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Class 8 student wins Indian debating league; says grandmother taught him positive thinking

The debate competition, which was held online, was themed on sustainable development goals



It is not always that one is able to ace something at the very first attempt. But R Karthik Sundareshwaran, class 8, Apeejay Pitampura, not only participated in a debate tournament for the first time but also went on to win it. Organised by AugLi Future Skills Academy, the competition called Frankenstein Debating Tournament saw the participation of school students from all over the country. Karthik won the tournament along with two of his teammates from other schools. In an interview, he tells us more about the debate competition, how his mother helped him, and so on:

Congratulations on winning the Frankenstein Debate Tournament! When did it begin?

The programme began with masterclasses in mid-June. In the masterclass, we were taught the fundamentals of debating and the format that was going to be followed at the tournament. This was followed by some qualifier rounds. A total of 12 students from across India qualified for the semi-finals out of which two teams (in groups of three) reached the final round, which took place recently. The entire event took place online.

This was your first-ever experience of a debate. What inspired you?

Our middle school in-charge Malini ma’am shared a message about this tournament on our chat group. I was always fascinated with debate but did not get a chance to do it earlier. When this opportunity came my way, I asked my mother to enroll me in the competition.  

What other co-curricular activities are you involved in?

I play table tennis and take formal training for that. Currently, I am no 3 in district-level table tennis. Besides, I am trained in vocal music and tabla and participate in cultural events—my mother teaches me music. Earlier, I used to play chess as well but now I have discontinued since I have to devote more time to academics now.  

Since my mother works in the Health Ministry, I got the opportunity as her ward to participate in inter-ministry cultural competitions as well—I took part in vocal music and tabla. I got a gold medal in vocal music twice and silver and bronze in tabla.  

Coming back to the debate, each round was based on a certain topic. What were these topics and how did you prepare?

The debate was themed on sustainable development goals. So, each round was based on a topic surrounding this theme. The motion and stance for the qualifier round were shared two days prior to the debate, for instance. Sometimes, we would be informed a day in advance as well.

In the qualifiers, the topics were based on fast fashion brands raising awareness and levying a heavy fine on people using plastics in India. I was against the motion in both cases.

In the semi-final round, you enacted the role of Prime Minister as the first speaker! How was that experience?

I had a wonderful experience and was very proud of myself. As the opening speaker, you are not exactly sure if you would be asked further questions. As the first speaker, I had to prepare thoroughly to be able to establish my argument so well that the opponent cannot counter it. It was a tough job, but my mother helped me a lot.

What was the final round of the tournament like?

The topic was the medicalisation of eco-anxiety; our team was against the motion. Throughout the debate competition, I have learned a lot—not just about how to prepare my arguments but also about sustainability in general. When I came across the topic the first time, I was clueless but with considerable research over time, I gained a lot of knowledge.

The final was conducted by Calyxx Peucker, an international debating and public speaking trainer. We had a very good interaction with him.

Now that you have won this competition, have you figured out some tricks to ace a debate?

The most important thing to keep in mind is logical reasoning. If your reasoning and arguments are good, then the opponent will not be able to counter too easily. In a debate, people tend to put forward their stance only by stating examples and statistics. But one should remember these are tools that can be used to only support our argument; they are not the argument itself. Third, prepare for impromptu rebuttals. This means you have to know your subject thoroughly. If we combine these factors, we can win a debate.

Your team members belonged to two different schools in India. How well did you collaborate and what did you learn in the process?

I built a very good rapport with my team members. We cooperated with each other and did not have too much of a difference of opinion. We could do the preparation, albeit online, very smoothly. I learned a lot from my teammates. There were excellent team dynamics, which is another key to winning this competition.

How supportive were your parents?

I get a lot of encouragement from my parents to participate in such tournaments and this time was no exception. My mother helped me with the preparation while my father also suggested some tips. Besides, my grandmother taught me positive thinking.

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Principal 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.