For many residents, parks are an ideal place to relax and work on their fitness. But for members of the Thiru. Vi. Ka. Speakers Forum, it is a place to develop their communication skills and boost self-confidence. Visitors to the Nageswara Rao Park, Mylapore, during weekends cannot miss a group gathered under a big tree listening intently to a person speaking. They take turns to talk on their chosen subject and a few onlookers also join them.
The Speakers Forum, which was started by B. Damodaran, at Thiru.Vi.Ka. Park in Shenoy Nagar eight years ago, has now branched out to other parks, including the one at Mylapore and Natesan Park in T.Nagar. The fourth branch of the forum was started at Gill Nagar recently. Besides students and professionals, IAS aspirants and employees of government departments also take part in the meetings organised by the forum.
K. Vijayakumar, a human resource manager, regularly takes part in the meetings at Shenoy Nagar and Mylapore. A. C. Rangaswamy, who organises the free meetings at Mylapore, was inspired by the forum when he visited the park for evening walks. The Forum's founder Mr. Damodaran said that at least 30 participants attend the meeting every week in each of these parks. It is a composite group of people from the age group of 10 to 80.
“We have managed to conduct the sessions consistently for many years now. Participants are encouraged to speak in any language for five minutes on varied topics except concepts criticising religion or politics,” he said.