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An estimated 7-minute read

Memoirs Of A Law School Debater (once upon a time in Delhi)

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MEMOIRS OF A LAW SCHOOL DEBATER

(This is a true account of what happened with students of a law school when they were in Delhi for a debate; names of certain locations and persons have been withheld to protect the identity of the students)

 

Parliamentary style debating is one of the lesser known activities of law school, it differs significantly from high school debating in this that it is more spontaneous and is an exercise in having ‘presence of mind’; unlike the ‘fist-pounding’ and aggression needed to debate motions in schools. Those of you who have debated at some time in law school would be familiar with the intricacies involved in this activity. Debating like public speaking is a skill desirable in every lawyer- after all, lawyering is about arguing the case for your client- the bread and butter of every lawyer.

In my 2nd semester, I heard that our college would be sending teams to debate in Delhi University colleges, I teamed up with 3 batch mates and we participated in the intras for the Shri Ram Debating Fest. Our team secured a good rank in the intras and we were chosen to represent our college in the prestigious Shri Ram College of Commerce debate.

The prospect of getting to represent our college nationally and that too in our first year was too good to be true. We had heard that Delhi University had some of the best debaters- the thought of debating them was intimidating. Having made it to the selections, we decided that in the twenty days we had before our debate in Delhi, we would practise as frequently as possible so that even though our chances of qualifying in the quarter finals was next to zero, we would at least have put up our best show!...thus began endless practice sessions after class hours where we would request obliging seniors to act as dummy teams and adjudicate our debates. Having had at least six such practices, we were confident that we would not make fools of ourselves in the competition and with this confidence, we boarded the train to Delhi the night before the debate...

Day 1:

We reached Delhi in the morning and were duly escorted from the station by a student from SRCC. We were taken to SRCC where we registered our team and directed to a hotel close to the college where we were to get refreshed (for the time being and stay for the four days that we were in Delhi).

The first day of the competition was extremely tiring with the show running behind schedule and two preliminary rounds conducted one after another we were mentally and physically drained, hungry and ready to pounce on any one who said the word ‘debate’ one more time. It was nine o’ clock by the time Day 1 concluded and two of us, my friend Miranda and I went on ahead of our team mates to catch the metro back to the hotel.

The Hotel:

We reached the hotel around ten and were stopped (rather urgently) from entering the hotel. The guard told us: “Andar Jaana Mana Hai.” I explained to him that we were participants in a debate organized by SRCC which had made the accommodation for our stay in the hotel. He replied, “Aap andar chale jaeye, lekin uupar jaana mana.” Tired and sleepy, we decided to wait inside the lobby. At this point, I might add that both Miranda and I are great believers in ‘Look good, feel good’ and that day we were dressed to attract attention but the kind of attention we were getting from the men hovering in the lobby was least desirable at the time. While I was trying to make sense of what the guard meant, Miranda pulled me outside.

“What happened”, I asked her once we were outside the hotel. “Don’t you SEE! There is a prostitution racket going on, there’s been a police raid. Look there are police vans standing outside”! I looked at where she pointed a little distance away from the hotel and sure enough, they were. Having never encountered anything like this before, we deliberated our next move. We asked the guard why he had stopped us from going upstairs. He replied, “Ladka Ladki ko uupar ek saath jaana mani hai.” We looked him in the eye and asked, “Is there a prostitution racket going on?” He replied, “ Haan, yahan aksar police aati hai.”

At this point, the hotel owner came outside and inquired what the matter was. He was obviously trying to brush off the guard. He asked us why we weren’t going inside. Since we were not going to tell the hotel owner what we knew, we quietly headed back to our room and the first thing that we did was to bolt the room from inside.

Law school teaches you to think and think fast. Faced with an imminent threat of being arrested for prostitution (if the police came here and decided to take us away) or silenced by the hoteliers (to keep the situation under wrap), all sorts of dark tales that we had heard about Delhi flooded our minds. Would any one find out what had really happened, once the nasty looking men in the lobby were through with us?

Once inside our room, we packed all our stuff, switched off the lights, blocked the entrance with furniture (all the ingredients of a typical suspense thriller). We called our team mates whom we had left behind and told them not to come back to the hotel. We called the organizers in SRCC who told us that they would be on their way. And we called our parents to tell them what had passed. And we waited...I peeped through the window and much to my horror, I saw two people walking with their hands behind their back and something glinting on their wrists.

All the while that we were going through this harrowing experience, a student from SRCC was on the phone with us asking us to recount the details right from the time the guard stopped us from entering the hotel and to remain calm.

Finally, the wait gave way to a loud knocking on the door. Without unlocking the door, we first inquired who the person was and only when we were satisfied that it was indeed a student from SRCC that we opened the door. Following him into our room was the hotel-owner. We insisted that he leave the room before we recounted for the sixth time what had happened. My friend Miranda called a cab and we decided to spend the night at Miranda’s aunt’s place in Delhi. We took our luggage down to the lobby where a crowd had collected by now: our fellow team-mates had arrived and several other teams which were staying at the hotel were by now voicing their displeasure at having to stay in such an obnoxious place. The police had also arrived and the hotel-owner confirmed that there was indeed a police raid. He added, “But this is regular here”.

Thoroughly disgusted, we began to leave. The SRCC people asked us for a seventh time for an account of the night’s events but all we wanted was to leave. They said that there was no danger now but the thought of spending even a minute there was traumatizing. Later that night at one o’ clock, when we were safely in the cab and far away from the Hotel, I can only remember sighing with relief that Miranda had the presence of mind to detect early on that something was amiss. I am sure that I would not have survived this without her...

Epilogue:

On that fateful night, lying on the bed, Miranda & I considered leaving for Lucknow in the morning. We ended up debating on Day 2 and we knew we had not made it to the quarter finals. A break night party (with free booze) had been arranged for all the participants later that night when the results would be declared but we were too tired to party...we left for Lucknow the next day (a day ahead of our actual day of return).

Back in college, we recounted the incident for the seventeenth time to our seniors and peers. Some found it funny, some said we should have reported the matter to the college authorities but only few understood what we had been through that night.

Thankfully, our desire to debate did not turn any less intense and we still look forward to debating in and outside college.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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