Come November, the Indian high-school debating season usually winds down quietly. However, unlike the rest of the country, we at Doon were yet to face our biggest challenge – our very own tournament, with its new junior avatar. Moreover, this year was a special one, marking the debates’ Diamond Jubilee edition, which only further raised expectations. The work began months in advance, and after all the planning, training, and preparation, the School hosted the 60th Annual Chuckerbutty Memorial Debates and the 1st Junior English Debating Invitational Cup (termed JEDI by our ‘Masters’) over the course of last week. The Junior Cup was the first item on our five-day agenda, being the first such tournament of its kind in the region. The School’s purpose behind this novel idea was to give younger students a premature taste of competitive debating, setting them in motion for competitions at the senior level. For this, the five participating schools (plus two teams of our own) provided a healthy pool where one could debate against new teams and unfamiliar speakers. The motions too, were designed to push these young participants towards senior-level argumentation, some of them being ‘This House will worship money’, ‘This House will not question its elders’, and in the final round ‘This House will ban advertisements aimed at children’. The Doon School-A Team managed to advance to the semi-final, but ultimately lost against the RIMC, which then went onto beat Welham Boys’ in the finals and win the tournament. Though our teams didn’t win, the debate fulfilled its purpose of providing experience, and served as an organizational exercise for the twice-as-large Chuckerbutty Debates, which began the following day.
Friday morning saw the arrival of twelve senior teams from across the country to compete in our hallmark event. Representing the school were Chaitanya Kediyal, Ishaan Kapoor and I, who switched over from our organizing roles of the previous two days. Confident with our practice, we were first confronted with the motion ‘This House would not glorify ‘busy’ as the opposing side against the Vivek High School. Our case revolved around the inherent importance of work and the exemplary role that hardworking individuals play in societies; simultaneously drawing the important distinction between being ‘busy’ and a workaholic. The debate saw us emerge the unanimous winners along with a Best Speaker award, which provided us much needed confidence for the second round. Owing to time constraints, our preparation time was reduced by half-anhour, and we entered the debate (with some frenetic preparation) as proponents of the motion ‘This House Believes That corruption has no currency’ against St. George’s College. Here, we argued that corruption exists primarily in an individual’s ‘intentions’ as compared to their actions, and presented several cases of nonmonetary corruption’s occurrence. With a unanimous decision of the judges, the debate swung in our favour, with Ishaan being adjudged the Best Speaker. Now midway through the preliminary stage, the next day saw us paired in the third round against familiar faces from The Shri Ram School, Moulsari, which was perhaps our toughest preliminary debate. With the motion being ‘This House would prioritize civil liberties over national security’, our proposition case showed how the need for national security arose from civil liberties themselves, along with the importance of civil liberties in protection from state exploitation under the excuse of national security(as noticed in the United States). The debate was particularly challenging, yet we were able to secure a win along with a Best Speaker award for Chaitanya. Following our packed lunches, we resumed the preliminary segment with its fourth round – debating the also-familiar Vasant Valley School on the motion ‘This House would refrain from putting mothers on a pedestal’, once again as the proposing side. In our burden to show the overwhelming harms of a pedestal, we proved how it would restrict the choice of women to avoid motherhood, and argued for excellence and merit to replace motherhood on any such platform.
Once again, we added both another win and a Best Speaker award for Chaitanya to our tally. Having comfortably advanced to the semi-finals, we were paired yet again against Vasant Valley (with roles now reversed) on the motion ‘This House would give states the right to pay states to relocate and settle refugees.’ Owing to our World Schools’ training, the topic was one in which we stood well versed – and our seven arguments plus certain ‘fiery rebuttals’ pulled us a unanimous victory; with Chaitanya as Best Speaker. After hours of three intense debates, the evening’s dinner and dance served as a favourable relief for both the day’s stress, and for us, the anxiety of being the tournament’s finalists. The next morning we convened at the Library with our co-finalists from Shri Ram to receive our motion. After a series of vetoing and a toss, we ended up as the opposition with ‘This House Believes That humanity has outgrown the nation state’. As witnessed in the MPH, our stance drew arguments on the principle of a nationstate, as well as the administrative difficulties in the formation of any global alternative; our refutation to the proposition’s case being real-world examples to show that nation-state affinity is strong. Ultimately, in a decisive 6-1 ballot judgement, we lifted the Chuckerbutty trophy as the tournament’s undefeated winners: returning it back home after last year’s loss to Mayo College. Indeed, our victory at Chuckerbutty culminated for us the annual debating season on a very favourable note, with the School securing its third undefeated victory at a major-level debate – a high success for any institution. As this Annus Mirabilis concludes, we can pride ourselves on both a formidable finish with improved success from last year, and a base from which greater achievements are within sight for the next.