A Speech to Remember

Submitted into Contest #50 in response to: Write a story about a person experiencing pre-performance jitters.... view prompt

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General

'Please welcome on stage Manish Shinde, from 10th B.'


A scrawny looking kid pushed past me with the confidence I could only muster up in my imagination.


I could hear the crowd cheering for him, as he started speaking. 


It was 14th August, a day before Independence day. Every year my school hosts an event on this day for students to celebrate India's freedom from British rules. 


Now, as much as I love to celebrate 15th August, with my friends. At that moment, I felt like puking, no scratch that, I wanted to puke or faint so my teacher would let me leave this hell. 


I was not the most memorable person in my school. I was popular only among my two friends, and I didn’t need more people around me anyway. 


But, if you have sung in front of the whole school on 14th August for two years in a row, you would at least expect people to remember that, right? May be your classmates, since you are representing them?


Well, the answer is a big fat NO!


This year, instead of signing up your name, or referring to a respective teacher for participation. Our school, for some reason, gave this responsibility to the student body president. 


Our class monitor, being the genius guy that he is, decided to do the honor and assigned last year's students this year as well, by himself. 


That's how I ended up backstage, sweating like a pig, who was about to have a panic attack, but secretly wished it to be cardiac arrest, so I didn't have to face the crowd. 


Are you wondering why? Why am I nervous when I have been on the stage before? What is such a big deal about this? 


Well, the funny thing is instead of signing me up for singing, he wrote my name down for public speaking. 


The difference?


I am good at one thing and bad at speaking. 


I tried to talk to one of the teachers about removing my name from the list, but since there was only one guy in this category, they thought having a girl was fair. 


So now I must face my school and give a speech. 


I went to the dark corner of the room. Leaning against the wall, I rehearsed my speech over and over again. Though I have memorized each word, I started to fumble right before the main event.


Clenching my fist tightly in frustration, I crumpled the paper in my hands. 


Why didn't I pretend to be sick? Why? Why? 


I dramatically slid down the wall and pulled my knees close to my chest. A strangled moan escapes my throat as I drop my head on my knees. I silently wailed, hiding my face from the rest of the world. 


'Hey, Idiot, what are you doing?' My cry of pleas was disturbed, and I received a slap on the head. 


Looking up, I saw my elder sister's amused face. She was one of the volunteers. 


'Why are you sitting like that? Get up.' She extended her hand to me, which I pushed away and instead hugged her legs. 


'I don't want to do this tai. Please take me home.' With a puppy face, I looked into her eyes. Even tried to force some tears out. 


Shocked at my behavior, she hissed. 'Get up.'

'No'

'Get. Up'

'No.'


This time she grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet. 


'You are just nervous. Don't worry. You will do a great job. I have seen your practice. Your speech is awesome.' She patted my uniform to wipe any dust away. 

'Then, you do it.' I threw the ball of paper at her. 


'Okay, You. If you want to act like a kid, wait till we go home. Now let's go, you are next.' She turned towards the stage. 


'No. I don't wanna go. I can't do this.' I clung to her back, preventing her from walking. 


'Stop it. Miss Patkar will kill you.' Taking my hand in hers, she dragged me in the direction of the stage.


I dropped my act as we reached the others. My sister told me to stand at an assigned place and left me among the other participants. 


From where I was, I could see how good the guy was at public speaking. I was impressed, but his confidence only increased my anxiety. 


Also the crowd, I could see every student from up here, and once on stage, they could see me as well. I closed my eyes to stop the dizziness. 


I didn't realize what was happening until thunderous applause reached my ear. Snapping my eyes open, I was the guy walking off the stage. 


Which only meant one thing. Now it was my turn. 


Dread filled my body. My blood pressure rose. If the room was empty, I could surely hear it running through my veins. 


A student walked up the stage. 'That was a great speech, Manish. I am not sure about everyone else, but I got goosebumps.' She paused for a second. 'We all know how our freedom fighters sacrificed themselves, so today we can walk with pride. But what are we doing with this freedom? How are we building tomorrow's India? To answer our questions, please welcome on stage Kriti Patil, from 9th B.'


My eyes rolled at the back of my head for a second, when I heard my name. I grasped my hands together as they started to shake fiercely. 


I realized I hadn't moved at all when somebody nudged me from behind. Taking a deep breath, I moved my gaze to my feet and took a step forward. 


I took my time to walk towards the mic, hoping my pounding heart would stop. 


Keeping my head low, I turned towards, now silent crowd. 

'Good morning, my fellow students, and respectable teachers. My name...' 

'What? What are you saying? Be a little louder.' Someone yelled from the crowd. 


'BE A LITTLE LOUDER? AT LEAST I AM STANDING HERE. WHY DON'T YOU COME UP AND SPEAK INSTEAD, YOU MORON.' I yelled back, in my mind. 


But the miserable, fatuous excuse made me lookup. The sight of the crowd twisted my stomach, pulled at my guts, and the next thing I know, my morning breakfast jumped out of my system and landed on the carpeted stage. 


Meanwhile, the crowd expressed a mixture of emotions, such as laughter, shock, concern, disgust, and terror. 


And there on the stage, sprawled my answers to the Indian youth. 


***


Glossary 

Tai: Sister. In India and other parts of the world calling somebody who is older, by their name is considered a sign of disrespect, even if it is your older sibling. 


July 18, 2020 01:13

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4 comments

Reshma Torane
14:41 Jul 18, 2020

Awesome story Shruti

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Shruti Thorat
18:56 Jul 18, 2020

Thank You

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John K Adams
03:22 Jul 24, 2020

You made me feel it all (except for that last bit). Well done.

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Shruti Thorat
07:02 Jul 24, 2020

Thank you so much. I appreciate your comment.

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