Ambassador’s Mon Avis Challenge
15th Inter-School Debating Competition for Indian Schools in Muscat
Indian School Al Wadi Al Kabir
October 11, 2023
‘Sapta Swaras of a Good Debate’
Remarks by Ambassador Amit Narang
Members of Board of Directors of Indian Schools in Oman,
Members of Management Committees, Principals, Teachers, Parents, Students
Esteemed panel of judges
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to participate in the 15th Edition of Ambassador’s Challenge-2023 - now titled ‘Mon Avis’ - the Inter-School Debate Competition organized by the Board of Directors.
I thank the Management of Indian School, Al Wadi Al Kabir for hosting this year’s function and for inviting me.
Instituted in 2009, the Ambassador’s Mon Avis Challenge Trophy has become one of the popular events in the Indian Schools calendar that brings together children from all the schools in an attempt to hone their debating and public speaking skills.
At the outset, therefore, allow me to extend my congratulations to all the students who have participated in this year’s edition.
As a former school debater, I think public debates are one of the most enriching and challenging extra-curricular activities for children.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At last year’s edition of the Debating Competition, a remarkable incident took place. I debated the title of the Competition – then called Polemic Challenge, and I won! My view prevailed!
I argued for more वाद and less विवाद
I argued that if we debate in the spirit of polemics, i.e. attacking the other person’s views and opinion, we end up talking at each other rather than talking with each other.
I am gratified that the Board of Directors took this feedback seriously and has now found an excellent new name for the competition ‘Mon Avis’ or ‘My Opinion’.
I am confident that the change in title will make this competition even more meaningful, enjoining upon the participants to share their opinions while respecting and engaging with the opinion of others.
Debating is a prestigious tradition, but it is by no means a new one. In fact, in joining debate with your peers, you are harking back to a hallowed Indian tradition that goes back centuries if not millennia.
Dialectical arguments – which essentially mean discovering what is true by considering opposite theories – and debates have been an intrinsic, and we may say, a unique intellectual heritage of Bharat.
This land of wisdom and philosophy has always valued the art of intellectual discourse. Our ancient scriptures are full of examples of debates and argumentation.
The most famous of them is of course the Bhagavad-Gita itself, which is an intense examination of two opposite viewpoints – that of Arjuna and Krishna.
In the more modern context, the India that we live in is also a product of spirited debates and discussions in the Constituent Assembly of India. These debates were not just about laws and regulations; they were the blueprints of our democracy.
Debating is not just a skill; it's an art form, a way of life, and a vehicle for change.
But what constitutes a good debate?
A good debate is not about winning or losing; it's about seeking the truth, finding common ground, and fostering understanding.
A good debate is like a symphony where every argument is a note, and every counter-argument is a response. It's about creating a harmonious blend of ideas, even if they seem contradictory at first.
A good debater is like a maestro who conducts this symphony, guiding the audience through the labyrinth of thoughts and ideas.
Allow me to elaborate on what could be called the 7 Mantras or the Sapta Swaras of a good debate.
1. Logical Rigor: Our ancient tradition of Tarkashastra emphasized the importance of logical reasoning. A good debate is built on a foundation of sound logic. Every argument presented should be well-reasoned, supported by evidence, and free from fallacies. It is not enough to state an opinion; one must substantiate it with facts and well-structured reasoning.
2. Clarity of Thought and Expression: In our ancient texts, we find the concept of "Vak-tantra," the art of effective speech. A good debater possesses the ability to articulate complex ideas with clarity and precision. Clarity of thought and expression is essential to convey one's point of view convincingly.
3. Respectful Discourse: Debates are not battles to be won but opportunities to engage in respectful discourse. It is crucial to maintain decorum and respect for one's opponents. Even when we disagree, we should do so with civility and grace. It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.
4. Open-mindedness: The ancient Indian philosophers believed in the importance of "Mananam" or contemplation. A good debater should be open to different perspectives and willing to reconsider their views in light of compelling arguments. An open mind is the gateway to intellectual growth.
5. The Art of Listening: In the tradition of "Shravana," or deep listening, we find the importance of actively listening to others. A good debate involves not only speaking but also attentively listening to the arguments of others. True understanding arises from active engagement with diverse viewpoints.
6. Ethical Conduct: Our tradition valued ethical conduct in all aspects of life, including debate. Honesty, integrity, and adherence to moral principles are integral to a good debate. An ethical debater upholds the principles of truth and fairness.
7. Constructive Engagement: The purpose of debate is not to defeat an opponent but to arrive at a deeper understanding of the subject. A good debate seeks constructive engagement, where ideas are refined, and knowledge is expanded. It is an opportunity for collective growth.
So dear participants,
Let us celebrate this competition not merely as an event but as a continuation of our intellectual legacy. Let us carry forward the spirit of Tarkashastra, the pursuit of truth, and the art of reasoned discourse into the future.
As you engage in spirited debates, remember that you are not just honing your skills; you are contributing to the intellectual growth of our nation.
I wish all the participants the very best.
May your debates be spirited, your arguments compelling, and your learning profound.
May this competition be an opportunity for each one of you to shine and leave an indelible mark on the world of ideas.
To conclude once again with the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, let us not raise our voices, let us improve our arguments.