Living out your life in single minute intervals.
In the beginning of the day, everyone is prepared. Papers, pens, sealed water bottles and folders. By lunch, there are skirmishes breaking out over single ball point pens and blank sheets of paper.
After tabs are released, the runners are required to leave the room, so they don’t find out the motions and context and thus are completely confused by the debates. To pick up their teams, runners are required to maintain a standard level of taxi stand fervour. Certain teams prefer to decide their motions and start discussing in the auditorium, so you have to go inside and hunt for them. Then you have to make sure they know the room and will not get lost if they want to walk outside for a bit. It’s a bit like taking care of slightly confused, wayward toddlers who are also inebriated and refuse to accept this. This is not to say that all debaters are bad, though. Most of the teams I had were very polite and respectful, despite asking for unending streams of paper and water. EVERYONE DRINKS SO MUCH WATER. The number of bottles will always be lesser than the thirst in the room. You’ll end up carrying a bag with you just to make sure that there are always ten bottles.
Being a runner is not the most glamourous job in the tournament, but someone has to do it. It’s quite a lot of work actually, filling up bottles, making sure everyone has their correct sheets, filling in your name on everyone’s sheet, because you’re a non entity and they will forget your names as soon as you tell them, and making sure they find their way back from the bathroom.
Keeping time makes up most of a runner’s responsibility, though. Also it’s the one area where messing up can seriously impact the tournament. And it is for this reason that timekeeping is incredibly stressful. Especially since there’s not a lot one can do in a minute. Four word Whatsapp messages, usually to other runners, tapping out half a melody with a pencil, making faces at the mean debaters behind their backs. And you can’t even pay a lot of attention to the speeches; they get exciting only around the 1, 6 and 7 minutes.
As for the quality of speakers, quality varies wildly. You will hear bad debates, and worse ones. Because of the sheer number of teams in the beginning rounds, the chances of watching a really good match are few and far in between. A lot of speakers have lengthy debates delivered breathlessly, punctuated only by the occasional, “right?” and snide putdown to the opposition.
Post-break night (which took place at the nearby Radisson and had had great food) though, the quality skyrockets. Especially in the semis and finals-these are debates you don’t want to miss. This time, the finals between NLS Bangalore and NUJS Calcutta were excellent, with good arguments from both sides. The motion for the final was ‘This house will shift its focus on the Syrian refugee crisis from the European Union to the Arab world.’ Both teams seemed fairly experienced and some of the speeches were fantastic, but in the end, on an 8 to 1 verdict on the panel, NLS Bangalore emerged victorious and lifted the trophy.