The place was GCT, Coimbatore. The occasion was the reunion of all of our classmates, after a gap of nearly 20 years.
Good morning fellow Toastmasters and guests.
Imagine how exciting it would be to meet all of your friends under one roof, after a long gap. The untold theme of that day was Nostalgia. Some of them had put on weight… some of them had lost weight… some of them looked old, some of them still looked young, some of them had lost some hair, one of them had lost ALL the hair….
The first session was an Ice Breaker session.
I was called first to the stage. I went to the stage with an inflated chest and head held high. I boasted about my improved communication skills, as a result of joining Toastmasters. I boasted about my success in career and my role as a Delivery Head in a leading MNC. I boasted about achieving financial freedom. After talking on the stage for a few minutes, I came back to my seat with lots of pride. I thought I’m the most successful and I’m going to be an inspiration, for all. My ego got inflated like a helium balloon and started going up and up, crossing the moon… the stars and inching closer to the sky.
[Names of characters changed to ensure privacy]
Next, they called Naren to the stage. As Naren was walking to the stage, I was tracing back my old memories… the flash back unfolded in black ’n white.
- Naren used to be very short, like the millimetre boy in Nanban movie. He hardly combed or oiled his hair. His teeth used to be stained. He used to wear bathroom slippers for classes.
- Naren is from a village near Salem. His village didn’t even have electricity during those days. He was the first graduate from his village. The first time he saw a Television was after he joined the college. The first time he saw a computer was after he joined the college. Until +2, he studied in Tamil medium. So, he found it extremely difficult to cope up with the studies in college.
- He used to be a lone wolf at the college
- I remembered an incident from the final year. Naren was asked to take a seminar on “Computer Hardware”, his hands were shivering and he was sweating in an Air Conditioned hall. His English was so poor that nobody could understand what he was trying to say. The entire class pitied for him.
- Naren studied very very hard, but despite the hard work, he had many arrears… because, his hand writing used to be like Doctor’s prescription.
- During the final semester, while many of us came out with a handful of offers, Naren came out with a handful of arrears. We graduated in the year 1998 and I lost touch with Naren after that.
“Hello Friends”… When Naren started to speak on the stage, I switched from the black ’n white to the colour mode. Naren was in proper formals and wearing leather shoes. He had grown up a little bit, too. The millimetre boy has now become a centimetre boy. He was well groomed. Those stains in his teeth had vanished. Naren continued his speech with a lot of enthusiasm and in a simple English. “Friends… Happy to see all of you here. I work for the prestigious Hindustan Aeronautics Limited as a Technical Engineer. I take care of the maintenance of all the fighter planes that India produces. I know you may be shocked. Yes… I went through a very hard time immediately after we left college. I went back to my village. I didn’t know what to do. But, I didn’t lose my hope. I studied hard and cleared all of my arrears in a year. Later, one of my relatives asked me to sign up for a Apprentice program at HAL. Thankfully, my application got selected. I worked in HAL as an Apprentice for a couple of years. My supervisor got impressed by my performance and gave me a full time job there. I have been working there for the last 18 years. Outside work, I love doing Yoga. I’m a certified Yoga instructor. I help a number of people in my community to improve their wellness through Yoga. I change their lives. I’m married to a beautiful wife and I have 2 young kids. Starting from a village that didn’t have electricity to graduating in GCT with arrears to maintaining Fighter planes and changing the lives of people around me, my journey was exciting”. When he stopped speaking, there was a pin drop silence in the hall. We were amazed by the progress and transformation in Naren’s life. All of us gave a thundering applause to him. My hologram image stood up and gave a standing ovation to Naren. My inflated ego got pierced, lost some gas and came down to the moon, from the sky.
Then, Suresh was called to the stage… a back bencher from the college days. He told that he is currently an entrepreneur giving jobs to 25 youngsters and delivering software to multi-national clients. Then, Vinod was called to the stage… Vinod was just an ordinary student during college days. He said “He works in US currently, for the IT department of Blue Cross. His hobby is to do counselling for a number of alcohol addicts and he has helped several dozens of people to recover from their addiction”. One after the other, all the batchmates were called to the stage. When all of them finished speaking, my ego, the inflated helium balloon was punctured left, right and centre and was lying dead on the ground. I realised that “Everyone’s life is inspirational” in their own way.
Fellow Toastmasters, look around you, there is so much of inspiration in this place. Our past Presidents Shriram and Siddharth, reviving a struggling club and bringing its membership back to 40 plus are an inspiration … Our own DTM Gautam Sharma quitting his high paying job at TCS to pursue entrepreneurship and training youngsters is an inspiration. Our current President Pravin, who rolled up his sleeves … helping the club during the last term, without looking for a credit, when we lost our then VP Education is an inspiration. You can be an inspiration too… When you have the courage to face adversities head-on, when you come out of your comfort zone and take risks, and most importantly, when you help others selflessly”… someday … someone will pop-up in front of you and say “Hey! You are an inspiration”.