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Indian takes long ‘talk’ to victory

Arvind Mishra

March 6: Arvind Kejriwal may be tempted to make an offer to Arvind Mishra. So might be Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi.

The 26-year-old assistant lecturer in mechanical engineering today pulled off a feat that would leave the talent-spotters in India’s poll-bound parties salivating as they hunt for campaign speakers.

At one minute past seven this morning, the teacher at Dehradun’s Graphic Era Hill University smashed the world record for the longest non-stop speech, going past the 121 hours clocked by Poland’s Errol Muzawazi in 2009.

By 11.30pm, when The Telegraph last checked, Mishra was still going strong, having completed 137-and-a-half hours, while firecrackers went up on the campus and students distributed sweets.

The star of the day wasn’t available for comment — that would have meant breaking off his speech — but colleague Subhas Gupta explained that Mishra “wants to increase the margin” so it would daunt any future challenger.

Such commitment — and concern of victory margins — would warm the hearts of political head-hunters, though one might well ask whether Mishra can repeat his triumph in the heat and dust of a political campaign.

His current achievement has come at an auditorium in pleasant Dehradun before a university audience that has kept changing since he kicked off at 6am on March 1, monitored by a Guinness World Records panel with the help of live streaming.

Still, Mishra has left no one in any doubt about his toughness. Guinness rules allow a five-minute break every hour but the young man would “often forgo the break”, a university professor said.

Indians do seem to have a gift for lengthy speeches, the challenge often being how to stop them — the Rajya Sabha tackled the problem six years ago by deciding to switch off speakers’ microphones if they continued too long.

“An Indian professor held the record at 120 hours before Muzawazi broke it; now Mishra has brought it back,” said friend Subesh Tripathi.

V.K. Krishna Menon delivered the longest speech at the UN — five hours straight on January 23, 1957, and nearly three after resumption the next day — defending India’s stand on Kashmir.

Fidel Castro, known for his interminable speeches, did seven hours and 10 minutes at a stretch at a party meeting —but, then, his audience in communist Cuba lacked the freedom of (running away during a long) speech.

Legend has it that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey delivered a 36-hour-31-minute speech in 1927, but he split it over six days — a barrier Mishra was set to breach tonight without a break.

His wife Preeti, a bank employee who might now think twice before getting into any verbal duel with her husband, said Mishra had practised hard at home. “Belief in himself was his great strength. He was determined to bring the record back to India.”

University chairman Kamal Ghanshala said Mishra would receive a Rs 1-lakh reward and two out-of-turn promotions.

Amid all the brouhaha over the numbers, the quality of Mishra’s lecture remained unclear. More may not always be merrier: Abe Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address took just over two minutes.