My public speaking adventures

 

When I took the mic, I traveled back to the year 1997. Hundreds of kids were staring at me. I was shivering from head to toe. I had surrendered myself to the Fear Dragon. The Fear Fire emanating from his mouth spread through me, destroying every single ounce of courage I had within me. I thought I will faint. But, I had a task at hand. If I didn’t finish it, I will be scolded by the class teacher. That would be even worse.

With shaky hands I took out the piece of paper from my pocket & stood before the mic stand. Tears threatened to trickle down from my eyes. I realized that the Fear Fire was so intense that I wasn’t able to breathe!

“Read it quick! And finish this” Screamed my sub conscious.

I was so choked that no sound came from my throat, even though I was trying my best. I thought I was reading out loud but someone at the back prompted me to be louder. It seemed nobody was able to hear my voice in spite of me standing near to the mic.

The Fear Dragon became stronger & bolder. His Fear Fire grew in intensity. He was laughing and I wanted to cry. I wanted to run away, away from this madness. I was ashamed of myself. Tears started running down my cheeks.

I tried to be loud. But I could hardly recognize the voice which came out of my mouth. It was not mine. It was the voice of Fear. I tried to see what I was reading out but the tears clouded my vision.

The Fear Dragon roared with laughter, which sent more tears down my cheek. I blinked & blinked to clear my vision.

Here is what I had scribbled on the piece of paper, which I was trying to read for the morning assembly in front of the school:

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:

Where there is a will, there is a way.

MEANING:

It means that if you are determined enough, you can find a way to achieve what you want, even if it is very difficult.

‘Just 3-4 lines and that too to be read from paper’, smirked the Fear Dragon. I read as fast I could, simply because I could no longer tolerate the heat within me. I could feel myself burning inside.

When I was finished, I looked up. I saw my class mate standing in the front row, she looked concerned. I couldn’t hold our eye contact for long & turned my gaze down. I felt ashamed.

Even though my part was over, I was still reeling under the attack of Fear Dragon. It was as if I was cut off from the rest of the world. I was physically present but mentally I was fighting a losing battle with my inner demons. I lost track of what was happening around me. It was only when my classmate put her hand over my shoulder after the assembly that I came out of my reverie.

“Are you OK? You were shivering? Are you sick?” she asked.

“I am OK” I mumbled not looking at her.

I come back to 2008.

I am holding the mic. Some 40 faces are looking up at me. The Fear Dragon was amused about the fact that I had volunteered myself to be the anchor for a paper presentation competition. I was determined to defeat the Fear Dragon this time.

And so the battle began. I was welcoming the students who had come from other colleges, when the Fear Dragon attacked my right hand which was holding the mic. My right hand started shaking. I tried my best to control the shaking but the right hand; it appeared to me, had suddenly acquired a mind of its own. So I shifted the mic to my left hand. I quickly ended my welcome speech & requested the first participant to start the presentation. This way I thwarted the first strike by the Fear Dragon.

Even though I was still burning from the Fear Fire inside, I had managed to gather enough courage to lower its intensity. By evening, I had completely doused the Fear Fire within me and I felt proud of myself. Just then, the Fear Dragon glowered, “Being an anchor, you just had to call out the participant’s name! It’s no big deal! If you have so much guts then give a 10 minute presentation next time.”

“Challenge accepted” I shouted back to the Fear Dragon, still glowing under the accumulated courage.

It’s 2009. I am about to start my presentation. The judges & the audience are looking at me. I hold the mic with both my hands. But this time, the Fear Dragon doesn’t attack my hand, he goes for my throat. My throat gets dry & I am almost choked. The voice which comes out is hoarse. I could hear his sinister laughter ringing in my ears. I take deep breath & cough a little, and then I begin.

I knew that the Fear Dragon would try to blank me out during the presentation, so I had prepared my power point presentation in a smart way. I had prepared well for this battle & hence courage blossomed inside me in spite of the Fear Fire.

The claps from the audience & the smile on judges’ face filled me with warmth, warmth not from the Fear Fire, but from joy of the battle won within. I along with my friend, who jointly presented, eventually won the paper presentation competition. Of course, I was overjoyed!

I realized that, if it had not been for the Fear Dragon, I would not have worked so hard. The trick is in taming the Fear Dragon. If you let it loose, it will wreak havoc inside you, making you weak. But if you are able to control its intensity with your will, it can aid you in bringing out your best.

It’s 2016. As I look back, at the little girl, who had tearfully read the thought for the day before the school assembly, I wish I could tell her that one day she will exercise her will to find a way to tame the Fear Dragon.

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My Date with Mr. C

My heart was beating fast. I was nervous. My adrenaline levels were soaring sky high. I had never been so excited about seeing someone. This guy was mysterious as well as dangerous, & maybe that’s why I found him so enchanting. I had mostly seen him on TV, but I was about to meet him face to face.

I was on a round boat called a coracle. It was made of bamboo, straw & was sealed with tar. I was sailing on the calm waters of River Kaveri, trying hard to catch a glimpse of him. I looked around but couldn’t find him. It was a hot afternoon, but the cool breeze helped me feel comfortable.  There was silence all around. No honking horns, no loud music, no loud speakers, no chattering, nothing. It was very peaceful. The water surface looked like a thousand sparkling diamonds wherever it was touched by the sun light.

“THERE HE IS!” yelled the boatman, bringing me out of my trance. I stood up looking at the direction he was pointing, but couldn’t see anything, except couple of rocks.

“I can’t see him”, I said.

“That’s him! You are looking right at him”, he said pointing at a huge boulder on the river bank.

I was yearning to see him.  I knew that he has knack of hiding in plain sight, which made me scared and fascinated at the same time. I looked and looked but nothing seemed like him.

Suddenly, my eyes caught movement among the rocks. There he was! I was shocked, happy and scared all at once. He was simply lying on the shore and yet I couldn’t see him until he moved. I had assumed him to be the boulder. I was fascinated when he started walking along the shore, because that’s when I saw the entire length of his body which was more than 7 feet long. His skin was dark & rugged which resembled the texture of rocks, and thus I was not able to spot him earlier.

My heart started making somersaults when he slipped in to the water stealthily. I was shivering with part excitement and part fear. He was coming towards me. I was perspiring.

I could only see his eyes above the surface; his rest of the body was submerged under water. All of a sudden, he disappeared. Fear embraced me in a tight hug. I had seen him startle people using guerrilla tactics on TV. It’s thrilling to watch on TV in the safe confines of my home, but now, sitting in a small coracle, I was scared out of my wits. The boatman assured that he won’t trouble people on boats and he usually hangs around the opposite shore of the river, but my mind was not convinced.

Just then, I heard a splash and I almost jumped. My heart was up in my throat.  I looked frantically out in the water, fully convinced that we were being followed. I was terrified at the possibilities. What if he overturns the boat? What will I do? I couldn’t even swim! I sat there paralyzed with fear. I heard the splash again. This time I saw a glimpse of something red jump in the water. I heaved a sigh of relief, as I watched a school of red finned fishes making a splash, mocking my fear.

Till the end of our sailing trip, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that we were being watched. Maybe this was the reason which kept my adrenaline levels high. The rocks in the river kept playing with my mind: is it him or just a rock? He made me observe & not just see, he made me listen to each & every sound & not just hear. He kept me alert and maybe it was for the first time in my life that I was actually living fully in the present moment. He made me forget all my worries and just focus at the present. I could feel my survival instincts kick in, every time I heard a sound or saw something move.

Looking back at that wonderful trip to Galibore Nature camp, I surely have captured some of the best moments of my life in my memory. It was surely a date to remember. A date with ruggedly handsome, Mr. Croc O Dile.

Foo Foo Ki Kahani

Few months back, my cousin forwarded me a video on WhatsApp with this message: “Did you make this? Your name is mentioned in the credits at the end” To my amazement, I found that it was the same video which I had created while in college for a competition 4 years ago. It was about life of an engineering student. It was a funny video. Memories of the good old college days came rushing when I saw that video. The entire audience had laughed out loud while watching it. Even though the audience response was tremendous, it failed to fetch a prize. But for me the audience love was more valuable than any prize.

I asked my cousin, “How did you get this?” She said,”It was forwarded to me by my friend who had received it from another friend. The video is being shared everywhere!” I was thrilled, and annoyed at the same time. Thrilled because so many people loved the video, annoyed because it was leaked to the world without my knowledge! Curious to know, how far it has reached, I couldn’t stop myself googling it. There were many hits on YouTube. I went through each one of them. I was half laughing & half angry. Some claimed that it was their idea and when they were asked why “Sneha Bangera” was mentioned rather than their name, they said that they had asked Sneha Bangera to edit it and they didn’t bother to add their names. Strangers claimed that they were close friends of mine and hence posted it on their YouTube channel on my behalf. It was really hilarious to see the extent to which they went to cover one lie.

Couple of days back, when I googled my name (don’t tell me you don’t google your name), I saw Google prompting “sneha bangera foo foo” It put a smile on my face. I felt as if I have attained some kind of celebrity status on the web. I clicked on “sneha bangera foo foo”. As usual there were many YouTube channels showing it. But there was one which caught my attention: “Sequel to Foo Foo Ki Kahani” I checked out the video, they had continued the story in the same video, using the same music & images which I had used. I almost thought they would remove my name from that video, but to my delight they didn’t remove. They kept my name and added theirs as well.

While creating the video, I never imagined that it would go viral over the internet. I had made it by keeping engineering students in mind, but I was amazed to see that Foo Foo spoke to students of every stream not just engineering. It feels great to know that through Foo Foo, I made millions of student forget their exam pressures for a while and made them smile. I also thank all those YouTube channel owners for posting my video & making me famous! 🙂