I think the best moments in life are those when you look back, you learn, laugh and cherish all at once! These are priceless moments which you should be thankful for. 😀
I’m gonna’ share a list of such incidents in this blog, dedicating to someone special on his birthday. Okay, so you will get introduced to Ashwin ji along the way!
#1 In the most obedient classroom I’ve ever seen!
The first time I met Ashwin was during the commencement of my Teach For India Fellowship in July 2016. I was coming back to Chennai after a 5-week intensive training at Pune, popularly known as ‘Institute’.
Though I had a time of 3-4 days on my hands to join my classroom at Chennai Middle School, MGR Nagar (as a class teacher for std 4 students) – I desperately wanted to to visit the school ever since the moment I landed in Chennai.
So, I called up Ashwin who was my previous Fellow (he taught the same students, as a class teacher for Std 2 & 3), and my school team, fixed an appointment with them right before the school ends at 4 PM.
The school was located approx. 2 kms from my house, so I decided to cycle all the way to the school, parked my vehicle outside the gate and then slowly opened the main door to find the ‘watchman anna’ there.
The moment I told that I’m the new Fellow going to teach 4th std, he was super excited, “Oh, you have come to teach in Ashwin sir’s class! Please come.. come.. come..”
And then I walked past the whole ground, crossed the HM room – noticed she was not there. Slightly popped into the classrooms, and said a ‘Hi!’ to my school team mates (didn’t speak much since they were doing the closing circles, which is how we close our classroom teaching during Fellowship).
And then went and stood before a colorful classroom – neatly painted, carefully arranged, with the most obedient students sitting on perfect postures, eagerly waiting for someone (or waiting to go home :P)!
The next moment – someone appeared in front of me with a gentle smile,
“Welcome, Aravindh. This is Ashwin, your previous Fellow.”
Ashwin also ensured that he came on the first official day of my Fellowship (the actual day I joined as a teacher), introduced me to everyone, and to the classroom (which he spent hours of time the before to again paint neatly) and finally handed over the classroom key which was connected to a guitar keychain. When I wondered why guitar, he said – “This is just to remember – there should always be music in the classroom.“
#2 The fundraising kick starter moment!
Fast forward to an year – I was sitting with Ashwin and my other school team mates in the classroom opposite to mine, on a fine holiday – thinking and discussing about what do we do on the next year, so we can provide the best possible impact to the students.
Long story short – I started fundraising campaign with the target of INR 2 lakhs, with my efforts was able to raise somewhere around ~INR 40K in the first 4 months, then honestly I was clueless on how to move forward.
Initially, I was also a bit hesitant to ask people around, and then we decided to push it to the maximum because we had a very limited time (from that point, I had only one year of Fellowship left but the vision was so high).
But still, there was some level of hesitancy from my side – and I didn’t send a request to many people whom I know.
Then came this moment – when I noticed Ashwin sending the request to so many people request for support and he told me in a funny way – ‘See, I’m sending so many request messages to everyone. You should start going on this faastt!’
That’s the actual moment, I felt really confident and motivated at the same, we also received all the support from everyone (honestly, the fundraising was the best experience of my Fellowship, later I went to choose the same as my career with Teach For India for 2 years). In a matter of 3 months, we raised INR 2.4 lakh and did so many technology interventions in the classrooms! Want to know what we did, watch this video!
#3 Rehearsing the award script!
Fast forward to an year and half – I was sitting along with Ashwin at the only pizza restaurant that was open at 11 PM in the Vancouver City, Canada. (Facebook, #MGRNagar2Vancouver to know what happened during this trip)
I had to receive a IEEE Global award on the next day, and also need to deliver a 2 minute acceptance speech along. I was super nervous – though I had done so much of public speaking, this one is really huge considering the scale, and all the best of the academia, industry, and volunteer leadership will be present during the speech witnessing me.
I wrote a draft, a week back – and was rehearsing with Ashwin while we were waiting for the pizza (our first meal after entering the lands of Canada), he was as usual the calming force for me, listening to the whole thing with a smile – he also made sure that I drink hot water, considering I was having cold, because of the sudden shift of weather in Canada. (Watch the award speech here, and the video credits goes to Ashwin)
#4 Eating puliyotharai at the Kuala Lumpur airport!
Fast forward to an year – me and Ashwin was traveling to Indonesia to present our technology-driven educational project at an IEEE Asia-Pacific Conference, and we had a connecting flight via Kuala Lumpur to the Jakarta airport.
Ashwin brought home made puliyotharai as we started our journey from Chennai during the evening – but we missed eating it in the Chennai airport as we had access to the guest lounge and had some buffet food for the night.
We realized about the puliyotharai only in the morning, as we reached Kuala Lumpur, we had handful of time for the next flight.
While waiting at the airport, we opened the puliyotharai and ate it completely. It was so much of fun and the happy meal I’ve ever had! (As expected we didn’t get any Vegetarian food in the Depok city, we roamed around to finally find some restaurant, that’s another story!).
The trip was so memorable, not only because that’s the last international one I’ve had till now (PS – COVID pandemic) – but we did so much of adventure in Bali including parasailing and scuba (which I never had the guts to do before!)
Also, we won the runners up in the project contest out of the 12 shortlisted projects across Asia-Pacific!
There are many more moments I could think of – like for example, anjarai mani BA flight atrocities, sabatha queue at the US embassy, but I think hopefully those are stories for the upcoming birthday’s.
Many more happy returns of the day, Ashwin ji! Have a blast. 😀
I have a huge fascination for the game of Chess ever since childhood, I got introduced to the game when I visited Chennai for the first time when I was 6 years old!
I started learning the game, as I started playing it!
I still remember in the first version of the game that I learned, in which we must play only with the pawns till all of them are available, you can only step into using the other options after you exhaust them.
After a while, I learned – you cannot attack and remove the kind when others are not noticing – you have to do that, only after you provide a ‘Check’. I used to fight with my opponents, who were much older then – saying like ‘you didn’t even notice that you’re king was on check. How am I responsible for you losing’ 😛
The last learning/rule I got to know was ‘castling’ (where we interchange the rook and the king, provided there is no piece in between, and the king didn’t move before)!
Well, that’s childhood!
Very recently, I picked up an interest to play the game online (credits to chess.com) – it is fun and interesting to play all type of games including timed ones!
While I’m able to play somewhat better these days, I’ve noticed a very interesting pattern with the way I approach the game and that’s what I want to deep dive on!
Winning and losing – are two possibilities that always exists when you are playing a game with an opponent.
While your knowledge and your skills play a crucial role on the outcomes you will see (winning/losing) – there is an equal weightage and in fact more credits that goes out to your opponent too! Meaning, let us say your opponent is super strong – even if you try 100%, there are 200% chances that you will lose. Well, read that sentence again! 😀
That’s not your fault. Losing is not your fault. It is just that you didn’t get the right training/exposure/experience towards tackling the super skilled opponent!
I remember playing so much of Chess with friends/relatives during childhood – and eventually 99% of the times I fail without having knowledge/strategy/experience.
Though, I know even if I play them again (and again), there are very less opportunities for me to win; but still, I choose to challenge them again!
With Chess, I never leave an opponent after losing – I keep on playing with them until I figure out what is the strategy they are following/identifying the mistakes of my own self, trying to correct it and at least win once.
For me, then, losing is an opportunity. As I did not get any formal training/coaching kind ‘of things – losing is the only opportunity that I used to have for myself, to improve my game.
In fact, if I look back – almost all my limited mastery with the Chess game came all from this attitude – you could call it perseverance, not losing hope, determination etc.
I call it – the love for losing a game. Yes, the sheer challenge in losing a game and trying to figure out what is wrong with the next time!
If we choose to play only the games, in which we win – we are not improving ourselves/nor challenging ourselves.
The losing games, teach us a lot more about ourselves, our game. It puts us on the spot and say, “Do you want to take up this challenging task again?”. And when say a ‘Yes’, we are making the best of the losing game.
The losing game matters! More importantly, choosing a ‘rematch’ after a losing game matter even more.
April 30, 2021. Wrote this post, as I look back on completing one year of leaving my full time job and decided to pursue things on own! 🙂
You won’t be surprised if I say, ‘metrics’ have slowly taken the hold of our lives.
Consider for an example, all the adults would’ve heard about these questions at different points in their lives.
(a) How many marks you have scored?
(b) How much salary you are going?
(c) How old are you?
(d) How many children do you have?
(e) How many years of work experience do you have?
Well, I’m not really what’s the original purpose of creating all the metrics that we see around today. Originally, they may have been created to help us understand the progress to our goals, track our performance, etc.
But, essentially they help us do one thing quite easily in our world today — To compare our metric with others quite easily!
Instead of working meticulously, we wish to work ‘metric’ulously, to see the results and to enrue that we are getting ahead of the others.
Metric can be a huge motivation at times — let’s assume a Cricket game without the scoreboard. Super boring right!
But you know what, in every Cricket game — they erase the scores once the game is over. However, the erasing part hardly happens in our lives! We stick to our metrics, we envision our metrics, we live our metrics, we showcase our metrics.
That’s one page. See you tomorrow!
One page is a metric too. A good start to the series, isn’t it? 😛
Around 6.15 PM, as I was wrapping up the EduRise Adobe Photoshop Workshop in தமிழ் – I was feeling quite happy, because I had the opportunity to work with the software after so many years. I loved doing graphic design – but I’ve always been a fan of Canva, because of it’s simplicity and elegance. In someways, there was still a ‘Photoshop hunger’ within me – so when we had a chance to organize the Photoshop workshop in Tamil, I took the effort to learn along with the participants too. <3
But then, I had the next commitment on my calendar block already – I have to do a YouTube live webinar for IEEE APSIT Student Branch – as part of the Showrunners of Futurity webinar series, on an interesting topic – Social Entrepreneurship.
I started editing the final draft of the presentation and the work almost got over by 06:50 PM! But, then something totally interesting had happened – there was a power cut!
I waited for a 5 minutes patienty – for my lights to turn back on. Apparently, the virtual set up I had – especially Wi-Fi is completely dependent on the electrical power. Without which, I have to only rely upon my mobile data – which is super slow.
The next step!
The most interesting thing in every crisis situation, is always the next step and how we overcome the problem we are currently facing.
I immediately started thinking of a plan B – of outsourcing the screen sharing and joining the call only through mobile (it wouldn’t have been an impressive plan, by then I didn’t know it’s going to be a YouTube live).
When I thought of informing the organizers, unfortunately – I didn’t had any of their contacts on my phone. So, I went to Instagram (they had posted a story of the webinar announcement with me tagged), and replied if someone from the organizing team can quickly give me a call. Meanwhile, I also wrote an email to them about the situation, along with the presentation.
Apparently, all these happened in a matter of 10 minutes. The time was about to be 07:05 PM, and the power was not yet back.
Within 5 minutes of my message on Instagram, I received calls from 2-3 volunteers from the organizing team, enquiring how they can help me out. It was quite interesting to see that all of them were pro-active, and they reached out when I needed a help.
I did a small brainstorming with them – and our final conclusion was I will be joining through mobile phone – only with an audio (I can’t do a video stream, because it’s dark because of power cut :P). Their host volunteer agreed to support me with the slides.
Only then I enquired, whether this session will be happening in Google Meet or WebEx – but they told me this will be a YouTube live!
I’ve had experience of doing an YouTube live in the past, the streaming usually happens through third party platform, for which you would definitely require a strong connection and a laptop.
But there was no other go, without power – so I had to agree to only-voice idea and according to me, I felt like the session won’t be much effective.
Thankfully by around 07:10 PM, when an other volunteer reached to me because of the Instagram message – suddenly the power was all back, the electricrical connection was restored!
After so much of crisis planning over the past 15 minutes, I finally felt relived. I conveyed the happy news to the volunteers, they’ve also felt happy that I can now join through laptop and do a full fledged webinar.
Webinar on Social Entrepreneurship!
The webinar went quite well. I totally enjoyed doing the presentation sharing my perspectives on Social Entrepreneurship and how anyone can get started with it from scratch. There was a lot of interesting questions too,
(a) Whom do you see as the ‘Steve Jobs’ of Social Entrepreneurship?
(b) How do non-profits attract talent without higher salaries?
(c) How was the experience of TEDx talk?
(d) Being compassionate is a skill or a mindset for Social Entrepreneur?
(e) What could Government or Society could do to encourage Social Entrepreneurship?
I had a lot of fun sharing my answers and interesting stories from my experiences.
The webinar and the Q&A session went till 08:45 PM, and I was thankful that the power didn’t go off again. #ThankYouGod
The Offline Chat!
And once the actual webinar was over – something very interesting happened. The organizing volunteers, had some interesting questions for me personally – regarding IEEE and other general questions related to the public speaking. It was more of a closed group offline chat, it was a wonderful and one of the interesting experiences to remember.
Usually, in F2F events, once the event is over – I always find sometime to catch up with the volunteers, and it used to give me a lot of inspiration and happiness to interact with the people of similar interests and passion. But, this was usually a miss at the virtual events, where once the talk is over, you say a ‘Bye!’ close the session (and miss all the fun)!
We ended up chatting for around an hour and I promised them I will visit Mumbai soon (after the COVID is over).
When I was just looking back of how it all started with the power cut – what I assumed was totally different. I felt gratitude for everything that happened – in fact whatever I felt was also reflected on my response to an interesting question – “Being compassionate is a skill or a mindset for a Social Entrepreneur?”
As a part of my answer I was saying –
“If you start thinking on this moment – this moment we are in, I have an Internet connection. I have electrical connectivity, today I have all these things, today I have a wonderful host, that’s why I am able to deliver this webinar. It’s not that I’m contributing something really big – there are so many factors that are helping me out in what I do really – if you can really feel that, you will naturally have a lot more gratitude for the people around you.”
Yes, in a tentative life all we need is gratitude! Gratitude to electricity – for coming back on time xD.
Birthdays are always special to me for so many reasons – it helps me to reconnect with my friends and family with their wishes and blessings most importantly, it also helps me to reflect over the progress I’ve made and help me set new goals and bucket list for the upcoming year!It also reminds me of the fact that I am growing old. 😛
But, in my opinion, celebrating birthday in 2020 is a really challenging task! The world is going through a pandemic and face-2-face meetings are not possible at all. But as we get used to the ‘new normal’, there is some scope for enjoying the celebrations in virtual which I leveraged yesterday!
Do you want wait for the things to happen and then react or do you want to stand up and act?
This was the fundamental question – I kept asking to myself over the past one year, specifically. If we wish to have fun, or feel happy, or aspire for our dreams, it can’t happen by accident – but one needs to take necessary actions by their own efforts to get those things done!
So, thought of trying out to do something ‘new’ this year, I decided do something from my end – for the #Turning26 – doing an Instagram live! Also, the other fact is that so far I have done YouTube live, Facebook live but I’ve never been on an IG live, a social media platform, which I’m quite active on!
So, how did it go?
It turned out to be an amazing experience yesterday. An Instagram live session can be a real fun! The platform is really interactive – you can watch the comments and the reactions live, which is wow (very similar to Facebook, but there’s something unique about IG).
I wanted to share some of my experiences and interesting moments from the past year with them, and also wanted to keep some time for their questions, some unplanned activities, etc.
I was also very happy to note that IG live allows us to add people in the videos, Ashwin ji joined me on live and shared his wishes all the way from Canada.
Some of the stories and experiences I shared as highlights –
How #Turning25 started? The celebrations at AP and flying all the way back to Chennai on b’day.
How a monkey snatched my specs within milliseconds at Bali, Indonesia! The story of Money Glass 😛
The most use(d)less thing of the past year, the passport!
Sharing some reflections from the recent books I’ve read – First, Break All The Rules in English and Thanmeetchi in Tamil!
The MGA YP award, showed it on the camera for the first time, as I was hoping to get a picture with it at the Sections Congress in Canada, which eventually went virtual.
I also answered some questions around –
Who is my role model?
Who is my favorite student?
How much do I miss the MGR Nagar school?
What are my goals and things to do on 26? (which I listed towards the end of the blog)
When am I getting married? xD
When it comes to unplanned activities, I ended up singing songs from the different languages, as my friends wanted to do –
Samajavaragamana from Telugu (I hope I spelled it right)
Vayamoodi summa iru da from Tamil
Tera hone laga hoon from Hindi (I killed the song, literally!)
Malare from Malayalam
Finally, I shared some of the lessons which I learned from life –
Playing long – Life is more like a test Cricket, the more time you stay on the crease, the more it’s good for your team
Doing something that’s close to your heart – How I ended up starting ‘EduRise Global‘along with Abdul
How failures can teach you the important lessons!
The whole live session lasted for ~40 minutes, and I also made the video available on IGTV, for people to see later. The recording can definitely not match the live session, but it’s one good memory to look upto!
On an interesting note – one of my junior IEEE volunteer, Vishwa from Hyderabad, called me after the live and told me he had exam on the next day – he was stressed for the whole day studying, and he enjoyed watching the live and felt more calm. Apparently, he joined using his brother’s live, and he is not using he refrained using his own IG, because of exams.
Small feedbacks like this add a lot of value to what you do, and I felt wow!
What else had happened?
Apart from the IG live, there was also a bunch of other interesting things – I received calls and a bunch of messages on WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn from many of my friends, I replied to all of them – it was a lovely experience to reconnect with them again! 🙂
A group of my friends from IEEE, Sudharshan, Vinod, Pooja, Saurabh, Sharif, Adarsh, Akhil and Vignesh – prepared an interesting set of videos and showed it to me surprisingly on a video call – it was wonderful to see some old pictures and videos of mine being compiled with some compelling music. Sharing the videos here –
Big thanks to them for taking the efforts to make the day special for me! <3
Things on my bucket list for 26!
When asked about my goals for 26, I shared the following things on the IG live!
15 August 2017 – Around 8 AM in the morning, my flight landed in Chennai after a overnight trip, starting from Sydney 🇦🇺 with a connecting flight at Kuala Lumpur 🇲🇾. This was post attending the largest IEEE event – Sections Congress 2017! My physical energy was low, but my motivation levels were sky high.
This was also the time I was working as a Teach For India Fellow at Chennai Middle School, MGR Nagar. I don’t want to miss a single experience with my students, was was rushing to come out of the airport – so I can go and participate at the Independence Day celebrations happening in my school! The program usually gets over at 11 AM, if you go by that time you I know at least, I will get 🍫 for sure!
It took me a while to finish off the custom clearance, they were heavily understaffed on that particular day, because many officers were on leave due to the Independence day, holiday! Somehow when I finished the process and moved out – I noticed that time was already around 9 AM and unfortunately my phone got switched as well. (I didn’t had an international charger back then, in fact I realised the need for an international charger only during that trip).
I took my backpack, caught a metro from the airport to Ashok Nagar then took a local auto for the last mile straight to school. Thankfully, I went ahead of time – happened to see a few performances and enjoy the day with my students! It was definitely one of the memorable experiences for me and I was happy that I made it to school, instead of the old plan of going to home!
People at my home were highly frustrated with my behaviour of not coming to home directly after a trip – but that’s fine! I escaped with the excuse, that my phone was switched off 😛
15 August 2020 – I was in my home but I had no other go! For the first time (in the times I remember) – I had to be in my #home for the national independence day celebrations due to COVID restrictions! 🇮🇳 It always used to be fun on this day, interacting with students – sharing about our country and its heritage, participating on celebrations. 🙂
But I don’t want to miss the fun – hence decided to go virtual. Researched and made a YouTube video on the topic – “#74facts about India” for our 74th national independence day celebrations.
You can check it in the link below, and I’m sure you will find out a lot of interesting insights about #India. Do let me know what you find out new!
“I’m not going to miss this train”, I said to myself.
I kept walking fast on the staircase of steps, leading to the platform. There was a little bit of acceleration on my heartbeat.
But, I don’t want to be desperate. I may end up walking too fast and fall off by missing the balance – injuring myself or the other co-passengers. It’s also okay for me if I’m going to miss this train, I can definitely go on the next one, or can even go to the nearby bus stop to catch a bus, there’s always a Plan B if we assess any situation carefully!
Making on time for any appointments scheduled for you, is good – but making it early is great, especially when you are going for your college admission interview!
I badly wanted a good start to the day! And yes, luckily I hopped onto the train and also found a seat where I can sit and relax.
Nungambakkam is just 5 stops away from Guindy – through local train! But on that day, I felt it like so much of time – I was quietly looking back on the different incidents in my life for the past 3 months.
Grade 12 Board examinations and the super relieving feeling once you complete them; The enjoyable holidays spent on my native place; Catching up with all the friends and playing hard under the sun; Solo trip for the first time and learning Yoga – It all went like a flash of happy memories!
Things on the other side of the spectrum also happened.
The arrival of the board results – ‘friendly’ calls from all your relatives – everyone asking ‘Which college you’re going to join?’ – You asking yourself “What next?” –Finishing up the schooling and finding what’s next is always a difficult phase of life for anyone.
The train stopped at the Nungambakkam railway station. The college campus was at a walking distance from the station, actually it’s not even a mile and I decided to walk!
The last time I visited the campus was to collect the enrolment application. I chose to travel in by bicycle then – I usually enjoy roaming around the city and getting to know the new driving routes and places within the town. But long journey in cycle are super tiring and I wanted appear fresh during the interview.
I realized that I’m nearing the entrance of the college. The security at the entrance allowed me after checking the email confirmation printout of mine for the interview round – I had a fabulous feeling as I was literally just one more step (of clearing the interview) to visit this campus every day for the next 3 years!
As I slowly walked towards the Visual Communication Block – there was a bunch of teenagers and elders standing with folders on their hands, which might have contained resume & certificates, I hope.
Some of them even had a ‘marriage album’ kind of bigger folders too. Later I learned that they were artists and the bigger folders were their design portfolio.
As I moved towards joining the crowd, I met an elderly person with a young boy next to him. He started off the conversation in a friendly voice.
“Entha course apply panniruka pa?” (Which course you have applied for?)
“B. Sc. Visual Communication, uncle.”
“Oh. Interview ku vanthiya pa.” (Oh. Have you come for attending interview?”)
“Ama. Uncle.” (Yes, uncle)
“Enna mark’u edutha pa 12th la?” (What’s your score in Grade XII?)
<My mind voice: “Innum ethane peru ithe kelviya ketpeenga” (No translation for this :P)>
“My mark was XXXX uncle.” (Intentionally hidden – I don’t want to brand it here.)
“Oh. Nalla mark’u pa” (Oh. That’s a good score, my boy!)
And then he starred at his son who’s standing next to him. His son looked sad and put his face down. From their reaction I noticed that he might have scored a lesser mark. I wanted to break the silence (and the stare :P) – I posed the question this time.
“So, neenga ethukaga VisCom choose pannenga.” (So, why did you choose Visual Communication)
Before his son reacted, the father replied back immediately.
“Intha college la VisCom, the best’u pa. Unakku theriyuma, the next gen’ directors, editors, cinematographers, actors intha building ullathan iruppaanga. They are the future of the industry.” (In this college, Visual Communication is the best. The next generation directions, editors, cinematographers and actors will all be studying here. They will be the future of the media industry.”
Wow! That was a fascinating response! My aspiration to pursue this course at this institution had increased after hearing his response. He continued the conversation.
“Nee ennapa thaniya vanthiruka.” (Have you come all alone?)
“Yes, uncle. I do college hunting on my own.”
After that he didn’t reply back. But, he gave me a stare from top to bottom.
“So, all the VisCom aspirants, we congratulate you and welcome to the final interview round! You have to show your original certificates and then move to the first floor to attend your personal interview scheduled in the order of your allocated numbers, one by one. Most importantly, switch off your mobile phones.”
That was a clear instruction. They’re going to do the interview one by one – and we have to wait!
Then the unexpected thing happened.
“And aspirants. We also have a surprise for you; we have one of our proud alumni and a leading director of Tamil Cinema doing the interview for all you.”
And then they announced the director’s name!
Suddenly, there was a lot of excitement and energy across the room. All of us, the VisCom aspirants, looked at everyone’s face with a surprise look! This was totally unexpected.
After so much of ‘waiting’ – the moment was about to come. I slowly slid the door open and in a meek voice pronounced the above words.
“Yes, please come in. Take your seat.”
He replied back to me in a calm and caring voice. The director was super humble and a radiant personality.
We had a starting initial conversation – where he enquired about my whereabouts and my family background.
I showed him my Grade 12 score card – he had a look at it and asked me the question, which I already anticipated would come up.
“You scored XXXX marks, which is pretty good. Why do you want to take up Visual Communication?”
I replied back instantly.
“Sir, I think both in career and life, passion matters. I want to study a course which I love, that will also help me in my career.”
I was able to see that he was quite surprised with that answer. Then, he asked me another unexpected question!
“So, let’s say – you don’t get this course, what will you then do? Do you have any other options on your mind?”
At that point, I just wanted to clear the interview and pursue the course that I aspired in the same college. At the same time, I had also thought of a ‘Plan B’ on my mind. But, I was not sure of what exactly to say – if I don’t share anything about my ‘Plan B’ I may sound desperate. In way it can show my commitment to study the course.
But at the end of the day, I wanted to be honest. I had genuinely planned for an alternative option and I wanted to talk about it.
“Sir, in case if I don’t get through, I have a Plan B on mind.”
I went on to explain the plan as well.
“I will go ahead and pursue Engineering – I always have a love for programming since my Grade XI – I belong to the Computer Science group. I will hopefully be doing Computer Science and Engineering.”
I told the truth!
As I was aspiring to be an editor and photographer after finishing up the visual communication course – he wanted to see some of my work.
I had brought a pen drive with some of the photographs I clicked over the past one year. I showed the same on the desktop that was available on his table. He had a glance through all my photos. (Added some of them below).
I was super excited – one of the leading directors of Tamil Cinema looking at the photos clicked by me. I never imagined it would happen even in my dream! 😀
The interview got completed approx. in 8-10 minutes. He asked me to take a leave – and told me I will get more information from the staff outside.
Before I left, I wanted use the chance and convey my regards to his good work.
“Sir, you’re just a fabulous director. I look forward to all your future movies.”
He nodded and smiled gently.
I left the room with so much of excitement – I just can’t believe what I was experiencing over the past 10 minutes!
End of story.
In the end, I had to execute my Plan B of doing Engineering. But being a part of the recruitment process, the interview and the different people I met at the Visual Communication department are still wonderful memories, whenever I look back!
The director went on to create so many ‘cult’ movies, including Vada Chennai, Asuran, etc. and took the fame of Tamil Cinema to another level. It was a great opportunity for me to sit and interact with him at an early age.
Very recently, I started editing promotional videos for EduRise workshops (an early-stage startup that I was working on). I totally enjoyed the experience of doing it from scratch – you can check out the video here. It was definitely a moment for me to connect back to my passion, after so many years!
On that specific day, I was able to walk so fast. There’s no heavy school bag required – as per my teacher’s instructions, only the lunch bag along with a notebook and pen was all that I needed.
The one mile walk from my house to the school, which usually takes me approx. 30 minutes of time, took me just 20 minutes that day – I went to school so early with a lot of excitement!
Placing my lunch bag on one of the shelves of the classroom, I went directly to my class teacher and said, “Good morning, miss. I’m all set for today. When are we going to make a move?”
“Good morning. We will make a move, soon after the assembly ends. Make sure you are standing in one of the front rows during the assembly. The HM will be calling you.” replied back my teacher.
Sometimes, waiting can be the most bothering thing – especially when you’re holding pressure on your side – we want to get rid of it, and release it as soon as possible.
I took the six-page draft of my speech – which I carefully folded and kept on my shirt packet, and started reading. Some pages were about to tear because of the number of times I’ve been using it for the past one week. I closed my ears and read the script to myself, repeated it, again and again!
Then, the assembly happened. The March drill, songs, news, thought for the day everything. Before we wound down our assemblies, our HM always provides us with some updates of what’s happening at our school.
Interestingly, for that day, both my friend and I are the updates.
“Two of our 5th standard students will be participating on the inter-school Tamil speech competition. They will be visiting our mission model school today and will be representing all of us there along with our 5th standard class teacher. Can we have both of them on the stage please?”
Both my friend and I walked slowly to the stage amidst the silence of the assembly. The entire school closed the eyes and did a silent prayer for the success of the both of us. And this thing, also added more pressure to us, to perform and to bring some prize back.
For the next 10 minutes, I kept on hearing these words from everyone.
“All the best.”
“So, are you well prepared?” my friend posed a question to me, as both of us and our teacher started walking on the ‘ever-busy’ Usman Road (along with our lunch bags).
“Both of you are well prepared. Don’t waste a lot of time speaking amongst yourself and lose your voice. Focus on the road and walk.” – came an assertive reply from our teacher-in-charge who over-heard our discussion from the back.
She should be true; both of us were aware of the fact that voice is an important factor to a speech, we decided to keep it fresh.
After crossing a distance of half a mile through walk, in the busiest streets of Thiyagaraya Nagar (aka T. Nagar) we reached our competition destination. The host of the competition was a Girls Higher Secondary School, one of the biggest and well known one across the city. The buildings were so big, compared to the Govt. aided middle-school which I was from.
“Welcome to the National Youth Day Inter-School Competition”
We had an announcement board in the front of the school, welcoming all the external participants for the competition and the directions which guided us to the respective classrooms based on the competition which we are participating in.
The competitions as we know are conducted as part of the National Youth Day celebrations which happens every year on January 12, being the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.
Both my friend and I settled in the classroom of Tamil Speech competition – to our surprise, we were already able to see our names written on the black board along with the other participant names from different schools.
But there’s one thing which made me, even more surprised – the first name on the list of participants from the host school.
I immediately reached out to my friend. “Hey, did you look at the first name on the participants list?”
He looked me with a puzzling face, and immediately turned to the board.
“Akilanda Parameswari.” he read out loud reading the Tamil text from the board.
“Yes. That’s the name.” I replied back.
“Do you know that person before?” he posed a question.
“Oh, nothing like that. This is the first time I’m seeing such a name. I’m really concerned.” Before I finish off my sentence, my friend jumped in.
“Concerned of what?”
“I’m concerned with the fact that in case if the person goes out to book a train ticket, the number of text boxes on the challan will not be sufficient for such a long name.” I shared my observation with my friend. I remembered seeing train ticket booking challan when I was traveling all the way to Chennai from my village. Back then, we used only first names to address people, and I don’t come across any such longer first names usually.
My friend was no more replying to me. He gave me an angry stare and then went to look into his script.
I did the same too. We were made to sit on the floor along with the other participants on the entrance of the room. Behind us were some students from the host school, our audience for today – and then our teachers were at the back of the room. In front of us, there was the black board, microphone and judges, who are sitting on the chairs carefully listening and evaluating to our speeches.
There was a welcome note from the host school HM, the judges and the teacher-in-charge of the competition from the host school. It was a comfortable and a welcoming environment, I felt settled finally.
But at that moment, I never released in another few minutes – adrenaline will be pumping on my body. No one can ever settle in a competition that you want to win!
If you actually look at a speech technically (especially the ones delivered at a school level), you will be able to easily identify the different parts of it.
The different part of a well written speech is very similar to work of an automobile. First you start off– by introducing yourself, your class, your school, the topic on which you will speak, then you use the clutch and control the engine – you add context to the topic, trying to make some connection to the audience, slowly move to the first gear – you start making your points one by one and when in control, advance your gears and accelerate more. Then as you move towards the conclusion point, you try and reach your top gear and cross the line with the maximum speed, by sharing some of your best thoughts, quotes, and references. That’s how you make the best impact on the audience.
Way back a 10-year old kid, I don’t know so much about speech writing. What I know, is what’s written on the script and how I practiced, that’s pretty much it.
In the list of participants, my friend’s name was placed at the last. My name was placed right above him, 8 more people were ahead of both of us, which means that we have to wait and also listen to the other speeches before we go in. Waiting can be a bothering thing!
The first speaker went in. She was from the host school. As expected from the host students always, she delivered the best speech on that day.
Also for the first ever time, I witnessed someone using so much of hand gestures and facial expressions in a speech – with an amazing voice modulation, she kept the complete hold of the stage. For every point that she was making, there was acknowledgement from the audience through an applause or a nod.
All of us were allocated with 6 minutes of time for our respective speeches; I never realized how all that time went. Before she completed her speech, the time bell rang! It was an uncompleted speech – that started and ended on the top gear!
For a moment, I felt amazed. Wow! There are so many things that we can incorporate to make a speech, exciting!
Then the next person came in. This time too, the speaker was using so much of hand movements, facial expressions, voice modulations etc.
I felt a bit weird – both my friend and I, we don’t know such things. We practiced for a plain speech on the high tone of voice, with a stern facial expression and our hands crossed to each other in the front, very similar to the pose of Swami Vivekananda.
That’s how our teacher taught us. That’s how we practiced for weeks.
But, I had other ideas on mind. What if we improvise? What if we also do hand movements and exaggerated facial reactions like them? I wanted to check this with my friend.
“That’s no way possible. We have to ask our teacher before we make any improvisation”, he told me straight away.
He was right. Our teacher is the one who trained us. We have to seek her permission. That made sense. But she was sitting right in the back.
As asking her is the only way out for us in this problem – I requested for an excuse to the teacher in-charge, stood up slowly and walked towards her.
Looking at me coming towards her, with a smiling face, she spoke to me first.
“What happened, kid? Do you want some water?”
“Actually, no miss. I want to get your permission for something.” I told in a murmuring voice.
“Hmm. Okay. Go ahead and ask” she replied back with a puzzling expression.
“Miss! Did you see the other participants speaking? They are doing it wonderfully.”
“Yes. They are. So nice to see!” she replied back.
“I think they are doing it wonderfully because they are using hand movements, voice modulations etc. Can we both try it as well?” Finally I ended up conveying my request.
My teacher’s expression changed all of a sudden. With a steady face, she replied back to me.
“No. Stick to basics.”
“Miss! I know that we haven’t practised in the way. But, look at every participant – they are doing their speeches so elegantly. I think we should also try to be like them.”
There was a steady reply again, “No. You both – stick to basics. Deliver the speech in the same way you practised. No improvisation required.”
I was totally surprised. I continued the conversation – “The same way with both the hands crossed? I don’t think it will look well at all. We won’t stand on this competition if we stick to the basics. If we want to win, we must do some improvisations.”
My teacher has lost the patience. She took me outside the classroom, looked at me face-to-face on my eyes and said.
“Listen. I won’t repeat this again. I know this is a competition. But, I don’t want to see any improvisations now. Do the speech in the same way as planned and as rehearsed. Be yourself. Stick to basics. That’s all about it.”
There was nothing more I can say. Within me, all my hopes were crushed. I can’t push this anymore. I had to listen to my teacher who trained me, taught me and provided me with this opportunity. I don’t used to be a rebel kid.
I nodded my head and went all the way to the front of the room. I noticed a speaker making an interesting speech, with hand movements. I accepted the fact that I can’t do any of such things.
Back there was my friend, waiting to hear from me.
“Did you ask our teacher? What did she say about improvisations?”
I showed him a thumb down and looked away.
He caught my palms and asked me, “What does that mean?”
I replied in a desperate voice, “She told no improvisations. Stick to basics.”
5 minutes and 52 seconds. I paced my speech perfectly within the provided time. I felt super relieved and happy after completing my speech, without missing any elements on the six page draft, as planned. My teacher should be very happy by now.
There was a lot of pressure relieved from my side– I felt like the burden of my school was on my shoulders. Being done with your part, that too perfectly, is a great thing!
My friend went next and he spoke really well as well. We two are the only people who spoke in a plain way, with tied hands, no big facial expressions.
“The results will be announced post the tea break”. The judges announced and started looking at their evaluation sheets seriously.
Our teacher called both of us and appreciated. She was looking for the results and I didn’t even understood why. I was surprised at her level of optimism.
In my mind, we were already out of this competition. By sticking to the basics, we never did any of the awesome things done by others. With this level of performance, we may win in our school, but outside the school, that too with so much of competition, winning was never an option for us
But anyway, I did my part. Now, it’s all up to the judges. At a time of the competition, when you can’t do anything about the result, all you have to do is to wait. Waiting can be a bothering thing!
“Students! We will be announcing the results now.”
The final moment everyone was wishing had arrived. We were super curious and the entire classroom went into silence.
The microphone was passed from one of the judges to another.
“But before that we also wanted to share our rationale that we looked into for the evaluation of the speeches.”
We became super curious now. Not all the judges will be open and keep their decision making as transparent.
“The criteria we looked into are, content, delivery style, timeliness and the way that the speaker introduced the topic to the audience. For budding speakers like you, we thought that these are the important aspects.
We had many interesting speeches with quality content and outstanding delivery style. But, of the 10 speakers, only 4 finished within their time and out of which only one introduced the topic of the speech to the audience.”
For a moment, all the participants were surprised and we looked into each other’s faced with weird expressions, thinking about our own speeches.
I remember saying the topic’s name before starting off the speech, and I’m also someone who finished within the time. However, I was not sure if others were doing the same.
“The third prize goes to..” The judges announced the name from a different school. We applauded. The winning student stood up.
“The second prize goes to..” Again, they announced the name from a different school. There was even more clapping as the student stood up.
“And the first prize goes to..” There was a moment of surprise silence. That’s the moment everyone was waiting for.
Breaking the silence, they announced – my name.
For a moment, I wasn’t even believing, what was happening around. I was checking on the black board to see if there is another participant with same name. I was confused – I didn’t choose to stand up, I was frozen.
“We request the first prize winner to stand up as well.”
That moment, I decided not to wait anymore. I stood up. There was a thunderous clap.
The judges congratulated all the participants for our speeches and motivated us to continue speaking in more stages and compete to learn more. They told us that the prizes will reach our schools at a later date and we can return back to our own schools.
The most interesting fact about any competition is that – it puts you on the spot, in a real tough situation. You get to perform and you get a result – sometimes you win, sometimes you learn!
I heard voices of many of the students from behind – the host audience was calling my name; I looked at them. They all said said, ‘Congrats’. That’s a familiar word to me, but I was hearing it for the first time ever.
So far, I’ve seen pupil saying, ‘Good’, ‘V.Good’, ‘V.V.Good’. And I always reply to them with a smile.
Now, I was confused totally about how to respond this ‘Congrats’. Looking at my puzzled face, my friend who’s sitting next, told me that whenever someone congratulates – you have to share them your gratitude and reply back by saying, ‘Thank you!’
I looked behind. My teacher was standing at the back, interacting with the other teachers with a smiling face.
I immediately ran towards her, looked her on the face.
She didn’t say any ‘Congrats’ to me. I was not surprised. Of course, she need not do that. She has always believed on me and trained me. She taught me the most important lesson of life – stick to basics. I can do nothing but telling her,
During all our journeys – be it a shorter journey or the longer journey of ‘life’, we get to explore new things. And when we encounter new things or experiences, we have high chances of getting intimidated by others – we feel less valued comparing our lives with that of others. And when this feeling hits us hard, all of a sudden, we hope to see our lives in a completely different way – complaining about the things that we are missing, totally forgetting the existing things that we have in the real life.
During those times – we have to consciously stick to our basics – with things like following our own values, our own culture, our own beliefs and uphold our self-confidence.
Because – in a way, it is ‘life’ that’s preparing us to face the future! 🙂
Reach out to the author at – [email protected] or tweet at – @aravindhan_in for feedback or suggestions!
‘Wow! Is this the place we’re going to be living for the next one month?’ — As we entered the foothills of the mountain, I was fascinated to see the name board of the University which was mentioned on the welcome email.
With the limited Hindi that I know (actually, very limited Hindi), I reached out to check with the driver ‘bhaiyaa’ (a new Hindi word that I learned on my way)
“Wo pahaad ke piche” (It’s behind the mountains) — he replied back.
I remembered someone quoting long back – to pursue your passion you should be ready to cross the mountains. They must be true! There I was – crossing the mountain all the way to the place where I will receive my first training for a professional job.
As we reached the top of the mountain, I saw breathe taking view of the other side – filled with so much of green. That was the real beauty! I didn’t know by that time, that this will be a view that we get to witness for the next 5 weeks, every day.
I’ve always heard from my seniors that the training you receive before your first job is always crucial. As a fresh graduate, I was so curious and was well prepared mentally to take down a lot of notes and to pay attention to all the content that’s being offered in these 5-weeks of training. Starting my career as a teacher with a non-profit social sector organization is nothing but a gifted opportunity to me.
As I kept on thinking, the cab slowly reached the downhill after some ‘Z’ turns and then to a straight road which took us to the destination.
The security received us and requested to do an entry on the register as we enter inside. I got down from the cab, went to the entry point and wrote down my name for the first time with the new fresh identity that I had ‘2016 Fellow – TFI’.
The cab journey continued for a while, even after we crossed the security gates for some time. The campus was so big and I realized there is more scope for us to get lost.
As I was glancing over this place, the car stopped at some point – the driver ‘bhaiya’ told me that this was the destination. I got down from the cab – to see a big fountain in the entrance of the campus, was also able to see many of my fellow ‘Fellows’ taking their luggage and slowly walking towards the first building that’s visible.
I took out my luggage as well, which I’ve been packing for the past 2-3 weeks carefully (so I don’t miss anything out and struggle in a new place) – they were so heavy! But still, I was able to manage carrying it.
I was delighted to see so many diverse people – across states from north to south/east to west of the country walking the ‘path’ along with me. It was quite interesting to overwhelming to see that we have so much of youth – who believe that change in education space is possible, inevitable and who chose to change by offering their time and commitment. I’ve never met such passionate, curious and confident people like them. Naturally, there was so much positivity on the air!
I felt a little bit of cold breeze and some droplets of shower over me as I walked closer to the fountain. It was a refreshing feeling both internally and externally! I was also able to notice – there were so many colourful charts and pictures on the trees, walls and everywhere in the space.
While I was witnessing all these things and continued with my slow walk carrying the heavy luggage on my hands – suddenly I saw a person running all the way towards me shouting ‘Hellooo!’.
I was surprised but at the same felt relieved seeing someone with empty hands coming all the way, maybe to offer some help in carrying the luggage. As they come closer I saw the ‘Staff’ tag on their ID cards!
But then, they came and requested for something very different.
‘Show me your hand!”
‘Okay. But, why?’
‘Show me your hand. Listen to didi!’
‘Okay. Here you go.’ — I dropped my luggage and showed my hand.
She took a piece of red-colored ribbon and tied it on my wrist and shouted in an excited voice.
“Welcome to Teach For India Summer Institute. Now you’re a part of red team. Red represents courage. We will be starting with an exciting game in another 10 minutes. Please go find other red team members and join with them.”
“What? The Institute had already begun!” — I was puzzled at the same time was super excited. There cannot be any other better challenge to begin with by playing a game that too with completely new people.
I enjoyed the activity. I got to interact and know people. I learned why they all joined TFI.
And more importantly, I realized something very interesting – education or training is not just about learning, it is about instilling energy, enthusiasm, courage and curiosity among the learners! Building a community is not just about people, it is about them creating a culture of thriving, growing and becoming stronger with a greater purpose!
All this happened on my first day with Teach For India as a Fellow at 2016 Summer Institute! Can’t believe its 4 years already – looking back, every day I had new learning with new people, doing new things on this journey.
There were two options presented to me on that fine Monday morning – one was to sit back, and wait for someone to come and help me cross that one mile. The other was to stand up and take that one mile journey on my own, which I have never ever done in my life before as an eight year old kid!
A little background story to this – from my experience of born and brought up in a village ecosystem – the experience was unique for me. There are definitely perks in a rural lifestyle – say, living closer to the nature, the sheer joy in a peaceful and low-paced way of life, autonomy and the strong sense of community. Looking from the lens of a kid, there’s more space to play and move around in a village, and you have more number of friends who are also in some way related to you as a relative!
But at the same time, when it comes to access and availability of
resources, there’s a huge gap. Like in my case, to buy a small stationery item
or to get a simple ‘pakoda’ snack, one has to travel a mile’s distance! That one mile too – is composed of a short
one feet path way (most commonly known as ‘the otraiyadi pathai’ in Tamil) and
a small road to connect to the town. I
was often annoyed as a child, to travel that distance either by walk or by
carried by someone through a bicycle – these ‘journeys’ in my then opinion, was
too much of work.
Back then, I studied in the Govt. Primary School in the village, and more often it was fun going to school with friends across the street. End of the background story!
During one of the festive seasons, which is celebrated well in town, I decided to visit my aunt’s place to spend some time over the weekend and enjoy the festivities. I also had two of my cousins who studied in a local Private school in the town, I used to play Cricket and roam around the town with them.
Usually, whenever I visit the town during the weekend I always get back to my village on Sunday evening, so there’s adequate time for me to get prepared and go to school on the next day. But, during that weekend, I decided to stay back, with the hope that I may find someone from my local village in the morning that I can cling on to. There was also a bit of risk, because if I don’t find someone in the morning, I might not be able to go to school next day at all – as I haven’t ever travelled the one mile on my own, never before!
We decide something as a risk – because there’s equal probability
to what we expected might not also happen.
And the same thing happened to me! I couldn’t find anyone to join with
and I was in a fix – with the two options – one was to sit back, and wait
for someone to come and help me cross that one mile. The other was to stand up and take that one
mile journey on my own, which I have never ever done in my life before!
The most exciting thing about doing ‘new’ things is that we won’t have any experience to look back to and analyze. But as an eight year old, I’ve heard a bunch of stories that children unaccompanied going missing, being misused. That actually, made me to reconsider my decision multiple times, but there’s a high stake – I might miss out a lesson from my 3rd Standard textbook if I don’t attend the school (that’s true – we think of our high stakes based on what level we’re in!).
But, as the clock was ticking – I made up my mind. I chose to travel that ONE MILE, on my own – which I have never done before! My aunt also permitted me – I was a tall boy 😛
I recollected the path way, confirmed the same with my aunt and
cousins. Then I started my journey – it
was both a mix of walk and run, powered by some in flow of adrenaline, with
cold wind rushing towards me as I moved from walking on the town roads to the
path in between the farming lands and lily ponds.
There’s a beauty on walking between the farming lands – one has to keep watching the steps, and keep a strong sense of balance! But, on that day, I tried my best to travel as fast as possible – especially in the areas where I was completely alone and there was no human visibility.
The journey was never ending – I couldn’t even imagine reaching the full
distance. I kept on walking
Thankfully, I didn’t have a watch with me, so my focus was only on the
travel, not on the time.
I was also consistently looking on the path way to see if there are any
known men riding a bicycle so I can go along.
To my dismay, there was no one – let alone the bicycle, no one was even
I was able to understand so many things doing this ‘one mile journey’
alone. The time goes very slow, and
distance you travel is frame by frame if you’re conscious. In my mind, I was also scolding myself – I
should’ve chosen to leave early on the previous day and not put me in this
unnecessary tense situation!
When I was completely exhausted – finally this happened – I was able to see a view of my street! Yes, my destination is on sight now. Due to my action-packed ride, my shirt was half-wet.
I slowly walked to home, changed and went to school. Looking at me super tired, my school friends started inquiring about the matter and I narrated them the same. It was quite surprising for everyone that I walked the entire way all alone, and nobody believed! Well, not to complain, even I won’t believe it; if someone told me such thing can happen – before I made it happen for me!
Traveling the ‘first mile’ was really hard, but it proved a lot of
freedom for me – now I have the experience of traveling to the town from my village
which means that I can get ‘pakoda’ whenever I want by traveling a mile, of
In retrospect, I can draw a lot parallels to my ‘first mile’
journey to the many of the journeys I took as a student and as a professional,
a decade later.
Yes, to start any journey that you want to – you need these two things ‘courage’ and ‘belief’.
Courage to travel that one mile, which you’ve never done before – courage to take that step which you might find challenging (till you complete it!).
Belief on yourself (the traveller); belief on the people around you; belief on
the ecosystem and the environment around you.
Wait, so if you’re asking me – are only courage and belief sufficient to
plan any travel?
Definitely, no! In my opinion, every traveler should also know some hacks – like packing your bag. It’s a skill that I learned in a hard way!
Watch out for the next blog post on travel and let’s do some packing!