“The winner of the International Speakers’ Contest is…”
Rahul could hear his heart pound, in exactly the same way it did in July 1993, his first attempt at public speaking. The first time that he was on stage.
“Any guesses?!” The emcee’s voice interrupted Rahul’s thoughts.
“Rahul, Rahul,…” shouted the audience.
And all that Rahul could hear is his heart, “DHAKK.. DHAKK… DHAKK….”
Shouting over the audience’s voices, the emcee continues, “this year’s winner of the International Speakers’ Contest is…. Our favorite,…. The one.. The only… Yessss! Raaahhoooollll!”
The applause, deafening. The feeling, jubilant! “Raahul, Raahul,…” goes the audience.
Rahul had his feelings and emotions all mixed up. Relieved, excited, grateful, overjoyed, on-top-of-the-world! His mind wants to go back to July 1993. But is constantly interrupted by the enthusiastic supporters. With blurred images running at the back of his mind from July 1993, he gratefully received congratulations, cheers, hugs and messages.
“They are all so happy for me”, thinks Rahul. “I am the happiest! They think I am a ‘natural’ at public speaking. They have no idea of that frightening day in July 1993 and the time before that. Nor do they know the struggles and the difficulties I have gone through after that.”
What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, is the beginning for the butterfly.
Voices and scenes from the past flash through Rahul’s mind. “You are going to grow our business to the next level”, says his father. “We have all done that and you have the potential to make it bigger.”
“You must improve the marks you score in the exams before you even think of extra-curricular activities”, scolds his class teacher. “Look at Sunil and Atul, top scorers and are also good at so many extra-curricular activities and sports”.
Rahul was not among the high scorers; he was far from being one. And so, he grew up with a feeling of “wanting to do something but not quite sure what”. Thus, among other things, there was no opportunity to participate in public speaking, or debates, or drama during his school. And so, he didn’t know how good or bad it could be.
His college was vastly different. Anybody could participate in any event one wants to. And Rahul had decided to participate in a public speaking contest.
July 6th, 1993, was a historic day for Rahul; for all the wrong reasons. This day he would experience going on stage for the first time, he would realize the pressures of public speaking and take a critical decision.
The college communications club had announced an inter-college public speaking contest and, Rahul chose to participate, thinking he should try this out at least, because he thought he liked talking and he could do with some limelight. As his name is announced, he goes on stage, and then everything changes suddenly. He sees 145 people in the audience. One Hundred Forty Five! Next thing he remembers is clouds were ringing in the air, he did not feel his limbs, heart thumping deafeningly and he has absolutely no memory of what he spoke or how. Only, “DHAKK.. DHAKK… DHAKK….” Somehow Rahul manages to mumble something incomprehensible, for what was about five minutes, but to him it felt like a lifetime.
Once off stage, and as he gathers himself, Rahul decides to never, ever do public speaking again. And he tells himself, “So what. You are good at other things in life”.
The caterpillar had formed the chrysalis, never to willfully open again.
Rahul grows up achieving a lot, but no public speaking, not going on stage, ever! He would participate in and organize various events in his college, interact with the key stakeholders, play cricket and tennis, and played them well. But when it came to going on stage, he would have someone else do that for him.
The next five years of Graduation and then Post Graduation came with its share of pleasures and travails and life sure made a man of the little Rahul. But about on-stage performance, the chrysalis would not open to a butterfly.
After college, Rahul was reluctant to join the family business and hence he wanted to take up a job. He picked up the job of a sales rep. Among other things as part of the training and the tests he had to qualify, was the test of his ability of speak on stage. Horror strikes again!
Rahul failed. And he failed miserably! But because he was doing well in other areas, he could still be on the job. “God! What have I landed myself into? I would rather join my family business than go through horrendous experience of on-stage performance!
His favorite teacher once told Rahul, “Don’t just face life; go fetch it!” His favorite ad on TV said, “Reclaim Your Life”. And these two quotes were to change Rahul’s life for good.
The chrysalis decides to break out to a new being. But he didn’t know how.
This was the time much before “Darr ke aage jeet hain” ads.
To his pleasant surprise, Rahul discovers that his company has planned a training on public speaking and on-stage performances. Having decided to take the bull by its horns, he enrolls for the program.
The next few weeks were terrible for Rahul. He had to go through a life changing churn within himself for the transformation, each time he tried he faced his biggest obstacles, his fears. Guided by his trainers, he went on tried, failed, and tried again. Gradually he gained confidence, learned the techniques, and worked his way to speak for different occasions.
The next five years were as if Rahul was born again. He would pick up every opportunity to speak, train, debate, and everything to do with communication and performances. He volunteered for training assignments within his company, be the emcee at events, and address customer meets.
Today, July 6th, 2005, exactly twelve years since the disastrous event in Rahul’s life, he was being announced the winner at the International Speakers’ Contest. The last twelve years were playing in a fast-forward mode in his mind.
The chrysalis had transformed into a butterfly.
At the post-event interviews, there was Nidhi representing a Speakers’ Club. Nidhi was from Rahul’s college and was witness to Rahul’s misadventure in 1993. She asks the last question, “you were awesome Rahul! How and what made the transition from the days in college to now?”
Rahul says, “once you decide what you want to accomplish and the goal is clear, you can overcome all obstacles.” He quotes Javed Akhtar what was meant for Lieutenant Karan Shergill: “Roke tujhko aandhiyaan, ya zameen aur aasmaan Paayega jo lakshya hai tera Lakshya toh har haal mein paana hai”.
Wwhhaaacckkkk! A tight slap by his mother forces Rahul out of his dream and his sleep.
“Get up! Once again you will be late for work! Go get ready and move while I keep your breakfast ready!”
A befuddled Rahul wonders what’s happening. He checks his watch and the date. It is July 6th, 2005! He remembers he has to travel a long distance across the city to the contest venue. He jumps out of bed and within minutes is on his way- to fetch his dream and reclaim his life!