It was India all the way at the World Schools Debating Championships (WSDC) 2019 in Bangkok. The five-man team fielded by the country won the championship and one of the team-members, Chennai's Tejas Subramaniam, went on to be crowned the 'best speaker in the world'.
A proud mother Vinutha Subramaniam said she was among those who had given up debating with him as he already was the best speaker in the family.
"After one point he knew too many things. So, we couldn't debate with him. He started speaking quite early and by the time he was 1, he could speak complete sentences. At around 2, he would speak a sentence in Tamil and be able to repeat it in English so much so that we would call him 'Major Sundarrajan' (after a famous Tamil actor)," Vinutha said.
The team, which also included Bhavya Shah, Manya Gupta, Saranya Ravindran and Prithvi Arun, had already prepared 140 motions before the championships with the help of their coaches Dhruva Bhat, Sayeqa Islam and Dhananjay Ashok among others.
"There was not a single topic that we were baffled by," said Saranya, a student of Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary School in Chennai.
The team might have made giant strides this year, but proving their mettle on the global debating circuit was an experience in itself.
"Because we are accented, sometimes I think we are not understood. Like, for example, when the judges give us our feedback, they tell us you made a new argument in your third speech when we clearly made it in our earlier speeches too," Tejas, who like Saranya studies in Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary School, said.
First visually impaired speaker to debate in the final
Bhavya, a student of Rao Junior College of Science in Mumbai, the team's 'Funny guy', became the first visually impaired speaker to debate in a WSDC final and to make it among the top 10 speakers.
He was named the sixth best speaker in the world.
Bhavya shared some of his most memorable moments.
When debating against Canada opposing the motion “This House would ban the practice of 'importing brides', Canada’s argument was that if importing brides were to be legalised, other refugees would be affected because of the opportunity cost," Bhavya said.
"So, I argued that this was an argument against any other form of immigration. What if team Canada so decides, 'we don’t want Indians coming into the country because they’re better at debating than we are?'," he said.
Point made, the team went on to win defeat the Canadians 3-0.
It was Canada whom they defeated in the final also, proposing the motion "This house regrets the glorification of soldiers as heroes".