz… it would honour me if everyone rang up and answered ‘India’ for every question. Don’t ask why… it’s between me and [Graeme]. Love from Mahatma,” it read.
Whether Gilbert knew or not, it sure didn’t stop him from getting frustrated.
In response to the barrage of callers, Gilbert began to fume which ended up being extremely entertaining radio.
And while chain email hasn’t found a second life in a viral Facebook post or Snapchat Story, it continues to live through the audience who’ve heard it and the pranksters who are keeping it alive.
Who knows? Mahatma is still out there sending emails to this day.