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Date with Oxbridge

A mangled ‘Dhanyabad’ meant they had quite warmed up to the city audience. The six students from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge knew how to catch everyone’s attention with wit and wisdom and leave the listeners wowed.

(From left) Clara Spera, Richard Coates, Matt Hazell of Cambridge and Matt Handley, Carin Hunt and Emma Livingston of Oxford played the opening scores for the first Calcutta Club The Telegraph International Debate 2012, presented by Alsoc and Calcutta Debating Circle, and sponsored by the Ashok Hall Group of Schools and Royal Challenge Music CDs.

It was finally the ‘policy of rebuttal’ brought up by the only lady from Cambridge that turned the debate around. Clara Spera knew how to strike an effective balance between populism and policy, we say!

Each of the students seemed to have cast a spell on the audience, they just couldn’t stop raving about them. If ‘the girl in green’ (Emma) endeared herself to the crowd with her ‘Indian parliamentary antics’, Richard from Cambridge was the ultimate gentleman, never mind his dig about our cricket team. Would-be ‘Doctor Dolittle’ Matt Hazell (who’s studying to be a vet at Cambridge) was applauded not just for his arguments but also his wish to do a Gangnam Style on stage! The other Matt, from Oxford, fancied himself as the 27th British Prime Minister from his university (there have been 26 Oxfordians already) and doing things differently, getting his share of popularity votes from the club lawns too. Last but not the least, speaking about ‘self-interested people’, Carin of Oxford made a mark as the dainty little, er tall, English girl who knows how to reason and how!

At the end of the debate, with a thumping majority of hands going up in the air, the motion — ‘In the opinion of the house, populism not policy defines parliamentary democracy’ — was defeated.

“To see some 2,000 people gathered on the club lawns in itself speaks volumes of the impact of the debate. The young voices from Oxford and Cambridge, with their precise arguments and debating skills, have set quite an example for city youngsters too,” smiled Dilip Kumar Saha, the president of Calcutta Club.

For Kunal Sarkar of Calcutta Debating Circle, one of the key people behind Sunday’s debate, the turnout was a huge satisfaction. “I can understand people going to watch IPL, fashion shows and other entertainment events, but the fact that they came in such numbers for a debate is evidence of the intellectual capacity of Calcutta. The biggest satisfaction comes from the debate itself, which renews the faith that the civic society still has the ability to talk on important political issues,” said the moderator for the evening.