April 16, 2012

Maiden Speech in Parliament

Quiz shows on stage. Quiz shows on TV. Quiz shows around the country. Quiz shows around the world.

Do I ever get nervous before a show? Charged up, yes. Nervous, never.

And yet, I must admit I was nervous (very nervous) that warmish afternoon in March when I delivered my first speech ever in the Rajya Sabha.

This was no quiz contest; this was a humbling experience of making my maiden speech in Parliament. There were opportunities to speak in the first six months, but I preferred to sit, to listen, to observe, to learn. There was so much to learn here.

The first learning was that I ought to speak on a subject I would be comfortable with and familiar with. That is why I chose to speak on the Railway Budget. Before I became an MP I served as a Chairman of the Jatri Poriseba Committee of the Indian Railways. My two-year stint gave me the confidence and the 'foundation' to speak.

The second learning was that I should take the preparation seriously. Very seriously. It was important to study the facts, the figures and get to know as much as I possibly could on the subject. For this one had not only to refer to the research available but also speak to key people who understood key issues.

Thirdly, one had to apply the old rule for making a speech : make a few points only, but make them effectively. This was the tough part. Simply because there was so much to say but one had to decide which were the key points to be communicated. That is when you work out a framework for the speech to be delivered. A framework to a speech giver is almost like the bamboo structure an artisan uses to mount his work. The framework became my guideline, the flow of how the speech would go.

So I was all set then. Content. Preparation. Subject understood. Key points written down on a card. Rehearsal. Then after a long, long wait... the Vice Chairman of the Rajya Sabha announces: Mr. Derek O'Ber-- oi ... A fellow MP and former Chief Election Commissioner sitting to my left quickly (but respectfully) gets on his feet and tells the Vice Chairman "Sir, his name is Derek O'Brien", not Oberoi. The amiable gentleman in the Chair smiles. I smile back... what's in a name!

The nervousness has gone and I deliver my first speech in this august House. For the record it lasted 16 minutes. The following week as we bid goodbye to March, I deliver my second speech in Parliament. It lasts for ten minutes and the the theme is Operative Federalism and the Union Budget. After two speeches in that hallowed hall the nervousness has gone. The passion never will... with your prayers and your blessings.