Toastmasters – Project 1: Icebreaker

BACKGROUND

I recently joined the Toastmasters club in my company. Now, I wasn’t sure about introducing myself to everyone. I wanted to sit in silence for as long as I could. I don’t know if this was due to the fear of stage, the fear of strangers, or plain laziness. I finally mustered up some courage and came up with my first speech. In the hindsight, I always wanted to speak about my mother and this was the only possible introduction I could think of.

THE SPEECH

You all must have seen those old Bollywood movies where an estranged lover would spend days scribbling pages and pages of letters for his loved one and then tear them away and throw in the bin; I have been doing the same for a week now for this icebreaker but still haven’t hit the perfect note. It doesn’t matter; let me begin this imperfect rendition of the story of my mother and me.

Our story begins much before my birth. A Karnataka brahmin from Andhra Pradesh, shifted to Bombay to establish a branch of the company he worked for. My mother, a Sindhi from Bombay, worked in that firm. They met. They fell in love. They fought for their happiness. They convinced my grandparents. They broke traditions. They married. And that is how I was born. One peculiar story comes to my mind from this time. My father, not wanting to disobey his wife or his mother, gave me two names, Kamal Karan. Our time in Bombay was filled with such incidents. For me, this city is a synonym for love and new beginnings.

We shifted to Hyderabad soon after. I spent my early childhood there. I made my first friends and I started to paint. I was living a king-sized prince-sized life. Like the storm just after the calm in the sea, our lives shattered in 2006 when my father suddenly passed away. We were devastated. During this testing time, my mother displayed unsurmountable resilience. She protected us and played the roles of both parents flawlessly. An epitome of courage and perseverance, my mother single-handedly made sure we had a normal childhood. Hyderabad is the city where my mother became my role model.

In 2007, she found a job in Ahmedabad. New city, new people, completely different life. This is where I grew up. Hyderabad had changed me. Now, I found solace in books. Hogwarts, a fictional school in Harry Potter, became my home. My love for reading developed in my high school. I readily woke up at 4am to delve into the lives of my favourite characters. Fantasy fiction became my reality. Daydreaming became a common phenomenon. I was doing well in studies and after 10th, I started preparing for engineering entrances. My mother still doesn’t know what I did when I told I was studying. I read comics and I wrote poetry. Ahmedabad gave me my mindset, my attitude to face the world and my love for reading.

I moved to Calicut to pursue my engineering. I learned more about life there. I participated in every possible event, attended as many seminars as I could and danced whenever the seniors told me to. I was a full-time meme maker at one point of time. I laughed; I cried; I enjoyed; I partied; I protested; I studied; I lived. At the convocation, my mother and I cried tears of joy. This was the culmination of her hard work and determination.

I moved to Bangalore in 2016 to start my career with Schneider Electric. In the last 2 years, I have made some friends for life, I have learned about my work and had a few amazing co-workers. My mother teaches me financial management now. Bangalore has presented itself with a lot of opportunities.

We have learned that life is full of happiness and tears and we have just started to live it.

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Review: Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Chronicle of a Death Foretold(1981)
Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Pages: 120
Source: Chronicle of a Death Foretold 
Rating: 5/5


Gabriel Garcia Marquez, well known for instigating magical realism into his books, writes this novella with a lot of realism and with only one thing magical!
His books, albeit tough, are never short of entertaining.
In this one, he brings out the journalist in him in the most beautiful of the ways. The whole book is an account of Santiago Nasar’s murder by the Vicario twins.
Angela Vicario is returned by her husband on the night after the wedding because she is not a virgin. On being pestered about who took her honor she takes a name which seems just like speaking from the shadows. Her brothers, twins, vow to kill the man. They seem unsure of their decision and in an attempt to stop themselves they tell the whole town about their plan. Everyone knows Santiago Nasar is about to die, yet no one is able to save him. The chronicle follows the account surrounding this. What happens of the people connected to this, how it all started, what was everyone doing. The only question which remains unanswered is whether Santiago really took Angela’s honor or not. Gabriel Garcia Marquez let’s out subtle hints throughout the chronicle for the reader to think and contemplate upon this later.

The writing makes this book nothing short of a masterpiece.

Favorite Quote: “A falcon who chases a warlike crane can only hope for a life of pain.”

Review: Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman(2015)
Author: Harper Lee
Pages: 288
Source: Go Set a Watchman
Rating: 3.5/5


Mostly a third person narrative(as opposed to TKAM’s first person), Go Set a Watchman is a tale about Jean Louise (TKAM was more of Atticus’s story). You are welcomed back into Maycomb  as soon as you start reading the first page. Scout, as bold and wry as she was at 6, is 26 and is on her annual 2 week visit to Maycomb. The book starts with her love interest, Henry, showing her around. Narration becomes a bit steady during this part . The real story starts when Scout sees her father and Henry attend a Klan meeting. This jolts her insides. How a God like figure in her life could commit such a deed. How did Maycomb change so much.  Atticus, who was projected as a saint in TKAM, is shown as a white man of 1950s who doesn’t believe in equality. Atticus is portrayed as a modern day equivalent of RACIST. This revelation took me a while to digest. Atticus, whom I had known, was completely different. He defended blacks. He believed in justice. But this book has a completely different picture of Atticus painted up on me. I could totally relate to what Scout was going through.

The dialogue between Atticus and Scout, and Scout and Jack explain the reasons behind Atticus’s thinking and these are the reasons why you must read this one. The way they explain what is happening and how the steps are necessary can make you wonder whether Atticus is right for days.

This is one of those novels which make you think of the circumstances, connect it to modern day topics(like feminism) and contemplate for days. A must read if you don’t want to take decisions thinking what Atticus would do in such scenarios. A must read for all those who have read To Kill a Mockingbird.


Favourite quote: “Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.”

Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird(1960)
Author: Harper Lee

Pages: 385
Source: To Kill a Mockingbird
Rating: 4/5


A timeless classic. Reading it as an adult makes one realize how beautiful the novel is. Of the few books I have read, I find this one to be an amazing piece of literature. To kill a mockingbird contains happiness and sadness, talks a lot about racism and equality, and shows maturity in immaturity. You fall in love with the characters and the storytelling is as good as it can get.
If you haven’t read the so-called sequel, Atticus will come across as one the best characters in all of literature. He is the most moral, humble and gentlemanly person you will ever read. Scout is the little, immature girl who shows you the story. She is not an ordinary 5 year old. Jem, her brother, is another main part of the plot. A boy who tries to woo Boo Radley out in his childhood and in his teens locks himself inside his room. Calpurnia, their black maid, is a lady. She makes lemonade for children and teaches Scout about life in the meanwhile. There are other main characters who seem to be equally mesmerizing.
Set in the summers of 1930s, it is the story of American societies. Scout narrates their daily adventures. Everything changes when a white man decides to defend a black person charged with rape. What happens afterwards is why this book won The Pulitzer Prize.
A must read for everyone in the world.


My favourite quote from the book: “Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win”