24 Oct My first speech
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I was invited to be a guest at one of the professional groups in Dubai recently. I walked in smartly dressed, lips parted to a decent width and checked if the head is alligned with my vertebrae (My family pranoically says I have a ‘bird’s look’ head always tilted to one side).
Then gracefully knocked at the already wide open door. Was reminded of someone’s quote ‘first impression is the last impression’. Ticking courtly manners correct, I searched around for at least one familiar face.
In no less than a fraction of a second I scanned the rectangular room yet again – this time to spot any pleasant faces. Discovered a few scattered in between.
Meanwhile, an elderly person seated at the entrance side of the huge conference table introduced himself. Quickly exchanged names and shook hands with four – the person sitting on my right, left and two others across the table facing me. I considered them my closest acquaintances for the rest of the evening.
The next task was to look the part…lowered myself elegantly into the leather chair only to discover it was too wide for my not-so-slender frame. So re-positioned myself diagonally to cover the volume and placed my right knee over the left and stealthy checked over the bridge of my nose if my tummy folds were bulging out. Took a quick pranayama breath to double check and it was fine.
The meeting began on the dot. I was impressed at the professionalism of the group. President’s address followed by the master’s made me relax and take in the atmosphere. Then a third person took the dais to speak of the agenda scheduled. By then I had calmed down completely and was enjoying the experience. When the adrenaline settles, you tend to wander. I sat studying those within my vicinity on the rectangular table, with the speech as the background score. I noticed their dress, their eyes to see if they were alert, their postures to check if they were confident, even their booklets to determine if they were new entrants or old-timers…
When I heard my name being called. Guests should introduce themselves before the meeting rolls off.
Stood up, when the President said, ‘two lines will do’. Thank God for small mercies! Spat out my name, profession and place of work.
But when I resettled I was a bit ruffled and don’t quite remember if I struck the correct pose in my practised right angle. Neither was I in a frame of mind to check if my torso had inflated by the air I gulped in on hearing my name out of the blue. Thereafter I was an obedient spectator. Didn’t want another shock while on a wanderous trip.
Quickly enough, I was put at ease by the members’ talks on varied topics, evaluations, round robin sessions, etc. Then came the impromptu section. Ah! this is the real test, I told myself, readying to see who was the smartest of the group. By now I was in the thick of happenings around, enjoying like a butterfly in the wind without a care, when I heard my name yet again.
Shucks! Why the hell should a guest speak? No one had warned me on this one!
I walked to the dais and faced the room. 35 pairs of eyes on me. I was handed a small chit with the topic that I needed to speak on for not less than two minutes. The clock starts ticking the moment I finish reading the enclosed topic. The subject read ‘A wiseway diet from December to January’.
I had to collect my thoughts, structure them in my head with an intro, body and conclusion wrapped in ample humour as well as decipher the message hidden in the sentence and substantiate the same.
I re-read the topic to gain some time to sort these requirements.
Looked at the opposite wall and started, “Well, it is not a wise option to do so…and saw my elderly neighbour across smile at me. I can’t remember how and what I spoke after that. Uttered and mumbled some jumbled lines in no particular order and yes, I remember saying a thank you even, when I was told I had another 40 seconds left. “Give examples,” suggested a member.
Luckily I recollected my yoga teacher’s favourite line and spun on it…until the timer signalled red.
As I took my seat, I prayed my neighbours don’t hear my heart pound. For all my image-building exercise just an hour ago, how I wanted to disappear from the scene!
Nursing my bruised ego, I slumped blank in the huge chair, trying not to make eye contact with anyone. I didn’t know when the session ended and the next started even.
Soon it was time for the awards and I was relieved the damn meeting was at last winding up. The grammarian was addressing the group. The best speaker was announced, followed by the best evaluator. He carried on…”Coming to the best quote of the day, it’s by our distinguished guest ‘What a shame it is to let a six-inch organ control a six-foot man’!
I was perplexed, can’t remember what expression I sported while I stood up to acknowledge the applause. When my neighbour asked, “What was your topic?”
Opened the chit in my hand and the words were smudged beyond legibility. Quickly dropped the proof of my nervousness down and said, “Oh, it was something on dieting.”