It is an honour to nominate Ravi Dutta for MAD Life Membership.
Ravi’s level of dedication to MAD is unhealthy. As I write this speech, he is rapidly aging. His belly continues to expand and his hair continues to grey. Yet he still spends his time and lavish public sector salary on attending debating tournaments. He still traipses to Monash most Monday nights to adjudicate debaters who weren’t born when he started debating.
It is this dedication that makes Ravi special. More than almost anyone I know, Ravi has been willing to commit his time, experience and intelligence to strengthening this club. That degree of commitment deserves recognition.
Debating success didn’t come easy for Ravi in the early years. Despite joining MAD as part of the golden-era of Haileybury debating (featuring luminaries such as Sashi Balaraman), Ravi initially struggled to make a team. He consistently was the person who just missed out on a team spot, even once falling victim to a mistaken reading of the Constitution’s affirmative action provision that deprived him of the chance to debate at Worlds. Yet despite this misfortune, Ravi did not complain. His famous stoicism led him to work obsessively hard to improve his debating skills. Success was always around the corner.
When Ravi finally broke through as a debater, he was the lynchpin of his team’s successes. At UtMara Australs, he guided an inexperienced team to five wins, narrowly missing the break. At Ateneo Australs, Ravi led a team to the Octo Finals, famously haranguing bystanders on Break Night with the story of Ivan Ah Sam awarding him a 79.
Late in his debating career, the crusty old veteran started achieving the success that his intellect and hard work merited. In 2010, he reached the Worlds Grand Final with Victor Finkel, an exceptional effort that included knocking out more fancied teams from Sydney and Oxford en route to the final. He reached the Semi-Finals at Monash Australs, losing in a highly contentious 5-4 split to a Victoria University of Wellington team defending liberty. In his last roll of the dice in 2011, he came agonisingly close to Australs glory, breaking first in an undefeated team before being knocked out in the quarter-finals. Everyone who debated with Ravi would testify to his exceptional qualities as a team mate. He always took defeats with equanimity, was passionate about improving and worked relentlessly hard. Moreover, he was always extremely supportive of his team mates. In a club of big egos, Ravi’s modesty always stood out.
Ravi’s debating success is a testament to MAD’s strength. He didn’t arrive at the club with an elite debating pedigree, but left the club as well respected as any of the best debaters of his era. Ravi worked extremely hard and took full advantage of MAD’s exceptional training resources. His Life Membership demonstrates the unique ability of MAD to produce superb debaters.
Ravi’s record of club service is exceptional. He served on the executive on four occasions. However, it is not the number of years of executive membership that is relevant, but rather the quality of his service.
Ravi always got the job done, without any fuss and without creating any drama. As Treasurer, he implemented a number of the processes that ensured the smooth running of MAD’s operations in future years. As President, he drafted the content of the MAD website and dramatically professionalised the club’s operations. From all reports, Ravi was confronted with an acrimonious executive in 2006, but he came out of the experience with respect from all parties for his calm and measured approach to running his committee.
However, what makes Ravi’s club service special is not merely his service on the executive. Since finishing on the executive, he has made a number of major contributions to the club that should not go unrecognised. In light of the difficult Treasury challenges that the club faced in 2010, Ravi played an essential role in discovering the discrepancies in our accounts and enabling us to recover the missing money. He undertook this time-consuming role without complaint and was an essential support during an extremely challenging period for the club. This contribution should never be forgotten.
More recently, as Deputy Chief Adjudicator of Wellington Australs, he did everything in his power to advance the interests of MAD teams and adjudicators (sometimes blurring the line of ethical behaviour). Notably, he was as concerned about the progress of Monash’s lower ranked teams as he was about the progress of Monash 1. I cannot remember anyone as happy as Ravi when Monash won this tournament. The consummate team man, Ravi always valued the success of others as much as he valued his own.
Life membership is an exclusive club. There have been a number of great members of this club that have not received this recognition. However, Ravi is at the epitome of what MAD stands for and what should be recognised in a Life Member. His dedication, hard work, commitment and excellence are the qualities that all future members should aspire to.
Life membership would mean a lot to Ravi, because MAD means a lot to Ravi. I am proud to propose his Life Membership.
Nominated by Kiran Iyer