The tension was mounting. The anticipation was unbearable. There we were. Gladiators looking up at the coliseum of battles. But, unlike the physical challenges of bygone days, this was a battle of wit. The only size that mattered was the size of your intellect and how fast the wheels of rebuttal turn under your thinking cap.
I entered the fabled DU room of war at about 7.35 p.m. The audiences were already there, savoring the tension and anticipating blood. As I walked in, the room suddenly seemed bigger. It was almost hostile. Yet I was comforted because there they were - my fellow battlers. It is often quoted that in the heat of war, there is no one dearer to a soldier than the man or women standing beside him ready to take the bullet in his place… With that thought, I sat next to my brethrens – Anna Lee and Charles Boey and we waited.
It was not a long though. The woman in authority, contest chairperson Bing Yee announced the rules and regulations in her cheerful but forceful manner. The clock hand turned and Bing wrapped up her introduction. There was silence. And then, it begin… The first battle – the battle of the free entrepreneurs against the might of the respected workers. The topic in debate was “It is better to work on your own than for other people”. Our opponents were none other than the formidable James Tan, Esther and Siva backed up by research man, Dickson. We stood firm despite James towering presence on stage. We had nothing to fear. After all, we had a professor, Dr. Loh Sau Cheong doing our research.
It was a scrappy match because none of the contestants had much experience in a witty debate. Except for Siva, the rest of us were pretty green. The lack of experience was however more than compensated by enthusiasm. The whole battle went smoothly even though fiery passion was cursing through the veins of the battlers.
First up, James bellowed and Charles suppressed. After that, it was Esther’s turn to fire away, which Anna dodged and returned with good aim. Finally, Siva closed for the Ayes after which I firmly said Nay. Exhausted and tired, the contestants along with their loyal audience were let out to feast and reflect. The judges conferred.
Not long after, the second debate took center stage. The title this time was “Men make better cooks than women”. The proponents were Delia Yip, Martin Hen and David Ingram. The naysayers were Angelene Chong, Kam Jin Khoon and Sharon Ng.
Delia begun with an emphatic speech, which was both funny and sarcastic. She had the crowd in the palm of her hands and sat down to a thunderous applause. Then came Angelene. She started clinically by disposing all of Delia’s good arguments with a surgical precision that would have made a brain surgeon proud. She then pounded her points home with an almost cheer leader like presentation. The crowd had no choice but to cheer her on.
The stage was then ready for Martin. Logical arguments were his forte. It gave the audience time to digest what they heard so far. Unfortunately, Martin was up against Jin Khoon whose main strength was in targeted and almost nonchalance sarcasm. He shot down every argument that was proposed with hilarious wit and one-liners that made his own point stand out like a beacon.
At this point, the Nays looked like they were in control. But the battle was far from over because the final speaker from the Ayes comer was CTM David Ingram. DU’s best started off strongly. From the first word uttered to the last point driven, David mesmerized the audience with his powerful and engaging brand of speaking. All one could do at the end of it all was nod in perfect agreement. Looks like the Ayes were saved. They were going to win after all…
Not quite true though. For all throughout David’s speech, a lady was slowly gathering force and ammo. Shortly after David concluded, an explosion occurred in the Nays table. Ms. Sharon came alive and suddenly the tides of war were whipped in the opposite direction. Sharon’s clever rebuttals had no opposition and the energy that she expounded was like a hurricane. The audience were just spun around to her opinions. She concluded on cue and sat down to a rapturous applause of appreciation…
The battle was over. The audience were divided. The judges had their minds made up. They trooped out for a short deliberation. During this time, the audience were allowed to have a go at the topics discussed. Some of the audience boldly attempted their own opinions. It was a good session where one could judge the general feeling of the crowd about the topics in debate.
In the midst of it all, the judges walked in. Bing took charge again and the president was summoned to present the trophies. The results were in. James’s team emerged victorious with their argument that it was still better to work for your own than for other people. Accompanying them were Angelene’s team sweeping the floor with the fact that after all that was said and done, the ladies were still the better cooks.
It was truly a wonderful debate chaired with authority by Bing and ably helped by her team of supporting toastmasters. At the end of the day, the peace treaty was signed and the battling parties reconciled. The battle scars were proudly displayed and the flags of war were finally put to rest…. Until next year that is.