Pranay Bhatia- NLS Debate 2010 Champion: On Parliamentary Debates, Logic, Being Well Read and the Learning Curve

Pranay Bhatia was a part of the parliamentary debate team from IIT Bombay which won the recently held NLS Debate 2010. Follow the conversation below! There are loads of insights to gain from! Maybe it will also arouse the reluctant debater in you.

me [Pooja Maloo]: before we formally start is this your first interview?

12:45 AM pranaybhatia02: yeah, apart from job/intern interviews

12:48 AM me: My too! First of all, something in general about you…as in…the your year and branch in IITB and the place you come from.

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12:49 AM pranaybhatia02: 4th year, Computer Science, born and brought up in Bombay

12:50 AM me: So you have been debating since school days?

12:51 AM pranaybhatia02: There isn’t much debating in Mumbai schools. I used to participate in the internal school competitions and the rare interschool debates though

me: Then how did debating happen to you?

12:52 AM pranaybhatia02: In my second year in IIT, three seniors – Rahul Dash, Shantanu Gangal and Tarun Mathur – started the IIT Bombay Debating Society

12:53 AM and encouraged us to participate in debates

My first debate was NLS 2008, which was an incredible learning experience

and it sort of took off from there

12:56 AM me: So what according to you makes a good debater?

12:57 AM pranaybhatia02: A love of ideas and issues. You need to be well read to debate well, and there’s no way that’ll happen unless you really are interested in issues that affect people

A lucid thought process, so that the debater can explain these ideas to other people

That’s about all, and even these can be developed by people who like to and want to debate

1:01 AM me: If you feel so strongly for the things, should you not be with us as in the law schools?

1:02 AM as in the same qualities we inculcate over the time here…

1:04 AM pranaybhatia02: haha … the link between debating and law is rather indirect. While it’s true that law teaches a lot of the speaking skills that help in debate, and also matter like discussions of punishment, justice etc

1:05 AM other fields of study have their own attractions, and people with general curiosity can feel strongly for debate even while doing engineering, medicine etc.

1:06 AM I find CS [computer science] fascinating, and the concrete logic that is required to solve problems is hugely helpful in debates too – something a lot of engineers will tell you about what they study

1:09 AM me: So can the debating skills actually be learnt?

1:12 AM pranaybhatia02: Definitely. It happens all the time in IIT Bombay and other institutes too

Most of the people in our debsoc [Debating Society] have never debated before

1:13 AM What can’t be forced, however, is the desire to know more about the world and the issues that affect people

That’s probably the only prerequisite, a curious mind

1:14 AM me: does IIT as an institute promotes it


1:15 AM pranaybhatia02: Only in very limited ways. For the last two years, we have been hosting the IIT Bombay Debate with great success, with the support of the authorities

However in terms of compensation for attendance, or funding to participate in competition, our institute [IIT Bombay] does not help yet

1:16 AM Perhaps this success and the rise of debate as an activity in general can persuade them to show greater support

(this success = NLS win)

1:18 AM me: how will you rate the NLS Debate?

as in the debating culture. level of participation and judging?

1:19 AM pranaybhatia02: It’s a fantastic tournament. The best in India. I’ve been here for the last 3 years, and NLS 2008 was my first tournament.

1:20 AMIt’s incredibly friendly to novice teams with judges who have great feedback to help beginners, and a separate novice break also

1:21 AM And the level of judging in the top rooms is really high, both because of the internal pool of NLS judges and alumni, and the incredible personalities they invite from abroad

It attracts the best teams in India, and I think it’s the most prestigious tournament to win for any non-NLS team

1:24 AM me: Yes, It is! IIT B thrashed us in so called our domain! So besides NLS did you do some other debates since 2008?

as in the other national debates?

1:25 AM pranaybhatia02: I’ve been to IIT Delhi, SRCC, Hindu College

me: and winning them all?!?

pranaybhatia02: and a couple of tournaments in Asia – Malaysia Debate Open and Asian Championships in Thailand

nope, none actually

1:26 AM This was the first victory by any IIT Bombay team in any National Debate

We were finalists in IIT Delhi and semi-finalists in Malaysia Debate Open, so we’ve been close

just never had actually won

1:27 AM me: and you never felt let down?

1:28 AM pranaybhatia02: I debate because its fun, so never felt let down too much. Then again, winning is great fun and losing is never very pleasant

As long as one is satisfied with the judges decision, it feels fine to lose

1:29 AM me: Is it only Parliamentary debate with you?

1:30 AM conventional and turn table?

1:31 AM pranaybhatia02: By and large Parliamentary, I find it the most engaging form of debate – it allows for very little fluff and hiding behind confusing words.

Only ever done conventional(reached finals) and turn table(won) at SRCC. when they had it alongside the parliamentary debate tournament

1:34 AM me: how do you keep yourself updates?

as in some specific newspaper?


1:35 AM pranaybhatia02: I’m a bit of a news junkie, so I read quite a bit – the daily newspaper (Indian Express is awesome), Time magazine, the New York Times website – stuff like that

1:36 AM me: Apparently this is your last year over here!

What do you intend to do and what happens of debating?

1:37 AM pranaybhatia02: Yep 🙂 Feeling old already

I have placements in December, so will take up a job mostly

Hopefully debating can happen in between, maybe in open tournaments or as a judge

1:38 AM Perhaps training youngsters, specially schoolchildren, in debate is something that I would look to do occasionally

1:39 AM me: That is so great!

1:43 AM Apparently you feel, reflect and voice strongly for things happening around. In short – political bent of mind – will you step down ever in politics and public administration?

1:44 AM pranaybhatia02: Not yet 🙂 It’s a big bad world out there and I have more comfortable options

I do plan to give the IAS exam at some point

1:45 AM I think it takes a lot of bravery to go headlong into politics, and maybe one day I’ll muster enough of it

Till then, just a citizen with an active political opinion

1:48 AM me: Is there is something you want to say to the student community in general?

1:52 AM pranaybhatia02: To beware of people who preach. Having said that, most of us are very lucky to be where we are, in good institutions with comfortable lives.

It’d be nice if we could think beyond ourselves to things which affect a lot of people who aren’t living as comfortably. Opinion isn’t action, but it’s the first step towards it, and the least we can be bothered to do.

1:57 AM me: sorry!

got disconnected!

I hope you are still there!

1:58 AM pranaybhatia02: Np, go ahead 🙂

me: message for all the upcoming debaters?

2:01 AM pranaybhatia02: Debate has a long learning curve. You’ll probably lose quite a bit before you learn the tricks of the trade. So stick at it, and it’ll be worth it with the amount of fun you have and how much you learn. You’ll also meet some really interesting and pretty people on the way, so make friends!

2:02 AM me: and interviews!

That was on the lighter note.

me: I guess I am done with the interview. I hope I was not lame. As I said I did this for the first time!

2:16 AM pranaybhatia02: It was lovely, don’t worry about it. I had fun, hope you did too

me: can you think of some question you think I left?

2:17 AM pranaybhatia02: haha, nopes. But a request, in whatever you write – try and see if you can mention those 3 names I said earlier – it really is their initiative that has resulted in whatever we have achieved.

We experimented with a style of interviewing which is very ‘on time’ and very ‘free wheeling’: Gmail Chats! Do let us know how you liked it.

The ‘me’ here is Pooja Maloo, our college manager from HNLU who took this initiative of interviewing Pranay Bhatia. Pranay Bhatia was the part of the debate team from IIT Bombay which won the recently held NLS Debate 2010.

The final of the NLS Debate between R.V. College of Engineering (RVCE) and IIT Bombay was a one sided affair which IIT Bombay won on an 8-1 split.

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