Archive for the ‘Toastmasters’ Category

My Independence Day

Posted: September 5, 2011 in Speeches, Toastmasters
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(This was my CC project 2 – Organize Your Speech speech )

Slavery was never eradicated; it just got a new name – “Employee”. This is the best way to sum up my first month’s experience in software industry. I pulled myself from another hard day’s work and pushed myself into the cab as my mind started juxtaposing what I did in college and what I am made to do now in office. Let me compare and contrast my life in office and college. Office..be punctual..everyone is watching you ..College.. kick punctuality.. be late if everyone has to watch you especially the girls.., (Office)loads of documents made to read.. (College)studying itself was sin, (O)confusing software jargons forced to hear.. (C)I hear what I like to hear, (O)made to attend meaningless meetings… (C)attending classes itself was an achievement, (O)never ending knowledge sharing sessions made to sleep through..(C)no knowledge..so no sharing.. only sleeping.  To top it all, I was given a place just beside my manager. Welcome to hell on earth!

(Toastmaster of the Day, Fellow and future toastmasters and distinguished guests)

Did anyone realize that I did not mention about leaving the office? That never happens and even if it happens, it happens only when I am almost unconscious. Months rolled by in office.. slogging slogging slogging.. I knew I cannot continue like this. As my manager’s baritone voice often screeches “For every problem there is a solution”, I believed mine too had a solution. I started observing my illustrious colleagues and to my surprise, there was actually only one person in the whole team who was slogging – guess who – it was me. I started comprehending the method to the madness called ‘Working in a Software Industry’. At the end of it, it all boiled down to following certain beliefs with discipline and dedication.. beliefs that can set me on the path towards salvation from slogging.

Belief 1 – Google is God..All is Well

Has anyone ever wondered how it is possible for an engineer from any background to find his footing in software industry so easily and quickly??? The obvious response will be the tedious training he/she undergoes when they are inducted. But the thumb rule of software induction is someone trained in something actually never gets to work on it. The trainings are meant to train you and your mind to stay awake for the long nights in the rosy future. Then how does this transformation from an engineer to a geek occur? – Ask any software techie and the retort would be a single word – GOOGLE.  “Google knows everything, sees everything and has prepared for everything“. If software was ever a religion, then undoubtedly Google is God. In software industry, every problem has a solution and that solution comes from the God google. Every time a software engineer encounters an insurmountable problem, the only thing he needs to do is recite “Google is God.. All is well” and start googling.

Belief 2 – Sense of Humor is Programmed

How can sense of humor be programmed? It better be… because this trait would introduce a software engineer to the who’s who of his company. The flip side of this trait is that it demands your humor quotient to be fine tuned to laugh only when your manager cracks jokes. But the trickiest part is – whatever joke your manager tells might not even kindle a hint of interest in you..forget laughter and you may even think, Charlie Chaplin, had he been alive, would have murdered your manager for doing what he does in the name of humor but still the point is you have to laugh.. a mere smile is not enough. Top management calls this socializing. With experience if you can make yourself ready for such managerial torture in the name of jokes, then you are already on the path to greatness.

Belief 3 – Advertise and Attract

Why is advertizing yourself important? All managers have an awesome memory when it comes to dumping critical work on a software engineer (add an adjective ‘poor’ though it implicitly means poor software engineer). Similarly all managers suffer from short term memory loss after the work is completed. Neither the work nor the person seems critical any more. It is mandatory that you make your presence felt for your manager to remember that you are still alive and waiting to be appreciated. The most important aspect of this belief is that it has to be acted upon almost daily in whatever menial work you do. Constantly being in the thick of things always helps in attracting your manager towards making you, the man to go for when it comes to bigger and brighter opportunities. All this will increase the fat in your pay check and also in you.. and from then on your career would go only in one direction – upward and your physique would grow only in one direction – sideward!

I feel enlightened sharing such precious beliefs for the benefit of my computer starring community.

Salvation Begins:

I started following them sincerely and miracles happened. My career graph started peaking finally. Documents were no more read.. just skimmed through.. software jargons not only confused me.. but now were used effectively and efficiently to confuse others.. meetings now were meant for enhancing my sense of humor skills… knowledge sharing sessions now were used for advertising my knowledge… Slogging was no more slogging.. it became googling… And as for my place in my office.. My manager and I now sit poles apart. I knew I got my freedom and wished myself ‘Happy Independence Day’.

PS: My manager is calling me.. in fact yelling.. Signing off.. remember… Slavery was never eradicated!

(This speech was given in the month of April 2010 in Chennai Wordsmiths Toastmasters Club)

The Last Laugh…

Posted: August 24, 2011 in Speeches, Toastmasters
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(This was my CC Project 5 – Your Body Speaks speech )

Disclaimer:

This speech is an unadulterated imaginary sneak peek into the speaker’s prospective future problem and any resemblance to any person dead or alive is purely coincidental.

The year was 2025, day Friday the 13th. Darkness was the flavor of the night. I was scared to death. What I saw now in my hands was something that I never wanted to see again in my life. It sent chills down my spines, made my blood run cold, and engulfed me with nightmares… I suffered from the same trauma exactly about 20 years ago. Now it has come back to haunt me again! Oh no… I was a victim then. Now it has come to take my little daughter. No.. No.. I have to stop this. I have to act. I have to react. My world is collapsing.

(Good evening Fellow Toastmasters & dear guests)

All this started when my darling wife decided to attend her dear friend’s wedding. Damn that friend. I was expecting my wife to explain about our family situation and her inability to attend the wedding. But even in 2025, wives never listen to their husbands. Had she been here, I would not have to do this (eerie pause).. Studying Maths! On Monday, my daughter who is studying in her 5th class has her Maths exam and I was left all alone to teach her Maths!

MATHS, MATHS, MATHS – The thought about Maths brought back all those dark days of my past when I suffered and Maths laughed at me, scoffed at me and mocked at me!

I was in my 5th class and I remember very well that I was on the verge of getting the first rank in my class for the first time in my life. Only Maths paper had to be distributed. Even before the paper was distributed, I was imagining myself being crowned the king of the class. My dear friend Pooja who sits beside me, knowing my day dreaming gimmicks, reminded me not to count the chickens before they are hatched. Guess what.. They never hatched.. I ended up getting a big egg! The king became a pauper in no time. My parents scolded me, my dad never bought me the video game he promised, my dog never ate seeing my sorrow and more than anything Pooja changed her place to my enemy Mithun’s place. Maths laughed.. I suffered.

From 6th to 12th I scrapped through every Maths paper. Passing a Maths paper was like climbing Mt. Everest. But more than passing every hurdle, the loss I suffered due to Maths was immense – girls who smiled at me, sympathized with me after they knew my Maths mark, teachers who hold me in high regards were always ready to loosen that grip when it came to Maths,   and my friends always had a good laugh over my mathematics skills. In short – Maths subtracted my happiness, multiplied my miseries, added to my sorrows and finally divided my girl friends. Maths scoffed.. I suffered.

By the time I managed to cross the 12th peak of my life, I was left with indelible mental scars in my mind and I decided no more Maths again in my life. But my father had other plans as he put me in an engineering college. Again Maths in my life! Oh!!!

With mixed feelings, I went to college. Nothing changed. Now maths was no more laughing, it started mocking at me. This college Maths was merciless and I kept accumulating arrears after arrears in Maths until I met my savior. Diya..! Yes..she was my savior and she has been till she left for her friend’s marriage yesterday. She was my classmate then and one good thing which ever happened due to Maths was Diya. Maths brought her close to me. Maths created that pity in her heart for me. She helped me clear each and every arrear paper. Though I did not get 90s, I did manage to get those lucky 36s and in the process managed to win her heart. If she was with me, I managed to do the impossible.

But today she left me all alone to fight this battle. I have one night to prepare and then two days to teach Maths. Saturday morning we began! My daughter and I prepared, prepared and prepared. The weekend flew. Never in my life had I learnt so much Maths in so little time and that too not for me. It felt as though I surpassed my own expectations.

The D day Monday came – I took leave from my office as I could not handle the tension this day brought. I accompanied my daughter to her school and waited there praying for her and especially for myself. Hours rolled by.. my daughter came out finally after finishing her exams. I dared not ask her how she did. She was smiling and I left it there to not press further.

After an anxious wait of one week, my daughter’s results came and my daughter got not 36 but 96. For one time in my life, I laughted at Maths, silently celebrating my daughter’s success.. no no.. my success with a roof top dinner in a five star hotel. Bring it on!

(This speech was given in the month of October 2010 in Chennai Wordsmiths Toastmasters Club.)

(This was my CC Project 7 – Research Your Topic speech )

Dinner is ready. Will you all come? No response.. What are you all doing? Renu comes to the main hall shouting. Sshhhhhhhhhh. Her father-in-law was almost on the verge of getting a stroke. She could hear the loud thuds of her husband’s heart beats. Her son was a frozen statue. Suddenly, the whole house erupts in joy…Indiawon the T20 World Cup!

Cricket.. Today is unofficially our national sport. But if we look at the early days of this great game, it had a very humble beginning. The exact day when this game took birth inIndiaremains a mystery but the best available proof states that the first cricket match was played in the year 1864 betweenMadrasandCalcutta. In the year 1892-93, a European team and Parses team played the first ever officially declared first class match. But Cricket remained a colonial game in 1890s, controlled by the British in all the countries they ruled during that period includingIndia.

When the white masters played cricket in the Indian maidans, an Indian slave watched kneeling down with curiosity and anxiety. What his master was doing was new to him. Every time he heard the bat hitting the ball his heart skipped a beat. He wanted to play the game with all heart but was suppressed.

Towards the 1920s, the British started losing their strangle hold on their colonies as cricket was slowly gaining prominence. In 1932,Indiawas finally allowed to form its own test team.. the first test team. C.K. Nayadu was the first Indian Test captain.Indiawas defeated byEnglandin that match by an innings and 158 runs but an Indian slave’s dream became a reality. In defeat, we saw victory.

Things changed for the better asIndiagot her independence in 1947. The slave was gone forever. An Indian fan was born that day. Fittingly, an independent India’s first cricket team came alive. The frequency of playing cricket increased. In the early years, especially from 1947 to 1952 India was happy participating in cricket matches and winning was a distant dream.

Finally in the year 1952, the Indian fan realised something special.. something extra-ordinary.. something that happened for the first time in his life. Yes..Indiawon. Victory.. victory..!! Never had the Indian fan known what a winning feeling was until India defeated their arch rival Pakistan in 1952. What a feeling it was!Indiabasked in glory. SlowlyIndia’s performances improved with strong teams likeAustralia,EnglandandPakistanto draws and defeatingNew Zealandat home.

Two decades rolled by but a victory in the foreign soil remained elusive. Came 1971,Indiadislodged the mighty West Indies andEnglandon their home turf and the elusive foreign soil victory was achieved. Ajit Wadekar was the captain of the Indian team. This was the beginning of the golden era as the passionate Indian fan stood up in awe of his heroes – The Little master Sunil Gavaskar, the maverick Gundappa Viswanath, the dreaded spin quartet of Bishen Singh Bedi, Bhagavat Chandrasekar, Prassana and Venkatragavan and a lanky paceman from Haryana, Kapil Dev.

Indian cricket folklore would be incomplete if the year 1983 was omitted.Indiawon her first and till date the only one day world cup under the captaincy of Kapil Dev. That day the picture of a kneeling Indian slave was erased completely and the Indian fan was jumping in joy, applauding and crying in tears of ecstasy looking with pride at his men who became the ‘World Champions’. A watershed moment!

After 1983, the Indian fan was no more solitary as he gained more force & might as many inIndiaconverged onto him. Many started following the game in transistors; lucky few watched the live matches, interested few took to the sport seriously and one man among the masses rose to the Indian colours at the tender age of 16 in 1989 -Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. This man has been a true inspiration to modernIndiaand a superb ambassador of the game – 21 years of focus, dedication and love for the game.  Today, I can proudly say “I did not see Bradman play, but I have seen SachinTendulkar bat.”

The journey of Cricket inIndiafrom 1864 to 2010 is a fascinating one and today, the Indian fan is no more a mere fan.. he has become an unstoppable force – a Juggernaut! All this Indian Juggernaut prays for and desires today is another World cup victory in 2011. If 1983 was for the solitary Indian fan, this one will be for the Indian Juggernaut – I am proud to be one among the Juggernaut!

(When I gave this speech on Dec 18th 2010 I wanted India to lift the 2011 World Cup and that prayer was answered on April 2, 2011. Very happy to post this speech script especially after India being crowned the ‘World Champions’)

India - World Champions 2011 (courtesy: google images)

Fear of First Time

Posted: July 13, 2011 in Experience, Toastmasters
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It was a colorful Sunday evening and as usual the atmosphere in the park nearby my home was filled with enthusiasm, energy and enjoyment. It was a hub of activity similar to the Heathrow airport – children playing, parents running behind keeping pace with them, young and old people watching on as they were going about their walking and jogging exercises and few other onlookers like me who came to do ‘the’ one thing – relax!

I pushed myself in one corner of the park as my mind started wandering around the serene atmosphere. My eyes was capturing each and every image haphazardly until it came to a standstill looking at one little girl who was trying to climb the slide. For every step she took in the slide, she would throw a cautionary look towards her mother and her mother would return an assuring response.  This caution-assurance activity was happening for quite some time and I understood that this was the first time the child was climbing the slide. My curiosity reached sky high in waiting for this child to finish her slide ride. It took eons and eons. But in the end to my agony, the child stopped on the final step and started crying.  If that was not enough, she started climbing down the slide. My heart broke. What was the reason that made the child come down when she was agonizingly close to reaching what she desired? In life, similar to the little girl many of us would have stood on the hinge of achieving something for the first time but we gave up.

If we retrospect the many moments when we came down like the little girl, the one common reason behind all such moments would be the ‘FEAR’. This fear drowns us in a sea of self-doubts, envelops us with uncertainties and finally poses disturbing questions – What will be the outcome? Will it be worth the effort? Do I really have the ability? Will the world laugh at my mistakes? What will be the repercussions if I fail? Fear does strange things to human beings. But one has to remember that there is a threshold for everything in life and one cannot remain a slave to this fear lifelong. The first and the only thing which one has to do to break the shackles of fear is ‘ACT’.  Instead of overloading one’s mind with overflowing fears, one should step into the line of fire and act according to the situation, in short take the bull by its horns! Success or failure is anyway going to be a part and parcel of the deal. So worrying about the outcome even before trying is a cardinal sin.

Trying something gives us an invaluable experience and the fuel to move on. We may succeed or fail in the attempt, but at least there is learning when we try and this learning would help us approach things for the better. These actions we undertake set forth a thought process; the thought process gives us a valuable experience which in turn is useful when we embark on a new exploration. As a bonus of the act-think-experience cycle, one overcomes the fear of approaching new things slowly even without one’s knowledge and along the way would surely realize and device one’s own method towards exploring the unexplored.

When we draw parallels with Toastmasters about trying something new, every speech, every role and every leadership activity which one takes up is a new path towards reaching the same destination of becoming a fearless public speaker. In fact the joy doubles when one dons the same role for the second time and still manages to do it differently from his/her first attempt. Mistakes, failures and other shortcomings are going to happen along the journey. For example, one of your speeches may have hit the bull’s eye with the audience and another might not have reached the level as you expected. You may feel low on confidence to take up the next speech but viewing every speech as an attempt towards experimenting and expanding your boundaries would help you overcome such phases and make you understand your strengths and weakness. After all one learns with every speech given, every role enacted and every leadership activity led from the front.

Last but not the least; be eager, energetic and enthusiastic in each and every new activity you take up. Fears and failures are not to fret upon. March ahead and remember that behind every fear there is success waiting to hug you. Over come the fear and hug the success. I know the little girl who I saw in the park will one day break those shackles of fear and will hug success.

Keep Exploring! Keep Enjoying! Keep Evolving!

(This article was published in District 82 Toastmasters Annual Magazine – Ovations 2010.. This was one of the my very early articles)

Days Of Yore

Posted: July 13, 2011 in Experience, Toastmasters
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The bell rang. I could hear the students chanting their evening prayer followed by a chorus “Thank you mam”. It was 4:00 pm in the evening. Motley of uniformed students came out rushing towards their waiting parents, auto rickshaws and cycles. Few others decided to quench their sporting pursuits by choosing to play carom, chess, volley ball, cricket and badminton. I was also one among those uniformed students just few years ago.

My friends and I were waiting outside my school looking at the giant building which was our second home not long ago. The agenda to come to school was straight forward. Teachers! We wanted to meet our teachers. We all missed our teachers in some way or the other and it all amalgamated towards fulfillment on 20th June 2005.

First up was the Principal. She was always busy especially after the school ends for the day. Nothing changed even when we went to meet her that day. We were waiting to meet our Principal. As we were waiting, the memories of the days I enjoyed unmindful of the competitive world outside engulfed me.

The same small ground just in front of the Principal room had been a witness to many a number of quarrels, chit-chats, and even mindless cupid wars. That ground has seen me from shedding blood to crowning glory. Except for the students who were playing on it today, the ground simply remained the same.

After few minutes, we entered our Principal‘s room and I was surprised when she recognized us easily and even called few of us by our names. The lady whom we feared a little won our hearts that day. Heartwarming indeed!

After we met the Principal, we immediately rushed to meet our teachers as we did not want to miss anyone. The reactions from my teachers ranged from surprise to sheer joy in meeting us. The conversations were a mixture of what we are doing, what we want to do in future and predominantly how life has been since school. The fun part was really when few of my teachers managed to recollect the pranks we played during our heydays. I personally felt the warmth and tinge of happiness in every word spoken, in every pleasantry exchanged and in every quip cracked. Mobile numbers were exchanged and promises to keep visiting school once in a while were taken.

Finally, my friends and I went to our 12th standard classroom and spent a few quiet moments within ourselves.

It was a satiating day – both mentally and emotionally. I bid goodbyes to my friends and started for home. Along the way, I felt nothing seemed to have changed with my school. The sanctity of my temple of learning was intact and most importantly my teachers were simply the same – ever encouraging and always caring. As I recollect my life’s precious moments, those 90 minutes I spent in my school will remain as one of those moments that I will cherish forever.

(This article was written for Wordsmiths Toastmasters Club’s 150th meeting newsletter on the theme “Life’s Precious Moments)

My Mentor’s Ribbon…

February 27th 2010 – It was a quite, serene and tranquil Saturday afternoon except that I did not realize it as I do today. Every cell in my brain was embedded with only 700 odd English words as my heart continued playing a discordant symphony skipping a beat or two here and there. Nothing was quite, serene and tranquil within me, as the Toastmaster of the day called me out to be guillotined for the very first time. It was my Ice Breaker. Learning by rote for 17 long years helped as I read, re-read and re-re-read the facts about me until I really knew everything by heart about me! The initial moments were nervous but a responsive audience helped me sail through my first speech successfully. That day, I had a plethora of firsts to take back home – the first laughter I managed to evoke, the first nod of assurance I garnered, the first message I conveyed, the first joy of finishing a speech I wrote, the first best speaker award I received and the ultimate first among the firsts – the first hug from my mentor TM Rajeev Nambiar. After all this came the ‘The’ moment when Rajeev pulled out his ribbon which he had won for his Ice Breaker and gifted it to me. Joy! My Ice Breaker was indeed special and thanks to all those wonderful people for making it feel so special.

Yours Indebted,

Krishnan Chidambaram

(The above writeup was submitted for Chennai Toastmasters Club’s 300th meeting special edition newsletter contest on the theme “Rewind, Recollect, Rejuvenate” in 250 words.  Personally writing this article was a very fulfilling experience.. rewinding those memories, recollecting those moments and finally feeling rejuvenated at the end of it all. The bonus was it also won me the first place 🙂 )

                                                                                                                                                                                                      4th September 2010

As the blog heading reads, this very question was what I was asking myself as I was returning home after participating for the first time in our Wordsmiths Toastmaster Club’s Humor & Evaluation Contests. 

Two aspects which were embedded in my mind made sure I had no confusions in finding out the correct answer!

One – The trappings we usually associate with a contest – winning is everything, looking at your fellow contestant as a competitor, the envies, the pressure to perform etc etc was all missing. Yes.. it was all missing.. but still it was a contest..a different contest with very different trappings – participating is everything, looking at your fellow contestant as a fellow toastmaster friend rather than a competitor, the joys displacing the envies, the pleasure to perform etc etc.

Two – The audience – All part of the ever encouraging family of toastmasters. Every speaker was applauded, encouraged and egged on whole heartedly to give their best shot. Why I tell this? Because to every speaker – experienced or inexperienced, the response from the audience is an important pointer to help them gauge their speech appeal, quash their nervousness, move their speech forward and especially make them grow stronger in confidence. Thanks to the awesome audience.

Yes..It was not a contest I participated in but a celebration in which I contested. 🙂

Finally, a big thank you from my side to each and every toastmaster (Contest Chair (TM Nina John), Chief Judge (TM Lalitha), Judges, role players & fellow participants – Audience as a whole!)who had contributed for this `Grand Celebration`.