How it all began, The Chandigarh Debating Circuit

How it all began, The Chandigarh Debating Circuit
~Vikesh Siddhu

Precursory Note

There are many reasons why I wish to write down the events that led to the formation of the Chandigarh Debating Circuit. Back in 2009, while I was still grappling with the idea of doing parliamentary debating at IISER Mohali, I wanted to know how other institutions started societies. Sadly, I could find no written record anywhere. I tried to ask people at various debating circuits in Bangalore and Delhi on how their circuits came about, but did not find any written records there. 
The tradition of keeping a log and well documented history has evaded us Indians. We have always laid more emphasis on the oral tradition of passing knowledge. This tradition has its peculiarities. For one, it leads to dissemination of incorrect information, one that is suitably biased by the taste of the various speakers and further amended by the perspective of the listener. It also leads to the creation of myths, which can neither be proved nor be disproved. I wish that we keep a record of what led to the formation of the circuit and also minimize the problems with the oral tradition.
To the best of my memory I here write the motivation and the events that led to the formation of the Chandigarh debating circuit. I am mired by my own perceptions; So, I don’t think I will be able to do justice to all the actors in game. Indeed there were a lot of people who led to the formation of the circuit. I might miss some of them. Quite a few would have worked at various stages but I might be unaware of their roles. Further this chronicle mainly covers the parliamentary debate scene upto the first Trivium debate. A lot has happened after that, the second and third edition of Trivium and Infero. Recently, CCET organized its first parliamentary Debate which in my opinion shows the growth of the circuit.
I am very bad with dates and consequently I might commit an error here or there. I apologize to everyone whom I have missed.

Motivation

In 2009 Jan, we had started a debating society at IISER Mohali and were majorly interested in parliamentary debating. Among the hurdles that we faced, the biggest was isolation. We had no interaction with other debating societies in the tricity. This was a formidable problem, because the only practice we got was inbred within IISER Mohali. We ourselves had little exposure of parliamentary debating and did not feel we were learning enough or having as much fun. Further, each time we wanted to participate in a tournament we had to go to Delhi. This meant we had to survive in the socially motivated Delhi Debating circuit. A few school friends helped me out and got us invited to some of the debates. Here nobody took us seriously, given that we were not well known. We usually lost, sometimes for the lack of skills but most of the times because the other team was from a well known college. The latter was usually a sufficient reason to lose in Delhi! In a given tournament if we lost the first few matches we ended up in the lower end of the tab and we were hardly assigned good adjudicators. Consequently, we learned very little and were usually frustrated at the end of the tournament.
We felt that building our own circuit in Chandigarh would be really helpful. We could go step by step. First, have regular practice session and in the process have fun debating with other colleges. Every now and then we could organize tournaments for the tricity. By building a general culture for debating, we could eventually grow bigger.
If people are able to see the fun side of the debating then the scale of the events would automatically increase. The local tournaments would go national. By getting a level headed adjudication core we could train ourselves in parliamentary format, have our own distinct style of debating and conducting tournaments.
Once we have a circuit we would have no need to go out of station every time we wanted to participate in a tournament. It would make the parliamentary debating learning curve much simpler and much more fun. As a byproduct we may even free ourselves of having to prove our worth in other hostile socially connected debating circuits. 

Initiation

At a debate in BITS Pilani in late 2009, I met Shubham Saikia from Army Institute of Law, Mohali(AIL). AIL had come to participate and we got talking about establishing a circuit in Chandigarh. We exchanged phone numbers and decided to follow up. Later IIT Ropar, had a fest in early 2010.Among other things they organized a group discussion and a conventional debate. Few members from the IISER Mohali Debating society had also gone to participate there. We met debaters from IIT Ropar, Punjab Engineering College(PEC), Chandigarh College of Engineering Technology(CCET) and Army Institute of Law(AIL).  After interacting with everyone, I realized that in the tricity conventional debates were in vogue while parliamentary debating was yet to be introduced. Further there was no common platform where debaters interacted.
Soon, after the IIT Ropar Fest, PEC organized its annual literary fest- Verve, we all met here again. Some people from DAV college Sector 10 were also there. We thought we could all meet once again and discuss how we could build a debating circuit in Chandigarh. A few days later we met in Oven Fresh at Sector 26, Chandigarh. Lakshay from CCET, Gagandeep and Vaibhav from PEC, Shubham and Mandira from AIL and Kiran and myself from IISER Mohali. Everyone shared a similar motivation for starting a circuit but we all had different ideas on how to start one. Since PD was not well known some of the ideas did not include PD! Finally, we all agreed to do something but did not know what exactly was to be done. We at IISER Mohali thought that we must do a Parliamentary Debate Tournament in the tricity so that there is some awareness about the format. Once people know about PD it would be easier to push for a circuit centered on PD. We met once again at Barista in Sector 17 to chalk out a few things. Here we were also joined by Abhishek and Manyu from the DAV Sector 10. They also wanted to help build the circuit. Abhishek made a Facebook page called “Chandigarh Debating Circuit” which provided a platform for all the debaters to interact. This page is where everyone puts up information about events and activities of the circuit.
The IISER Mohali Debating Society organized INFERO in 2010. It was the first Parliamentary Debating tournament in the tricity. It had prize money worth 15 thousand rupees. I had met Rahul Saini twice before. Once at BITS Pilani and later at the NLSUI Bangalore debate. His team had broken at both the tournaments and went on to the semi finals of the NLS Debate. Rahul was living in Chandigarh and was happy to be a part of the adjudication core for the tournament.
 The first day of the debate was absolute horror! We had about 12 teams and no adjudicators! Some of the teams backed out right after we announced the schedule; they did not anticipate that the debate would last for two whole days. After the adjudication core’s briefing on the format, we were scared whether any of teams would even show up for the post lunch rounds. Thankfully none of the teams backed out because of the format. The tournament went well, the standard of debates was that of any fresher’s tournament, but we got the feeling that participants were enjoying the debate. DAV Sector 10 won the tournament and a cross team for University Institute of Engineering Technology (UIET) stood runners up. The tournament marked the humble beginning of PD’s in the tricity. A lot of the teams came back after the tournament and told us that they really liked the format.

Progress

In order to get the circuit going, a lot of things were tried. There were joint practice sessions with IISER-M, PEC, AIL and DAV. Since people found PD to be fun they spontaneously came forward and started debating. PEC in its annual fest in 2011 tried to organize a PD as well. It was not a grand success but it made amply clear that the format had settled in and people were interested. AIL who had missed out on INFERO because of a schedule mismatch took the lead. They had a huge debating society. Shubham, Mandira, Sirtaj and Jishnu organized a fabulous tournament, Pitch. The tournament had prize money of 80 thousand rupees, a fabulous adjudication core, and over 4 dozen teams from all over the country. It was stupendously well organized, unlike most tournaments in the country it ran perfectly on schedule and the prize money was given right at the end of tournament. They had a good hospitality team and the tournament was rated 5/5 on “www.debatersdiary.com” .
The next big ticket tournament was Trivium, organized by PEC. It was the brainchild of Vaibhav Nangia and they had done a commendable job. Even though it was their first tournament they left no stone unturned. They started out on a national scale with teams from all over the country. People from Delhi, Bangalore and Chandigarh were part of the adjudication core. The prize money was close to one lakh rupees. Their hospitality was like none other tournament in the country, most of the outstation teams and adjudication core could not believe that such great hospitality exists in the debating world. PEC held a fabulous break night party at Cafe Oz. The tournament prize money was distributed right after the finals. PEC had made its mark in the debating circuit.
After these two tournaments the Chandigarh debating circuit had established a name for itself at the national scene. The Chandigarh PD tournaments became known for a hospitable stay, a good adjudication core and an efficient organization committee. 
These events marked the beginning of the Chandigarh Debating circuit.

Prologue

While Infero introduced PD, Pitch and Trivium took the circuit national. This allowed a lot of local debaters to learn and participate in more debates and got the circuit on track. Now, the task is to keep these activities sustained. In my opinion that process has also begun. Trivium and Infero have come out with their successive editions and CCET recently organized its first parliamentary debate tournament. All of them now provide ample opportunity for debaters to nourish, grow and have fun. Hopefully the trend will continue and the circuit would prove its worth on the international scene.

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