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‘A skilled debater is not just a good speaker but also a good listener’

Adam Bashneen, who became the runner-up at Frankenstein Debating Tournament, reveals how to ace impromptu rebuttals

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A student of class 8 at Apeejay School Saket, Adam Bashneen has always loved watching debates and has participated in several competitions. He recently qualified for the finals of the recently held Frankenstein Debating Tournament, organised by AugLi Future Skills Academy, and was declared the runner-up. Having gained some experience in debating, Adam is already eyeing more national and international tournaments. In an interview, he reveals how he developed interest in debating, his preparation process for the competition, and more. Edited excerpts:

How did you come to know about the debate and what made you participate?

It was broadcast by my school. When I saw it, I filled out the form and registered for the tournament. Initially, we had three-four masterclasses on debating techniques and formats. After this, we had three qualifying matches where nearly 80 students from across the country participated. Of these, 12 qualified for the semi-finals—we were divided into teams of three. Two teams were selected for the finals, where we came second.

Have you always been interested in debates?

I loved watching US presidential debates. I participated in some competitions earlier and I have a lot of interest in debate.

What was your preparation process like for the competition?

I had to devote a lot of time to the preparation. I had to work hard to gather extensive information from multiple sources. Plus, we had to analyse our opponent’s arguments. My team and I would also meet virtually for a minimum of two-three hours to discuss strategies. Around the time of the finals, the meetings would continue for five-six hours. It took all of this to form good content for a debate.

That must have been challenging. How did you balance academics and your preparation?

I used to wake at 7 or 8 am and complete my school assignments first. My teammates and I decided on a time when we could meet virtually—we would be awake till 1 or 2 am at night. Finding time in the morning or afternoon was a challenge for all students since we had our holiday homework. It was challenging but I sailed through.

What was it like collaborating with students from other schools?

It was a very good experience. We became good friends. I am still in touch with my team members. In fact, I also interacted with my opponents after the matches, who were from other cities, to discuss how we could improve. We learned a lot from each other.

Impromptu rebuttals are crucial to winning a debate. How did you master it?

I have been debating for a long time now. It develops with experience. Of course, you need to be a good speaker to be a good debater, but to excel in it, you need to be a good listener as well. You have to analyse each word your opponent says and identify the gaps in the argument to be able to give impromptu replies. And for this, you have to listen to your opponent attentively.

The debate competition was themed on sustainable development goals. Through the competition, what have you learned about sustainability?

Protection of the environment is the need of the hour in the wake of global warming. Use of plastics, fast fashion are things that need to be stopped. We need to research and look for alternatives.

Do you also practise sustainability?

In our home, we use cloth bags in place of plastic. From throwing waste outside to fast fashion, we try and avoid it as much as possible. I make sure to do my part for the environment.

How have your parents supported you in the journey?

Throughout, my parents helped a lot not just in terms of moral support but by actually guiding me in preparing for each of the levels, from preparing my arguments to ways to counter. I would also like to thank my grandfather who was my pillar of strength. They all played a crucial role in the entire journey.

How supportive was your school?

Thanks to my school, I was able to participate in the debate! Throughout the competition, I was in contact with my social science and science teachers, who believed in me and encouraged me.

Are you planning to participate in any other debate competition?

Yes, there is the Indian Schools Debating Society (ISDS) competition and if you win that, you get an opportunity to be part of the Indian debate team, and then you can go to Oxford for debating.

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Senior Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.

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