My First Speech

Uzma Bhat

I was very enthusiastic but nervous as well. This was for the first time I had to make a public speech. I was going to participate in a symposium at school, an event big enough to give an 11-year-old butterflies in the stomach.

Preparations had started a week before the eventful Monday. First step was to get the speech written. Like most children of my age, I believed that Papa-knows-it-all. The topic of the speech was about Allama Iqbal. All Papa knew about Iqbal was that he was a poet, wrote some philosophical stuff and was no womanizer, l ike most poets.

But papa did not let me down. He asked some academician friend of his to write me a speech. It was a long one, written in hard-core Urdu. No wonder I understood very less of it; both in terms of content as well as the language. Nevertheless, my teacher said it was wonderful. I memorized it by heart, end to end. A teacher helped me with intonations. I highlighted the lines which demanded a loud tone in blue; those that were to be spoken softly in fluorescent green. A cousin helped me with gestures. “Bang the desk when you say this; raise a brow when you say that; shake your head in disapproval over there, etc., etc.”

I practiced it all. Papa advised me to practise in front of a mirror. I obeyed like a good girl. Mummy must have heard it at least thirty times in the last three days before the symposium. I knew it bored her to listen to the same thing, again and again. But I also knew that she wouldn’t say ‘no’. She was too patient and a sweetheart as ever. ‘Very good, beta’, she said at the end of each torturing session. And every time she said it, my confidence got a boost.

The family went for a shikara ride in Dal on Sunday afternoon. It was the time for family jokes and activities. Papa had started his childhood tales. I had heard them many times over and they never seemed to lose their charm on me. But this time, I was not listening.

My mind was unconsciously recalling the speech. I banged the imaginary desk, exactly four times, as taught. No one but mummy knew what was going on inside my mind. Because when I finished my virtual speech, of course without uttering a word, she smiled and said, “Very good, beta! Now finish your ice-cream or you’ll spoil your dress.”

I slept early that night—no TV, no video games, nothing. I had to look fresh on the next morning. I dreamt of myself standing on the stage and suddenly forgetting all that I had rehearsed. This nightmare haunted me the whole night.

Next morning, I got dressed in my new school uniform, crisp and neat.

The programme started. They let the senior students speak first. Being youngest, I had to wait till the end. What other participants were saying was of no consequence to me. I completely failed to understand why the audience clapped in unison at certain points. I just kept doing what everybody else did.

At last, after what seemed to be eternity, my name was announced. I felt my legs melting away as I stood behind that tall desk. I saw our school principal looking keenly at me through her broad rimmed spectacles. Suddenly everything seemed to fade away – the audience, chairs, walls and all. I felt as if I was standing at the top of a mountain on a moonless night.

Nonetheless, I went on with my play. I had practised it so many times that I could deliver it anytime, even on a mountain peak at midnight.

The clapping sounds made me realize I had finished. The results were declared in the following half an hour. Since there was a considerable age-gap between the younger and the older speakers, judges declared the results separately for the two groups. I fell in the junior category.

Bingo! I was declared third. I was given a cute little trophy. Though I liked the larger first prize trophy, mine wasn’t bad. I was on cloud nine with my first ever trophy in the kitty. I couldn’t wait to break the news at home.

Papa and mummy were equally happy for me. To celebrate papa and me went for an outing. I was treated with my favourite ice-cream, a family-size pack of chocolates and multiple kisses and hugs. The excitement didn’t seem to fall. I was hyper-active even after the dinner. Just then mummy asked casually, “Beta! How many participants were there in your category?”

I gaily replied, “Three.”

(The writer is currently pursuing Bachelors in Mass Communication and Multimedia Productions at Government Women’s College M A Road Srinagar.)


  1. A well described and well elucidated piece of writing. The writer easily painted the picture for me and reminded me of “My First Speech” which was no different than her experience.

    Wish you a good future…

  2. A well elucidated piece of narration with a good feel of a clear picture. and plus more an ironical climax. Reminds me of an interdistrict skating competition some ten years back where only three girl participated and won the top three cash….haha… no rat race.

    Best wishes to the young author.

  3. A very well written piece of your life… same things happened to me when speaking of the nervousness.#nostalgia… and you still are that 11-year old for your Big B’s…. all the best for the road ahead.. (Y)


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