By Shevlin Sebastian
As soon as the former Indian cricket captain Anil Kumble strode into the hall of the Gokulam Park Convention Centre, at Kochi, he received a spontaneous round of applause and cheers from the audience. Looking sharp and natty, in a brown coat and gleaming brown shoes, he was the Chief Guest at the 'Speak for Kerala Finale', organised by the Federal Bank Hormis Memorial Foundation Trust.
Four students – Sana Nazar, Anand Jayan, Aryadevi R and Meera Devi Chalisery – were the finalists. The topic for the debate: 'Make in Kerala should be the core focus for job creation in a densely populated state like Kerala'.
And all of them spoke with confidence, verve, passion and intensity. So much so that even Kumble, in his speech later on in the programme, said, “I feel like a tail-ender coming in to bat after four great speakers. This is the confidence of the youth that we see in all walks of life in India. We also see it now in the Indian cricket team.” But he urged the youngsters to not only be keen about their studies, but to engage in all sorts of extra-curricular activities.
“It helps in the development of a person,” he said. “You should also follow your dreams. Give importance to preparation and practice. The problem with today's youth is that they have so many choices. So they tend to lose focus. It is very important to have focus. You should prepare for life like you are playing a Test match, rather than a T20 game.”
And what was heartening to see was how Kumble got completely involved in the proceedings. During a session where the judges had to ask questions to the young speakers, even Kumble decided to ask a couple on his own: 'How do you think the government can encourage sports?' and 'How can the youth be engaged in sporting activities?'
In the end, Sana Nazar, of the Federal Institute of Science and Technology, Kochi, the crowd favourite, was declared the winner. She won the 'Federal Bank - Kerala Youth of the Year 2015 Trophy', a cash prize of Rs 50,000, as well as scholarships worth Rs 3 lakh. Aryadevi R, of Mar Ivanios College, Thiruvananthapuram, came second.
Meanwhile, during a question-and-answer session with the audience, Kumble added a dash of humour, when he pointed to a gentleman and said, “Mid-On can speak first.”
(Published in The New Indian Express, Kerala editions)