Debating – a high-octane culture that stimulates the bright minds of the students in Bangladesh. To learn more about the debating scene of the country, we rendezvoused with veteran debater and President of the ‘Bangladesh Debating Council’, Fardeen Ameen.
We first asked about his life in school, to which his reflex action was a bashful smile. “I was never inclined towards debating or any ECA as a matter of fact. Scholastica is my alma mater and the ECA practices there is very rich. My parents did influence me to partake in Spelling Bee competitions and such, but that never worked out. I never enjoyed that. My school life was an accumulation of classes, friends, and shenanigans”
After finishing school, he planned to study abroad. Although, that plan came short of fruition due to familial circumstances. “I was set to study at Simon Fraser University after highschool but had to stay back. I had three days to figure out my plans to study here and took three consecutive admissions exams. Long story short, I enrolled in Independent University, Bangladesh, and qualified for a scholarship as I topped the test. 2011 was a major transitional period. I was dissociated from university, and it took a while to adjust to its confinements. I was at the cusp of frustration from the monotony of life and began engaging in intellectually challenging activities. That’s how I stumbled upon debating. It was an upward battle; I was always apprehensive of public speaking to the point where I took active measures to avoid speaking in public. I even skipped my English finals from anxiety!” He laughed in reminiscence.
He then elaborated the inception of his debating career. “Debating wasn’t a choice. More than an activity, I was looking for a tribe. People I could learn from let alone share interests with. I wanted intellectually stimulating relationships. When I stumbled across the debate club, I immediately perceived their profound X-factor. A very driven, competitive bunch, who too exhibited non-conformity. I think we shared the same indignant belief of ending up somewhere better. Hence, I adhered to the club and its people. The trophies they flaunted was the manifestation of their triumphs in all the nerve-wracking competitions.”
The debating coach continues his story. “Having started so late in debate, it was quite apparent that my lack of former practice made me lose almost every tournament I participated. The first year of debating didn’t so much bring me a fragment of success. Despite not having much luck in the endeavor, the wholesome community spirit and the constant motivation made me continue. Alongside that, I’d found this incredible community that had become indispensable to my hunger of intellectual involvement. But most importantly, my seniors Sajid Safwan and Hashmi Rafsanjani persistently invested much of their time and effort trying to help me maneuver the complexities of debate. I felt like I owed it to them.”
When asked to narrate a few memorable events in his debating career, he stressed. “It’s so hard to pick one. During the summer of June 2013, we participated in AIUB and had miraculously managed to lose 5 out of the 6 rounds. Seeing our astounding incapacity, our seniors reproved us.” He let out a small chuckle recalling the incident. “At that point, the frustration of not performing had made me decide never to debate again. However, another tournament in Chittagong was announced. Resolute to end my debate career, I decided Chittagong to be my last shot at redemption. Much to my expectations, we lost the first round on the first day. But quite surprisingly we won the remaining 5 rounds. We went on to be the champions of the tournament and me the best speaker. However glorious a point it was in my otherwise seemingly stagnant year in debating, it wasn’t winning that made me want to stay. It was how happy my seniors were upon my victory. It rekindled the sense of connectivity and community that had first resonated with me when I joined the club.”
Fardeen then elaborated his affiliation with BDC. “after the tournament, Bangladesh Debating Council reached out to me to be the University representative who would groom debaters in schools. Being a part of BDC introduced me to a new horizon of debate to which I was completely unfamiliar with. It soon integrated me in the process of making debate motions, what goes on behind-the-scenes in conducting debates and many other intrinsic logistics associated with it. This is something that I found wildly fascinating. Also, when I was a member of BDC, I experienced the debating community at the pinnacle of its talent. The brightest minds of debating at that time taught me more about the multilateral aspects of debating that truly makes it outstanding. Although the thing that stuck with me the most was the immense sense of compassion the adjudicators bode for the community. Every single one of them willingly sacrificed their weekends to adjudicate debates without any monetary output. It was heartwarming to see the love they bore for debate”.
Pausing a little, he spoke of debating after graduation “I started debating much late than usual. Hence, when I was about to graduate from University, I felt this aspect of my life still remained unventured and unfulfilled. By then I had won debating championship in India, was runners up in OIC and made it as a quarterfinalist in UADC. This also led me to divulge in different parts of the world such as India, Singapore, Indonesia, Greece, Italy and many more. Yet, to pacify this inconclusiveness, I registered as the debate coach in Scholastica. At that period, I was invited to adjudicate debate tournaments from around the world. I also began conducting pre-worlds and national camp, the two biggest debate events catering to Bangladesh’s high school children. And in 2017, I was administered as the president of Bangladesh Debating Council.”
He concluded with a few parting words about his journey and what role debating played in it. “I believe my goals and aspirations vary from those of a regular debater. I do admit winning tournaments was quite fun and games, but being integrated with this entity as a part of BDC and experiencing it’s intrinsic and fascinating logistics, debating morphed into something much more than just winning tourneys. It became more about presenting to school children a platform to express themselves. It became about encouraging debating throughout Bangladesh. Nothing will ever compare to seeing an idea expand to a triumphant execution. And giving school children this platform allows them to fall in love with debating the way I fell in love with it in my first year at University.”