P4 at Toastmasters – Fasten your seat belt

Flight of fantasyDelivered my P4 on Saturday, November 8, 2014 at BTM. Objectives of P4 are

  • Select the right words and sentence structure to communicate your ideas clearly, accurately and vividly.
  • Use rhetorical devices to enhance and emphasize ideas.
  • Eliminate jargon and unnecessary words. Use correct grammar.
  • Time: Five to seven minutes

Here is the transcript of my speech. Cruising at 35000 feet, I was reminded of my first flight some 40 years ago. I was all excited but was nervously clinging to my Dad’s finger. To me it was like Neil Armstrong’s mission to the moon.

Toastmaster of the Day, Fellow Toastmasters and guests, welcome aboard my flight full of experiences.

I snapped out of my day dreaming sequence with the pilot rattling off something and I recollected how air travel has changed over the last 40 years from being experiential and exceptional then to becoming a chore now.

To start with the check in – My incline and recline are always towards emergency … the emergency exit seat to accommodate my long legs and jelly belly. But these days, while the staff has become prettier, they ignore my endearing smile and expect me to pay through the nose for that necessity. The thoroughbred Gujju that I am, it goes against the grain to pay for what is rightfully mine. I therefore quietly take an aisle seat nearest to the emergency exit. I park myself into the vacant seat as soon as the doors are shut. Someday let these airlines be more considerate towards challenged people like me.

“Fasten your seat belts please.” reads the sign even before you get into the seat. As our eyes size up the crew, they are confirming all seat belts are fastened along with the head count. The routine drill of demonstrations start after that. And the first thing they teach us is fastening the seat belt! Wondering if they checked everyone was properly fastened or was it some imagination? After take-off the announcement starts – the captain has switched off the seat belt sign. Even before this can get half way, two dozen hands go up on the call bell button. Why? Water! That announcement always beckons people to drink like thirsty camels from the desert! Someday we’ll have automatic seat belts so that all are snugly set into the seats. And just like the tubes and oxygen masks, water would flow like a free and flowing river!

Sniff sniff ….  Tempting aromas waft from the end of the aircraft – It is now time for me to flex my muscles. The tray table can only rest on my little stomach at an incline. I puff my chest like Salman Khan pumping his 6 packs, suck the stomach in hard and hope that I can have the tray table at 180 degrees. Beads of sweat roll down my neck before I can achieve my goal. I now have earned myself a meal. I polish off the entire serving complete with the bread crumbs. With every passing day, the spread has become thinner and my appetite? Well less said the better. Oh these low cost airlines. Someday we will have a free all you can eat buffet mid-air.

Just as I start fidgeting, fretting, fuming I hear the captain’s voice “Crew to your stations for landing” and around that time I also hear phones receiving messages. Didn’t they ask you to switch off those noise making devices? VP Membership, they are perfect for BTM and we meet at a walking distance from Mumbai airport. Let’s go grab them.

The landing is smooth as silk but as the plane is taxi-ing on the runway (MIND YOU the runway and not the parking bay), the sounds of seat belts being unfastened and cell phones ringing are audible. Everyone makes a beeline for the bus and each one wants to stand closest to the door. Getting into the bus doesn’t guarantee you will get out first at the terminal or does it? Finally we arrive at the terminal. Like a child praying to Santa, every time I pray “Please let my luggage be the first to come out”. My prayers have so far been unanswered I know but ….. someday “We shall overcome …. someday”

Air Travel these days leaves a lot to be desired. Airlines have to be more considerate and passengers have to be lighter too. Passengers should be willing to pay more and airlines should be willing to serve more (food as in my case what else). And we must all adhere to rules like we do at Toastmasters.

Cabin Crew – Disarm all doors.

Over to you Toastmaster.

Revert v/s respond

revertHow often do we come across someone writing or saying “I will revert back to you” / “I am expecting a revert on this from XYZ” etc.? And how often have we ourselves used the word revert in place of respond or reply? Wake up folks…. We are using the word revert incorrectly.

According to the Oxford dictionary online, the word revert means “return to (a previous state, practice, topic, etc.)” There is absolutely no connection with reply. So the next time you want to reply to someone or you are awaiting for a reply, use the word reply (noun as well as verb form) or respond (verb form) or response (noun form). The word revert should not be used. Do pass on this message as this is a widespread practice in India atleast.

Thanks to Toastmaster Arvind Nair for helping me out with this one. I revert to proper usage of English.

101.36 My longest ride – A memorable journey

101.36October 2, 2014 – a red-letter day in my life. Well it was a normal holiday as usual but for me it was different as I was attempting my longest ride ever (attempting – Yes that is the word we use at Toastmasters before anyone gives his prepared speech). The previous best was 68.77 kms return and this time I was aiming at 80 kms return. I had marked the location on the map (Google maps – what would I have done without you?) and was scheduled to turn back from the junction where you turn right for Kalyan on the Eastern Express Highway
Preparations: The previous Sunday I slept through so missed on the ride to Thane but my companion Rony warned me to do some riding so on Monday morning went all alone to Afghan Church in Colaba and returned via Eastern Freeway. Tuesday was an aimless short ride, something that I too was ashamed of but in hindsight that helped too. Wednesday had the usual BKS Iyengar yoga. On Wednesday evening, I was preparing myself mentally and nutritionally for the ride. Being a diabetic, I was devoid of sugar and the instant energy boost it would give me but my sister, a qualified nutritionist and weight loss expert, advised me to carry diluted juice. Had a 200 ml Tropicana Grape Juice without any added sugar which I diluted with 500 ml of water. I also had a 1 litre bottle refrigerated during the night to which I added salt to bring in some electrolytes. My bag was stuffed with a spare napkin and two white handkerchiefs to be used under the helmet to protect my head from the heat. Also had a handful of nuts ie Almonds, walnuts and prunes in a plastic bag. These days we are so used to being digital and so had the battery back up and cable with me just to ensure that the phone didn’t run dry. Slept early around 2200 the previous night.
Motivation: This was an essential component. Before I went to bed the previous night, I messaged a couple of my close friends in the US, my sister and my yoga teacher just so that I knew I was accountable and couldn’t chicken out. Of course had made a big noise about it at home. They all encouraged me and their words of encouragement made it impossible for me to then back out.
The Big Day: I was up at 0359 with the alarm and was ready by 0500. I had a banana in the morning and along with that had my usual coffee. Left at 0530 from home and reached the meeting spot at King’s Circle where Rony was to arrive. He was doing the distance and was going all the way to Igatpuri which is 128 kms one way. At 0530 the weather was very pleasant and the traffic wasn’t too bad. Just that there were no lights on the roads in patches which made it difficult. So a word of caution for fellow cyclists (beginners like me) please ensure you have proper lighting not just on the rear of the bicycle but also on the front handle. And make sure they are ON.
Couple of water halts and we were in Thane easily and continued to Bhiwandi and ended up at Kalyan junction where Rony had some snacks while I had my apple and banana with the water. Bought water from there. Hydration is a must so keep adequate water in your bag. Of course the heavier the bag, the more difficult it gets to pedal. Rony goaded me to add 10 more kms to the distance so that I could overcome the 100 kms return milestone. The what if scenarios came to the mind of the doubting Thomas. But then it was pleasant so decided to give it a shot. Did it and turned back while Rony proceeded on his way to Igatpuri.
Alone and I was trying to gather all motivation mentally to keep me going. Quite a few times the thought of giving up came to my mind but the messages of the previous night made me think, how could I face them with a DNF (Did not finish). And most importantly what would Kavya think if I gave up when I am always telling her “Never give up” Went on. When up the slope, I would hear my Yoga Teacher telling me “Exhale! Exhale in the pose” (as she does during yoga) Then I could hear Kavya’s voice telling me “Come on Papa you can do it”. Imaginary yes but had a telling effect. Made it past Bhiwandi to Thane and it was getting hotter. The sun was all guns blazing at me and for a person used to the air conditioner, it was living hell. Found a coconut juice vendor on the service road in Thane which was shaded too. Had one there and asked him to pour another into the bottle. Also bought a couple of bananas of which one I finished there.
Next stop I took was on the service road from Airoli junction to Vikhroli. Bio break cum hydration break so it was input and output :-) Very few trees honestly and it was getting tougher. Started singing Manna Dey’s “Tujhko chalna hoga, tujhko chalna hoga“. Gosh I sure need a lot of motivation.
Halted at Amar Mahal junction under a tree then moved on for the next halt under Bhakti Park bridge. I was now in extra familiar territory. Thought of giving up thinking that now I am almost home, can take a cab. Plus my muscles around the knees were getting cramped. Lowered the gear substantially to continue at ease. Turned at Sion Hospital and made it home. First thing I did was check the distance before entering the lift. It was 101.36 so yes I did make it.
Entered home at 1220 tired surely but elated. Screamed to all as I entered home. Kavya wasn’t there but shared with her later on. Posted on Social media, SMSed & Whatsapped people too. Post the shower and lunch, slept like a log for 3 hours. Thighs paining, butt busted but all in all it was worth it all. If you can dream it you can do it. And if you just push the envelope slightly more, success is yours.

My P3 at Toastmasters finally – The Relationship Cycle

MyHercules ACT 110 Project 3 Speech was kind of jinxed as it took me quite some time to write down and then when I was due to give it, I had to call it off as had to travel outside town. Finally on September 5, 2014, I gave it as a Test Speaker at a corporate club, Recall. Thanks to all who made this possible. I finally got the monkey off my back. Here is the transcript of my speech.

The Relationship Cycle

In 1976, a 9-year-old boy accompanied by his father was out to buy his first bicycle! There it stood in the corner, a BSA resplendent in maroon beckoning him as he was all set to spread his wings and fly. His eyes gleamed as he was only too eager to escape from the clutches of his sister’s hand-me-down bicycle. That child is slightly overgrown now as you can see but his love for the bicycle remains unchanged.

Contest Chair, fellow toastmasters and guests, join me on my two-wheeled excursions.

I continued to cycle in and around the building. 2 years down, started cycling to school with Mom’s stern warnings about the traffic. The short distances gradually increased but the maximum I rode was 6 kms away to Siddhivinayak temple. For 7 years, this bicycle remained an inseparable part of mine till someone stole it from Dadar. I was devastated as I cried my way to the Police Station. Alas it was never found. At the end of the academic year, I begged my parents for a new bicycle and bought the same maroon BSA. This cycle was with me till the second year of Engineering when 2 more wheels got added and I began driving in 1986.

Driving a car is indeed different from riding a bicycle. I buried my love for the 2 wheels somewhere deep in my heart for 27 years. Finally on March 29, 2013, after a lot of deliberation, I bought a shining blue Hercules. Like the new-found possession in 1976, I started cycling the very next morning. Mom being Mom continued to warn me every morning. What started as an exercise, soon became fun as I rekindled an old flame. I got hooked to Mapmyride on the phone which measured the distance covered with the speed. It posted the stats to Twitter and Facebook so I could brag about it to all my connections. More importantly, it made me accountable as friends questioned if they didn’t see such posts. This added to the pressure.

Having pedalled for over a year all alone, I mustered the courage to cycle with a group. I was shy and always thought others were fast riders but this group was headed to see the flamingos in Sewree, my backyard. This was transformational. Made so many new friends and began learning. I learnt that my low-speed was because I was riding in the wrong gear for the whole year!

Social media got people to support my passion for cycling. It was now time for me, the cyclist to give back to society. On May 25, 2014, for the first time I cycled for a cause to support the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India. About 50 cyclists from across Mumbai rode in maroon T-shirts. Some of the patients travelled in vehicles and one of them was so enthusiastic that he let his young son pedal with us all the way to Haji Ali and back. It culminated with two senior neurologists explaining to us about the disorder. I decided then I would organise a ride on World Parkinson’s day in April 2015 to highlight the cause of my Dad and others suffering from Parkinson’s.

Now that I have told you about my cycling journeys, let me also tell you about my first love, food! I always relished the local breakfast be it the fresh karela juice at Yeoor Hills, the delectable Mushroom and cheese Omelette at Mondegar or the freshly baked Mawa cakes with Brun paav at the century old B Merwans, Grant Road. Along with food, I also discovered the grandeur of Colaba’s Afghan Church, the greenery of Aarey Milk Colony and the steep hills of Yeoor in Thane to cite some spots.

In conclusion, don’t let your childhood passions be buried somewhere in the corners of your mind. Get out and take the first step – Rent a cycle from the neighbourhood cycle shop. Cycling is the new Golf for networking. Join a group if you can but remember you are not participating in a race but just for fun. Don’t forget to invest in a proper helmet to protect your head and a pair of decent gloves to avoid blisters. Pedal for a cause and I am sure you will be pedalling for life.

The video recording of my speech is here. Sorry but taken on the phone.

Size Does Matter – my talk at the BTM Humourous Speech Contest

ObesityYesterday, August 23, 2014 was the Humourous Speech Contest at Bombay Toastmasters. I participated despite wanting to chicken out (Thanks to fellow Toastmaster, Suneel for goading me on not giving up. He just said “Enjoy the experience”) So there I was as Contestant Number 5. Here is the speech transcript.

“Lose weight, ask me how.” These were the words on the badges of a lot of people near my Bangalore office. I wondered why? These people would rush towards me when they saw me walking on the way to office. I surely wasn’t a damsel in distress looking for my knight in shining armour so why were they coming to me? I then realised that they were visitors to some office nearby which sold products that SUPPOSEDLY made people lose weight. And I was a sitting duck for them to achieve their targets. Don’t blame them, they are doing their job.

Contest chair, fellow Toastmasters and guests – please understand what a precarious situation I am in.

Jadya, Jaadi Buddhi, Motu, Dharti ka boj anaaj ka dushman, Kis chakki ka aata khata hai? – these are phrases I have been used to right from school to date. I realised I was challenged at the girth when I came to the fifth grade. During the summer holidays I had a dog bite and had taken 14 injections around my navel. I used that as a crutch to explain my bloated stomach. In hindsight, I realise what a lame excuse it was but I also learnt that I had the knack of spinning yarns from that age! While I was spinning yarns on one hand, I was desperately trying to lose weight one way on the other. But like that famous dog in the TV commercial, it followed me everywhere. Finally I was forced to accept my weight as a congenital defect and decided to live with it.

Having lost my mind but not my weight, I want to share with you not just my yearnings for food but also my learnings.

Let me start off with something I LOVE – Food – You will find some people who eat to their hearts content and yet not a milligram of weight but me? I put on weight just by breathing. God, why me of all the people? Buffets are my weakness with sites like Groupon always visited for such deals. I always enjoy a meal for two, all by myself. On the other hand, I am no saint rather a super hypocrite. I actually write blog posts for my sister, a nutritionist and a weight loss specialist. One of my posts is about what one should do at an all you can eat buffet. I just had to write exactly opposite of what I was actually doing – pigging out.

Then come clothes – It is always hard to find readymade shirts that fit me. Pants have to be custom made as my body is custom built. I started with size 40 and graduated to 46 slowly but visibly. The most embarrassing moment is when you walk into a shirt shop and ask for a 46 shirt, they say, sorry the largest we have is 44. The world is so cruel.

Finally physical activity – I took to swimming at age 44 and all began asking me – is there any water left in the pool after you get in? But I persisted and learnt. Before I could get anywhere near Michael Phelps, my ear infection took charge and so had to stop. Started BKS Iyengar Yoga and have been doing it for over 5 years. Even after such a long duration, I can barely bend and hold my shin bone while others put their palms on the floor. My instructor blames it on my belly which she refers to as an over inflated truck tire. I am always made to repeat a pose just for others to see and learn how not to do yoga! For Shirsasana, I need to be lifted from the thighs. Why? They do not permit cranes inside the building!! So maybe my next sport – Sumo wrestling.

Friends, the next time you receive an SMS on weight loss, smile and remember it was intended for me but somehow made it to you. Also if you see a dietitian, think of the hypocrite me ghost writing:-) Never ask a woman’s age or a man’s wage so goes the adage. For me please don’t ask me my tonnage. It embarrasses both the weighing scale and me both so we parted ways a long time ago.

And guess what? I was the first runner up!! My first time in a Humourous Speech Contest. Thanks BTM for giving me this opportunity.

Shishuvan’s Project Day 2014

2014-07-26 10.27.15Kavya’s school, Shishuvan held their Project Day 2014 on July 25th and 26th. As has been the norm every child participates in the event (will not wax eloquent on that lest I stray from my thoughts) The theme for Kavya and her class IV was India and her neighbours. Kavya had sung the Bangladeshi song (she said it was written by Rabindranath Tagore), the Pakistani song (which was more like a nice prayer) and the Chinese song not to forget a song in different languages including French and German words considering my little knowledge of all the languages. She was to introduce the Chinese song so as a Toastmaster in the making, it was my duty to coach her which I did and she carried it off with aplomb during the rehearsals at home.

Friday being a working day, I could not attend but Saturday made it with her by 0850 which was her reporting time. There was so much knowledge to imbibe from children. I went to her class first and was greeted by a huge map of India showing mountains, plains etc. and children would ask questions. It can be embarrassing believe me to tell a 10 year old that you don’t know something. They would then explain it all to me. Kavya and her friend were talking about National Symbols and would pose questions on that. There were a lot of other things including a word search in Hindi which for me was very tough. Then they had capitals of states and I was wronged when I said that the capital of Assam is Guwahati – It is Dispur for those who think like me:-) Learn from me!!! I learnt it from them. The children even wore the traditional attire for states and had the delicacies of that state on the table. The vada paavs and other items were sure tempting and I would joke with the kids if they were meant for me. The musical event then started and so I witnessed that as will be seen from the video links below. Kavya spoke well so yes she can be a Toastmaster if groomed well. Potential member in the making for Bombay Toastmasters :-)

After that I strayed into the Class V rooms just to see what was in store for Kavya next year. It was impressive to see children at that age discussing solar photovoltaic and solar water heating systems. They even had a complete chart on the Solar Park in Gujarat which was worth reading. Sometimes you skim through news paper or magazine articles but these posters are short and the copy is crisp so you can gain the gyaan you want. Try it if you haven’t.

Came back to Kavya’s class ie Standard IV and saw the Indian monuments made by them. Well, don’t expect models to be replicas of what you actually see but these were children’s ways of portraying. Kavya had chewed my head over some words on Howrah Bridge which I gave to her thanks to Google & Wikipedia. Lo and behold, I see those words there along with their model of Howrah Bridge. Children maintain that veil of secrecy honestly. She wouldn’t divulge what to expect and it sure came as a surprise to see so many models made by the children.

The revelation for me was that they had actually contacted a school in Bangladesh and exchanged Powerpoint presentations with each other showing them their school, the country etc. And they received similar presentations from there as well. Wow. That was impressive indeed. I always wondered that pen friendship was all but over with the advent of Social media, e-mail etc. but no it is there in some other form. How I wish Kavya takes to pen friendship like my Dad (her Grandfather) and me. We have both enjoyed and continue to enjoy writing to friends over the years and they are now more than family to us.

Then heard this rhythmic loud drumming which was quite impressive so went up to the 4th floor and saw these two boys from VII standard playing drums (sorry but for a layman anything would be a drum even if it were a tabla or mridangam). They showed great dexterity and the crowds were equally enthusiastic in cheering them. Worth a dekko any day.

Enthusiastic parents and grandparents thronged the school but honestly it was the enthusiasm of the students and teachers which could be sensed in the air and that made the whole event a memorable learning experience. Keep it up Shishuvan and keep it up Kavya and all students. Proud of you all.

Photographs available here

The beginning of the musical event with the children saying Hello available here

The Bangladeshi Song is here

The Pakistani Song is here

Kavya’s video introducing the Chinese song available here. Coincidentally I ran out of memory just when she finished speaking so couldn’t get the Chinese song.

Random thoughts mid air

thoughtsThese are thoughts that came to my mind when flying back from Delhi to Mumbai on July 31, 2014 onboard the Go Air flight.

  • You realise the value of games only when you are on a flight, tired and nothing but the phone in airplane mode for company. Why did I remove all of them?
  • Kejriwal is back to his usual antics. Saw on a rickshaw in Delhi about his dharna or whatever on August 3, 2014. No kidding!!! Sunday barbaad Delhi waalon.
  • Delhi flyovers are so flat that they accumulate water sufficient for a child to swim. Glad Mumbai is not so bad though can’t say the same about the Dadar fly over!
  • Usage of whatsapp for school homework transmittal reminds me of my days in VJTI when we had to photocopy and post stuff to each other.
  • I used whatsapp today to do some google research for Kavya. Collected material while at Delhi Airport and sent it to wifey so it is done before Kavya sleeps. #collaboration
  • Co passenger has a headache and requests for a pain-killer. Air hostess checks and asks “have you eaten anything?” #courtesy #goair
  • Traveled without shaving foam just so that don’t have to check in my bag. So when I get off I can say my bag was the first to arrive which has never happened!
  • No news papers on board. How boring. Can’t kill time and no online access either else would have posted these on social media. Need internet in flight like in the US.
  • Do they actually measure what is trending on whatsapp? Today alimony, hotmail and hot male were trending on all possible groups on whatsapp!!
  • Mumbai’s climate showing up already as we pass through a bumpy patch. Will it be raining when we land? Yesterday’s landing at Ahmedabad was kinda scary with water every where.
  • Captain makes the magical announcement that we have commenced our descent into Mumbai. Those are the words everyone longs to hear after a tiring day.
  • Reminder to self – get the cycle fixed you idiot before you forget cycling!!!
  • Should I make all of these into a blog post? Or should I post individually on Facebook? Confused!! Mind is constantly thinking.
  • Why don’t people turn off their cell phones? Mid air I hear someone receive a message on a Samsung phone going by the sound. Also why don’t they install jammers? Jhanjhat khatam!!!
  • With 10 minutes to land I am now feeling sleepy. Hang in there Manish, go home and sleep like a baby. Considering my girth can I be called a baby??? Oversized maybe.
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