Bee in My Bonny

bjain2.jpg12-year-old Bonny Jain, an 8th-grade student from Illinois, recently won the 2006 National Geographic Bee and an accompanying $25,000 scholarship. Throughout the contest, he correctly answered all but one of the very difficult global geography questions asked by Alex Trebek, of Jeopardy! fame.

Bonny aspires to attend MIT. He speaks, reads and writes Hindi fluently. He’s currently studying German and Spanish. For Bonny, I’m sure, “studying” a language connotes a much more comprehensive endeavor than what I consider “studying” a language. (I would like a burrito, s’il vous plait. Que? Yo no speako Spanisho. The only Spanisho I know is “burrito”, “chimichanga”, “Macarena”, “Shakira”, “Salma Hayek”, “cantalupos gigantes”. And “s’il vous plait”.)

In addition to having just won the National Geographic Bee, Bonny also recently took the SAT (again, he’s in EIGHTH GRADE). He scored 800 in math, 790 in writing, and 720 in critical reading for a 2,310 composite score out of a possible total of 2,400 points (800 points per section). I have a feeling MIT will be saving a spot for him. Maybe even this year.

NGB.gifBelow are five questions from this year’s competition. This contest was not in multiple choice format: The contestants had to come up with the answers independently, without any hints or clues.

Bangweulu is an area of extensive swamps formed largely by the flooding of the Chambeshi River in which African country?
(to see the answer, click here, hold down your mouse button, and move the cursor down over the white space below)


Name the small island at the north end of the East China Sea that is a province of South Korea.
(to see the answer, click here, hold down your mouse button, and move the cursor down over the white space below)


In 1995, the government of Niger signed a peace agreement with rebel forces belonging to which traditional group in the Sahara region?
(to see the answer, click here, hold down your mouse button, and move the cursor down over the white space below)


Majestic views of Mount Everest can be seen from a town in northeast India that is the capital of a district of the same name. Name this town.
(to see the answer, click here, hold down your mouse button, and move the cursor down over the white space below)


Name the last remaining independent Polynesian kingdom.
(to see the answer, click here, hold down your mouse button, and move the cursor down over the white space below)


Listed below are the names and home states of the little geniuses who competed in this year’s National Geographic Bee, in seating order.

Neeraj Sirdeshmukh – New Hampshire
Suneil Iyer – Kansas
Yeshwanth Kandimalla – Georgia
Paige DePolo – Nevada
Autumn Hughes – Colorado
Mathew Vengalil – Michigan
Krishnan Chandra – Massachusetts
Drew Coffin – Iowa
Kelsey Schilperoort – Arizona
Bonny Jain – Illinois

The following is a snapshot of the population of the United States, as per the 2000 Census:


Similar to other unexplained racial phenomena found in the United States such as ice hockey (white), basketball (black), NASCAR (hick, a subsegment of “white”), and gold Rolexes (Chinese, a cross-segment of “good at math” and “bad at driving”), the National Geographic Bee’s distribution by ethnicity bears no resemblance whatsoever to the general population distrubution of the United States:


Guess which kids were the first four contestants to answer wrong and be eliminated. Amazing, I know: All four “Not Indian” kids were the first to be eliminated.


Bonny competed in last year’s National Geographic Bee as well. At the start of this year’s competition, Trebek asked Bonny about his fourth place finish in the 2005 contest. Bonny replied with confidence: Since the first, second and third place finishers are not allowed to return, he preferred to finish fourth if he couldn’t finish first.

I guess it all worked out.

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47 Comments so far
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Wow, I’ve never even heard of those places! It must be because I’m not Indian, right?

I’m dumb with geography. Like, embarrassingly dumb.

What an interesting post!

So glad you properly identified the sub-set of White that follows NASCAR.

Don’t be coy now. Your Spanish is parfait
And “oh yes!” was my reaction to seeing the last three answers, while a very vacant stare greeted the first two.
But ignorance is bliss, right?

I thought I knew geography. Obviously I have some more studying to do. Last summer I tutored a kid like Bonny. The kid had just finished the sixth grade and his parents wanted to get him ready for the SAT. The kid kicked butt on the sample tests. *sigh*

As for last year’s competition, I think Bonny may have thrown things when he realized that he wasn’t going to get first.

Jeeze, I studied Geography at college, but couldn’t answer a single question. Well, geography actually meant glacier formations and pollution…mmm
I’m sure there’s a nerd in all of us. Going to get my atlas out now. Can’t. Won’t. Be. Beaten. By. A. Kid…
Actually, bugger it, just cracked open the red wine. That’s tomorrow written off.
Interesting post.

Now that is a cool contest…though I wonder how much obsessive studying it takes to actually win it?

However, now I’m feeling even more of an underachiever than I was before….

Oh my gosh, I am ROFLMAO!!!!! I LOVE those charts…hilarious!!!

Oh, and I love how formal the charts are with terms like “not Indian.” Still dying here!!!!

Yaeh we Indains are samrt we wni all bee – expect speling bees.

My head hurts from reading the charts. Yes, the charts, nothing to do with red wine…

What is up with these freakishly smart mutant children in the news lately?

There is alsothis NJ girl who just won the spelling bee, too. I don’t even remember the winning word. Why? Because I never heard of it before.

Maybe they made it up. It’s all a conspiracy. Yeah, take that dictionary girl!

Hmmm… interesting that the National Spelling Bee went in a different direction.

Wow! That is impressive!! I had a friend from India in CA and she was tellingme how serious and strict all the schooling is there. Wowza! I love your charts, LOL!

Megan: Don’t feel bad. I sometimes don’t even know places that are 10 miles away, let alone some random place I’ll never visit.

Penny Karma: Yes, I have a few good friends who are proud members of that demographic and try to force feed me heavy metal music and whisky every chance they get.

Anne: Si. Mon Espanol es completement parfait. Gracias.

Dagny: Yeah kids like that freak me out a bit. Let’s hope a lot of them put their smarts to stuff like curing cancer rather than running a hedge fund.

Mads: Red wine trumps atlas any day!

Kimananda: You should view yourself as normal and these contestants as being at the far end of the bell curve! I’m sure their parents quiz them incessantly.

ABlondeBlogger: Hahhaa thank you thank you. The key to presentation is to present the required information as clearly and simply as possible. So if I mean “Not Indian” I say “Not Indian”. :)

SJ: Dran Indains ure so S-M-R-T SMART!

ChickyBabe: I guess Friday is a big red wine night in blogland since this is not the first red wine comment for this post! But yes if your head hurts it ain’t the wine, it’s from reading all the numbers.

Janet: I just saw the end of the spelling bee on TV! That half asian girl who came in second place actually was an excellent guesser. But the girl who won it seemed like she knew her s**t. I only watched a few minutes though.

JustRun: Yeah the spelling bee was totally different. Bonny competed I believe (he did last year as well), but he certainly does not have the same prowess in spelling.

Candace the Honorary Indian: Indians really value education a lot. At least from my personal experience in chatting with my Indian friends. I wonder if they place emphasis on memorization like a lot of the East Asian societies do.

Why do I feel like pie all of a sudden?

Gav: I’d offer you blueberry pie, which is what we started with, but after the first four eliminations all we’ve got now is lemon pie.

Great post! I absolutely love how you did the secret answer thing! Must know more about that! Way cool.

These kids are really remarkable! We live in an area with a lot of Indian families. The academic achievement expectations are very high. But these kids are above and beyond… Just look at the charts!

Wendy: I’m always amazed at how much people can achieve if properly guided, pushed and prodded. But there’s also something innately good about having a normal childhood- at least that’s what I tell my “normal” self every day!

Wah ha, your blog crack me up. Mind if I link you?

Cheeky: Most people find it nauseating but I’m glad you find it funny! ;) When it comes to links, I am always appreciative although I take no responsibility if your readers complain that you are sending them to my SUCKY blog! :)

Damn it! Why did you post this?

Suddenly and not for the first time, I feel like an idiot.

jackt: I for one, am sick of all this “bee” stuff. Can’t we all just play “Deal or No Deal”?

Nikki: Don’t worry, I’m an idiot to the 10th power, so you can always count on being exponentially less idiotic than me.

Cruisin-Mom: You mean guess randomly and pretend our “gut feeling” is a science? Yeah, we used to do that before “Deal or No Deal” even- it’s called “day trading”. :)

Here in Australia there was a TV programme Australia’s Brainiest Child. There were 6 heats with the winner of each going to final. All 6 were of Asian descendency. Of course, as the TV executives could not stand that there were no whitey’s in the final, they introduced two wildcard entrants to the final. You really don’t need me to explain what race they were and how quickly they were eliminated.

Interesting post….it kinda stands out from what you normally right about….if you don’t mind me asking why you pick this, I say?

Russell Allen: That is funny. I really do wonder why it sometimes works out like the way it did on the NGB and the show you described, but I suppose it can also work out differently, as in the most recent national spelling bee in the U.S., where two of the final three contestants were white and one was half white/half Chinese.

Reflextion: Hmmm…I didn’t think it was all that different from my other posts…especially the ones that don’t just talk about mundane episodes in my life. Sometimes I just notice things that I find humorous and post about them- in this case these kids were: (i) ridiculously smart for 12-year-olds; and (ii) all Indian. I found that rather interesting, a bit peculiar, and funny at the same time, so I blogged about it after calling all my Indian friends (all of whom, btw are ridiculously smart) and asking them what kind of brain food their parents fed them. :)

hey…yeah education is of primary importance in India …i guess the grass in greener..i wish there was overall emphasis when i was still in school!…nice charts btw..:P..damn i wish i were 12 yr old tho:)

Good for that kid. Indians rule!

Sapna: Haha I’m glad you like the charts! :)

Rene Merced Jr: Yeah Indians totally rule. I love my Indian friends. One has a mom who makes the best samosas. And I LOVE butter chicken. For me it’s all about the food, as usual.

The clicky things did not work…?

Missy: You just click your mouse button and hold it down, then drag the mouse (while holding it down) downward over the white space below the text. Then the Invisotext will show so you can read the answer.

If that doesn’t work, if you just hover your mouse cursor over the horizontal line below each paragraph, the answer should show up in a small box next to your mouse cursor. If you click on those little lines, it’ll take you to the Wikipedia page of the answer.

Have fun with the q’s!

After the spelling bee, I actually wrote a post titled “It’s Official: Jews and Asians Admit: Indians Now the Smart Ones!” But my wife said it was too racist and I shouldn’t publish it. I bet you Indians would have liked it.

But no need to worry. By the third generation, Indians will be as dumb as the rest of us, caring more about American Idol than spelling.

Neil: You should definitely publish that post. Being Chinese American, I always feel free to make fun of my own peeps. And everyone else. :)

And all of our Asian Indian American friends (so as not to be confused with Native Americans) watch American Idol religiously. Along with Deal or No Deal. So I agree- soon we will have SAT parity.

It’s all good as long as I can keep getting my weekly fix of chicken makhani.

I work with an indian lady and asked her where she lives. She couldn’t give me directions. She’s probably in the NASCAR-esque subset of Indians.

Tim: I didn’t say that NASCAR fans didn’t know how to give directions! But they do like whiskey and heavy metal though. At least that’s what my friends who are NASCAR fans tell me. So that lady is in a different subsegment I believe. Given the population of India, I would imagine they have a lot of subsegments.

Wow. I feel so much more inadequate after reading that.
Thank you.
I’m going to slash my wrists now (but seeing how dumb i am, i probably won’t do it right. I’ll have to find some Indian or Asian child to help me out)

Steph: I am a verifiable expert at wrist slashing. I recommend using an electric shaver. That’s what I’ve been using, and I’m very experienced and keep getting closer and closer every time. I’m up to turn number 845, and remember that old expression, “846th time’s a charm!”

Don’t alert the president, but I think that kid is going to take over the world. Nice pies, Jack.

Mel: Boy, everyone likes the pies so much I think I’m gonna open a new pie shop! Sucky Pie, coming to malls across the U.S.

The Indian-American distribution is skewed towards geekiness so it makes sense that they instill geeky values in their babies.

JackT: Your predictions are coming true. My daughter is a 3rd gen American and she does watch American Idol. (Kat like totally should have won)

Then again it might just be because I am the cool Indian American parent.

Raj: There are way too many of you cool Indian American parents these days. Soon your kids will be competing on American Idol, not just watching it. Darn overachievers! ;)

And Chris Daughtry shoulda won. He was robbed, dude! :)

Very intersting post.
There’s an indian version of “Qui veut gagner des Millions?” (I believe the american version exists too). Its amazing the number of tough questions the indian kids answer. You’re in awe. But there’s one thing. I found this even more surprising and worrying. The kids had no idea who “La Belle au Bois dormant is” (Sleeping beauty).
You actuallycan be serious! Wow!


Fitèna: I think they should have a test for kids like this that involve talking to girls at parties. Let’s see how they do. :)

Of course they may not do so well in their youth, but when they are older and extremely wealthy from inventing cold fusion, there will be girls throwing themselves at these guys. :)

And I thought I’d inserted enough jokes in the post for it to be considered semi-funny, btw (I’m not that funny, just funny looking, so the jokes are only semi-funny har har har!).

I am betting that in the next 15 years he will own a chain of 7-11 stores and he will know the exact coordinates of each.

AWE: No, it’s probably his parents who are first generation immigrants who own the 7-11(s). Bonny will go to MIT and become a wealthy doctor or engineer. And then his kids will watch too much American Idol. :)

Well holy god. I’m not in the least bit surprised to say I hadn’t an inkling of any of those questions.

AMS: Don’t worry, you’re in very good company. I don’t think anybody except those kids knew the answers!

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