The day was July 31st. 30 other wordsmiths and I crowded into my school’s auditorium for what promised to be an exciting hour, filled with clever phrases, laughter & hearts brimming with competitive spirit. The reason for such enthusiasm? We were the 30 odd hopefuls auditioning for a spot in a pan-India speech contest organized by the Hindustan Group of Universities, The Indo- Australian Association & the SMART Group of clinics. The name of this tournament? Be Heard in Singapore. Based on the famous “Talk Your Way To Australia” initiative by the founder of the Hindustan Group, Dr. K.C.G.Verghese, this particular contest was the brainchild of Dr. Susan Marthanda, who took this contest and revitalized it rebranding it as “Be Heard In“, with a new location chosen every year.
This year was the 2nd edition of the contest in its new avatar. And the location as implied by the title was the Gateway to the East, Singapore. The winner of this edition, besides being awarded a massive trophy, also had the added bonus of traveling & sightseeing in a city which many call the Jewel of Asia ( the traveling bit is free too!!!).
From over 576 students auditioning from across India, only 60 odd had been chosen, with 8 students being chosen from my school, including me. On August 18th, all the selected 60, were asked to attend a workshop in order to prep us for the prelims and the grand finale( should we be selected). The workshop, held at the Hindustan College of Arts & Science and hosted by Sqn Ldr(Retd). Unni Nair was a bonanza of fun while at the same time, somehow managing to help us shed our inhibitions, forget our fear and apprehension( none of which I had of course 😉 ) learn about proper attire and unlock the hidden power of the human voice box.
Mr. Unni Nair had a very wacky way of achieving these goals. Some of his tactics were to make us do the birdy dance, show us inspirational speeches by Dr.Martin Luther King Jr, Barack Obama & subsequently proceeding to dissect them. Another tool was to show us clips from the famous Bollywood movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara while yet another one was to make all 60 of us do a joint karaoke to various songs.
The topics and other such key details for the prelims and the grand finale were given during this workshop. The topic for the prelims was ” My Life, My Choice” and we were given one week to ready ourselves for what promised to be an exhilarating event. And how!
25th August was, at least for us speakers, a day filled with excitement and a bit of trepidation as we watched our fellow speakers go up on stage and deliver spectacular 2-minute discourses in front of a decorated panel of judges. We had learned during the workshop that a twist had been added to our tale, this year, college students would also be allowed to participate, further upping the ante for us school students. The response to this new element by my fellow speakers was mind-blowing, with several speeches receiving thunderous applause.
After what must have been an exhaustive 2 hours of judging, 12 finalists were chosen. Khanak Gupta, Samyukta Mahesh & I were the finalists from my school. 1st Sept was the date on which we would have to speak a 4-minute speech, with points being awarded for attire, humor, stance, relevance to topic & audience appeal. The topic? ” I have the independence to choose to be a donor”.
With such a serious topic that affected the lives of so many families, the onus was on us to deliver speeches that would do justice to it while at the same time keeping in mind the judging criteria. And we delivered. Several impassioned speeches were heard that day, with many speakers replying to the astute questions posed by the judges with personal experiences, stories of heroism and sacrifice. So good was the way we speakers spoke about the topic, that it moved one of the judges to share her personal experience with organ donor-ship.
My start to the finals had been less than perfect, because like a dolt, I had forgotten to check the dress code and completely forgotten to bring a blazer( though it puzzles me who in the right mind would wear a blazer when the sun was so hot you quite literally could have boiled water just by keeping it out for a minute) . What followed was a series of calls, yelling & panicked running around that would have seemed out-of-place even in the tensest of action sequences. Eventually thanks to my cool head ( Ha!) & the mystic powers that mothers always seem to possess, a blazer was procured for me just in the nick of time. And surprisingly, for once it seemed to actually fit me, rather than making me look like a dead penguin.
Finally, it was time for what we’d all been waiting for, the announcement of the results. I sat in foreboding silence, as I saw the 3rd place went to Mariel Fernandez , a kid who was suffering from a high fever but had come all the same( There were battling emotions inside me as this happened, on one hand, I was damn impressed by the kid and his resolve which was a billion times larger than mine, but on the other hand, the thought ” there goes my one shot at glory” also flashed through my mind. ) 2nd place went to Chandni Gupta from PSBB Millennium, Gerugambakkam ( At this point, I had started to self-critic myself and to imagine which pompous fool with a fancy foreign accent and 20 Lamborghinis at his disposal had landed 1st place).
With this tsunami of emotions swamping my brain, you can only imagine the surprise & joy that the announcement of my victory caused. Me and the rest of my contingent quite literally launched out of our chairs in celebration( I was the one to run around like a crazy person as you may have guessed)When I was presented with a large replica plane ticket to commemorate the fact that I was going to Singapore ( and the trophy of course) , I was still so shocked that I asked the judges and Mr. Unni to pinch me to see if I was in a dream and promptly received so many pinches that my arm became sore.
The next few days were spent receiving scores of congratulations from every single person I had ever met in all my 15 years of existence. However readers, soon the euphoria that had sprung from my victory died down and it was back to the daily grind, as I flung myself into my studies( not willingly anyway).
So that’s the story of how I, your beloved blogger became a pan – India level public speaking champion. Down below I have attached both my prelims speech & the one I spoke during the finals as well some newspaper clippings and some photos as well. Hope you enjoyed reading this post & are as excited as ever for the next one, till then, Farewell.