I always loved to speak using a microphone. Growing up, I wanted to be a TV presenter or a radio jockey. But somehow I ended up opting for a totally different career. I am happy with what I do currently but I still have a little vision that one day I will be a radio jockey….Good Moooooooooooooooooorning India. Where did this ambition come from?
I vividly remember a particular incident, as though it was just yesterday. I was 3 year old and studying in LKG and my Bhaiya who is an year older than me was studying in UKG in the same school. As part of the extra curricular activities in school, there was a fancy dress competition. Bhaiya was taking part in the competition. Papa decided to dress Bhaiya like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and prepared a speech (primeminister's address to the nation) for him. Papa really worked hard to get all the fancy dress requirements. On Sunday, the previous day of the competition, Bhaiya’s costume and speech were ready. The rehearsals began in the afternoon. By evening, intelligent Bhaiya, was doing complete justice to the speech. Soon our next door neighbours and close family friends were also accolading at Bhaiya’s rehearsals.
An enthusiastic or may be a little jealous me, wanted to take part in fancy dress competition too and make a speech. Not knowing what it was like to stand on that stage and deliver speech, I demanded to be dressed too as someone famous. I just knew I wanted to make a speech, get the audiences cheering and make Amma and Papa proud.
Amma and Papa did not want to discourage me. They agreed that I could take part in the competition too. Papa was to decide, who would I dress up as. Why on earth did he not think of anyone else? He decided to dress me as the Pope. The costume and props were put together in a rush. By 7pm on Sunday evening everything was ready including a short speech. The speech was in English. I had two hours before bedtime to mug up the speech (I had only just learnt to speak my mother tongue, let alone English!). The speech was apparently something like ‘’I am Pope John Paul. I came from Vatican .....
On Monday morning, Papa, Amma, Bhaiya and Me went to the school. Bhaiya and I were dressed in our fancy dress costumes. I was still mugging up the speech.
The competitions began. All the participants fared well. Bhaiya pulled it off very well too. Audiences applauded his performance and I vividly remember how Amma and Papa were bursting with pride. As the competitions were drawing to an end, Papa and I went backstage to register my name for the competition ( you see..I had decided to participate only on the previous day).
Finally, it was my turn. Miss Geeta called out my name and I entered the stage. My first ever public performance…The kind public (mainly teachers, fellow students and their parents) cheered me.
I was on the centre stage. Now all the eyes were on me but I was trying to look for Amma in the audience. There she was.. ..sitting next to Hemanth’s Mama. Papa was standing near the right hand side of the stage. I looked at him before starting my speech. He showed me a thumbs up.
I began my speech.
I came…hmmm…I came….I came Vatican………
(let me start again) Vatican…I came….
(may be it was) I came…came Vatican....
That was it….complete blank…could not remember a word of what I had been mugging up until then. I tried all the permutations and combinations of the words ‘I’, ‘Came’ and ‘Vatican’. All in vain. For the life of me, I could not remember my speech.
Fellow classmates were all chuckling by then. But that did not deter the stage and microphone lover me from leaving the stage. I was still trying to say my speech. Miss Usha came to my rescue again. Patting my back, inferring that I was good (of course, I was good!! After all, I had repeated the first line of the speech at least five times!!), she held my hand to walk me down the stage. But I resented. So the audiences decided that perhaps if they applauded, the three year old might leave the stage…soon there was a loud applause…. but nope…even that did not work. I just did not want to leave that stage. I was determined to complete my speech. Finally, Papa came to the stage and gave me a warm hug and said I had done a very good job. He took me in his arms and walked down the stage. It was only then that I left the stage.
Whoa! What a sight we must have been! A small child, proud for her performance and a slightly disappointed yet a proud parent walking his child down the stage. The kind audiences still applauded as we left the stage!!
Shortly after the competition, the prizes were announced. Bhaiya bagged the first prize, Suma second prize and Akhilesh third prize. I was given a consolation prize.
Twenty something years later, when I look back, I feel glad that I participated in the competition that day. The consolation prize meant as much as first prize or even more to me. It boosted my confidence. I have never had stage fear since that day.
Papa and Amma fondly remember that day. They say they were proud of me as much as they were of Bhaiya. Papa says it is important to try. Winning or losing doesn’t matter.
So, that was my first speech…albeit short and incomplete but it did play a part in my life. Every time I have a presentation to make or any new task at hand now, as long as I know I have tried and I have done my best, I am happy irrespective of the results. This is what I want to say to everyone. Be yourselves. Live your dreams. Do your best and don't worry about the results.
As for my dreams of being a radio jockey or TV presenter, I hope some day I can live that dream too. For now I am glad that at least I bear the precious gift of sharing one of my fondest childhood memories - My shortest speech - that was not on TV or radio but every bit of that performance was as important to me, in its own little way.