Friday, September 08, 2006

Being Judged

A friend called me up and asked me if I could judge a contest she was organising at her business school. I replied that the only contests I have judged till now are dance competitions, but that I have taken part in elocutions, debates, extempores during my school days and that I was not particularly good at extempores. She said that I would fit in as a judge and she would get back with details.

For those of you who have taken part in competitions, you would know that there are huge expectations from the judges. Not just expectations from the audience and organisers, but from each and every participant who put in a lot of effort on stage. I've been there, and during the competitions that go beyond an hour, like dance competitions; would wonder what went wrong with the judges when the results came out. Thoughts like "We definately deserved better than second or third. Besides the junta that got first were totally crappy". When we did manage to win, we never wondered if the second/third place winners thought of the judges in the same way.

And then there is the order in which you are to perform. You are told that judges tend to give the initial participants less marks. Its like when the first participant comes up, you can't compare that person against anyone else so you never give them the highest marks even if they are really good. Then marks are churned out relative to the others and in the bargain you tend you forget how the initial performers performed. There is no 'replay' system, as a judge you are expected to be fair and come up with a result that is without conscious prejudice.

There was this one competition where I totally went numb when I heard the result. It was probably the biggest and most prestigious 'Elocution' competition in the city. You had all the best schools taking part, there were 16 in all and 2 participants from each school which made the count 32. By a draw of lots it turned out that our school spoke first and my chance was first, while my schoolmate would get to speak as the 17th participant. It hits you hard and all your teachers tell you to forget about being ranked amongst the top. The topic I was to speak on was partially worked on by me, so there were a lot of emotions from the past weeks that had gone into its making. Not to mention the endless hours of modulation, voice tone, body gestures, facial expressions with a conscious realisation of how much time had elapsed after each and every sentence. You do your best from your side and then you expect the judges to do their job.

As I mentioned, when the results were out I went a bit numb and the hall went silent as I somehow found my legs take to forward. I won by half a mark, with my schoolmate second and we won the overall trophy. I thanked the judges that night and hoped that they felt that they felt that they had done justice to all participants.

While preparing to judge the extempore/debate contest that a friend was organising, I got a bit hyper and wanted to have the breakup of marks before hand so that I can think about it and not wonder at the judges table, "What the hell does that mean?". I told her to give me the contact info of the other judges so that I can talk to them about the marks split and so that we can come to a consensus on how things should be judged. She then told me tht I was to be the only judge which totally caught me off guard. Yikes!!! Am I gonna be fair to the participants. I know that by being the only judge that would definately not be possible. I then asked her to send me the topics for the extempore so that I can think about it before hand and not be caught wondering what is being spoken about on stage. I was not a nervous wreck but was definately a bit jittery and doubtful of my abilities to judge. She then informed me that the extempore was just an intermediate contest in a series of competitions. And that teams were to be eliminated along the way, competiting on some other grounds to move up the ranks. On the final day they got one of their professors to judge along with me. And it went off smoothly.

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