No escape from the chief guest’s address : The Tribune India

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No escape from the chief guest’s address

No escape from the chief guest’s address

Photo for representational purpose only. - File photo



Shankar Gopalkrishnan

AN unavoidable fixture at any function is the chief guest’s address. The occasions vary — it could be the annual day at school or the Independence Day event in the neighbourhood. There is no doubt that the chief guest is a man or woman of achievement. The MC announces grandly: ‘Today’s chief guest needs no introduction!’

Call it lack of general knowledge, this is the first time I hear the chief guest’s name. Thankfully, the MC fills in: ‘Nevertheless, I will go ahead and read out his accomplishments that are too many to enumerate!’

Evidently, the chief guest is a pioneer in his field with several awards to his name, ‘both in India and abroad’. If he is a musician, the anchor waxes eloquent: ‘Pandit ji has received…’ and reels out the full list. There are Sangeet Shiromani, Sangeet Ratnakara and several other polysyllabic titles that the anchor is reading for the first time. He stumbles and slurs over many a name, but to his credit, he keeps the introduction going. Finally, he ends with: ‘I now invite the chief guest to say a few words.’

The chief guest now begins his speech. He insists: ‘I don’t want to stand between you and the lunch to follow. I have been on the other side and know how it feels! I will keep it short.’

The moment the chief guest starts with these words of caution, we learn to be wary. Chief guests are notorious for abandoning good intentions once they start talking. It is as if they are in a mood to punish, now that they have the microphone in hand and a captive audience.

If the chief guest is a techie, we have had it. His speech is strewn with words we have never heard of. He talks about how he started with ‘digital control systems’ and how the ‘market’ was not ready for it in those days. The only market we have heard about is the one where vegetables are sold and wonder why it was not ready. Maybe it was too early in the morning.

The chief guest rambles on. Thankfully, I am not the only hostage. The little boy alongside pesters his mother that he is getting bored. The mother sternly glares at him and orders him to sit quietly. I make eye contact with the child and smile. The elders are not doing any better. Some pull out their smartphones and are scrolling away, watching some reels. Others pace up and down the aisle to get to the restroom or check if lunch has been served early.

Blissfully unaware of all this, the chief guest continues his monologue. After a good 45 minutes, he finally vacates the podium. The audience breaks into thunderous applause, waking up some folks who just could not keep up. The MC is back on stage and reads out: ‘Thank you, sir, for your thought-provoking and inspiring speech. We are indeed blessed, and your words of wisdom will stay with us forever.’


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