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The art of arguing

Popular debater Raja draws inspiration from real life experiences than literature, says T. SARAVANAN

Photo: S. James

Down to earth A man of wits

For those who really wonder how reading and listening can actually help an individual, popular debate personality Raja testifies the benefit. And the surprising bit is that Raja is not a teacher, but a bank employee.

Neither literary background nor interest of his family members took him to where he is today. If he is a sought after person in debate programmes today, credit goes to his gift of the gab. He is able to spontaneously render mundane routines intelligently and punctuates his delivery with a touch of humour.

Reminiscences

“Memories of my first experience as a stage speaker are still green. I was then studying at St. Britto Higher Secondary School, where my teacher Henry Almeida selected students to speak at the inaugural function of the school’s Tamil Literary Association. Though I was timid and was not fluent enough I was selected. To my surprise, I was also made secretary of the association and was asked to speak before the august gathering. Incidentally, Professor Solomon Papiah happened to be the chief guest of the function. That was my first tryst with ayya (refers Mr. Solomon Papiah),” he reminisces with due respect to his teacher and mentor. For a boy from Keezhamathur Village speaking on stage without fear is a far cry. But then the responsibility of secretary of an association thrust on him at school motivated Mr. Raja to identify the talent in him.

“I was stunned to see ayya holding the audience spell bound, entertaining them with aplomb. From then on, I became a big fan of him and followed his every programme. Besides, I also started listening to speeches of Tamil scholars including Tamil Kudimagan and Sol Vilangum Perumal.”

Raja, who got employed with the United Bank of India after doing a pre-university course and B.Com from American College, did not face any objection from his family members. “They always and only advised me to concentrate on my job and not wander around. Tthe urge to listen to people speaking was irresistible in me and ultimately the chance came by,” he shares.

Turning point

On one such occasion when one of the main speakers Professor Rajaram did not turn up due to illness, he got a chance to substitute. “Ayya asked me ‘would you like to speak?’ I did not wait even for the next second to tickle and replied in the affirmative. It was a make or break situation for me. I was neither prepared nor equipped to speak on stage in full public glare. When I spoke, I still remember the man operating the public address system yelling ‘superb’. He was my first fan. It was a big morale booster and a turning point in my life,” he beams with pride narrating the incident that propelled his career as a debate speaker.

Throughout his life, Mr.Raja has been a keen observer and is also an avid reader of newspaper.

“I devote an hour daily for newspaper reading. It is one childhood habit I advocate my wards to follow. It feeds me the subject for my speech with the presentation of what is happening around us. When my fellow speakers quote references from literature, I lift real life incidences to substantiate my views,” he says.

Solution to problems

Comments like debate programmes are a waste of time irks him. “Any argument has two sides. One should give a listening ear to those arguments. For, it might sometime provide solution to the problems at home. I know people who have gained from such programmes,” he recounts.

To make debates purposeful and more interesting, he also introduces various enlightening topics. “I have included topics like blood donation, diabetes, psychological and physical problems. I try to provide a platform to discuss these subjects, so that a solution, which might be of huge help to the audience, evolves,” he says with a sense of responsibility.

He reserves his programmes for weekends and on other days he is just a dutiful employee. “My employer and colleagues are very accommodative. During weekends I attend to my commitments as a speaker but when I have to extend my leave due to unavoidable circumstances, they support me.”

Film venture

Also none can forget his role as the father in the film “Sivaji”. The film offer is purely accidental. Thanks to the popular Tamil satellite network which frequently beamed capsules featuring me prominently and that caught the attention of Director Shankar. He offered me the chance. Now I have completed my second movie also.”

Mr. Raja is a man with a clear understanding of his strengths and weaknesses. “I see myself as a fan. I always think from the audience’s perspective. I never consider myself a preacher. Probably my positive approach makes me popular among the masses,” he signs off.

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