One of the Ponda high schools decided to felicitate the students who did well in the recently concluded SSC exams. A friend of mine is the chairman of the parent- teacher association of the school and he had taken the task of finding a chief guest for the function. He had contacted few people of eminence but had not been successful roping in anyone. He said that he will have to compromise and will have to make do with any knick-knack who was available. And the very next moment he exclaimed “Hey, YOU can be our chief guest. You are a doctor and you have grey hair. Enough. Shed your hanky-panky half pants and T shirt for a day. If you dress decently you may really look like a chief guest.” So, I was the chief guest for the felicitation programme.
I reported to the venue ten minutes before time as directed. The peon was setting the stage and some students were arranging the chairs. One of the teachers saw me, took me to the HM’s chamber and locked me in, preventing attempts at an escape. I spent the next forty five minutes memorising - from various charts hanging on the wall - the names of the past presidents and secretaries of managing committee, number of boys and girls in each class, weekly timetable of all teachers and the school prayer and its meaning.
When the number of people in the hall had reached a respectable figure, I was taken to the hall, made to sit on the stage and was handed over a bouquet. I had to sit still, listening to the usual welcome song, (surprisingly sung very nicely with accompaniment of the harmonium and ‘tabla’) welcome speech and the introduction of the guest. (going by the virtues attributed to the guest, the person about whom the gentleman was speaking was certainly not me). Then the list of students receiving the prizes was read out and I was asked to stand and handover prizes. This I did commendably, like a seasoned politician, facing the camera with a smile, balancing the certificate, trophy and the flower in one hand and shaking the hand of the student with the other. Soon afterwards I was asked to say a few words for the benefit of students.
I had spent sleepless nights preparing for this speech. But I had prepared well, lining up quotes and anecdotes and had taken trouble to plan and rehearse what I intended saying. After a minute or two of forgetting everything and stammering, I got back my nerves and spoke confidently - like a real chief guest. I even felt like one. By the time I finished, I was thinking that the school did the right thing inviting me and the students were lucky to hear a speech like that. I really thought that my speech must have been of some value to them. I finished with a flourish, to a loud applause.
My speech was appreciated, I was thanked, handed a memento, offered a cup of lukewarm and very sweet tea and discharged. I returned home walking on the clouds, carrying the bouquet and the memento. I was feeling great.
My father in law who was visiting us, was sitting in the armchair reading the news paper when I returned. He was surprised to see me ‘decently dressed’ and walking in carrying the bouquet and the gift.
He raised an eye brow. “What is special today?”
“I was the chief guest for a function in the school”
“You were what!!!???”
“The chief guest”
“Ha, Ha, Haaaa and did you make a speech?”
“How long did you speak?”“About fifteen minutes”
“People sat through the speech?”
“And they gave you this?” He pointed at the things in my hand.
“They needn’t have taken the trouble. Sitting through the ordeal would have been kind enough.”