Having retained the trophy for the past two years, and with a strong hope of continuing the streak, a team comprising Atrey Bharghava, Devang Laddha, Vedant Mehra and I spent our mid-terms in Ajmer to participate in the 22nd Annual Padmashree JTM Gibson Memorial English Debates hosted by Mayo College. Being well practiced after several prior tournaments, we plunged ourselves into two more days of debates after an arduous mid-year Trials; mustering all the energy we could to secure victory once again. After an interminable train journey, we arrived at Mayo’s gargantuan campus a day prior to the event that fortunately allowed us to recuperate. However, the thought of being in Ajmer proved irresistible, and to satisfy our adventurous spirits we left the campus to visit the city’s world-renowned Dargah Sharif, a Sufi shrine and place of pilgrimage. With elevated spirits, we then travelled to the locally renowned Mango Masala restaurant with the added motive of respecting a tradition set by Doscos on their frequent ‘visits’ to the city. A final walk through the bazaars brought us back to the school; satiated by our experiences and ready to begin with the real purpose of our trip.

Having received our motion the night before, we were content with our preparation for the first Preliminary round, debating the motion ‘This House would award votes to citizens based on their performance in a current affairs test’. As the opposing side up against the Vasant Valley School, we proved that such tests would further wedge inequalities of opportunity, and established the sacred nature of every individual’s vote. Our efforts proved worthwhile as we clinched our first victory, with Devang being adjudged the Best Speaker. A short break ensued before our second round against Mayo College Girls’ School. Opposing the now politically-relevant motion ‘This House would ban surrogate motherhood in India’, our case iterated how the motion would discriminate against competent parents, and suggested a model for improving surrogacy standards. Once again we emerged triumphant; winning the debate as well as a Best Speaker’s award. Having topped the preliminary rankings, we then prepared for our Quarter-Final round against the Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls School, this time as proponents of the motion ‘This House Believes That repression of civil rights justifies violent action’. While arguing that violent action be a measure of the last resort, and its effectiveness in obtaining civil rights, we were able to win the debate and progress to the Semi-Finals, taking with us the day’s third award for Best Speaker. To unwind after a hard day’s work, we attended a rousing Rock concert by the school’s band and had a scrumptious dinner with our room-mates from The Shriram School.

Eager to continue our streak of success, we rose early to prepare for our Semi-Final round against the Modern School: opposing the motion ‘This House would not censor any artistic expression’. Our case sought to promote respectful artistic expression and distinguished reasonable expression from ‘intolerance, and despite facing a dynamic challenge from our opponents, we were adjudged the winners once again, receiving yet another Best Speaker’s award. Being third year finalists, we felt the pressure of expectation as we prepared our case against the motion ‘This House believes that it is better for society to believe in life after death’. As the opposition, we argued against the belief in superstition and advocated for accomplishment in an individual’s current and definitive lifespan. The debate was perhaps our toughest as we battled against the National Defence Academy in a closely contested Final. As the verdict was announced, we were thrilled to walk on stage as the tournament’s victors for the third consecutive year, bringing back the trophy as well as the tournament’s Overall Best Speaker’s award. Following the Oliphant Debates, the success was our second major victory this season: with the School retaining yet another title, and with prospects for greater triumphs in the future now looking brighter.