It is just my Ice-breaker speech for toastmaster. It seemed like an overall good show, except that I got a bit emotional in the part where I described my son’s birth. It embarrasses me no end that I stood on a stage in front of around twenty people and got emotional, but I did get good feedback. so maybe, emotions or not, it did work in my favor!

Recording it for posterity! Speech below:

Hello everyone…You see, while I have always loved these opportunities to develop and express myself, I have never overcome the nerves that accompany them. Apparently, as people have told me, I’ve learned to hide it well… But, for me, it isn’t enough to look calm. I want to actually be calm when I deliver a speech or a performance. I still enjoy standing before a group, even with the shaky knees and sweaty palms, but I know that I could enjoy it that much more if I weren’t so nervous and that is the reason I stand in front of you all today to deliver my Ice-breaker speech.

 

My ice-breaker today is titled MAPs.

Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear.

More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day;

Here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love;

I cried there once, I was heart sore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.

 – Alexander McCall Smith

 

I would like to take you through a couple of major highways in my life’s map – things which changed my perception of life and made me a better person.

One was the birth of my child. My world was centered around myself before this and I thought I knew what love was. My baby made me realize that wonderful happiness comes your way when you give, care and love without any expectations or wanting anything in return! He definitely taught me major lessons in patience for sure! The second one was and continues to be trekking. I have done a few treks in and around Bangalore, Western Ghats and 6 treks in the Himalayas.

 

I completed my trek to roopkund – in Chamoli district in Uttarkhand about a month ago. This was the toughest and had the maximum altitude to which i have climbed so far – 16400 odd feet!

Just before we had planned to leave for Delhi, there had been flash floods and cloud bursts in Uttaranchal, especially in Chamoli district where we planned to trek. Everything was hanging in balance and that was a lesson in itself of patience… I learnt to wait, to trust the unknown and hope for the best. Treks have been magical for me. It provides me and a lot of other people to connect with themselves and nature. During a trek your life gets stripped to the bare minimum necessities. Mobiles don’t work in the mountains and the batteries run out due to the extreme cold. Food truly becomes a necessity and not a luxury. The cravings we experience here for chocolates and ice-creams somehow disappear there! After a long and arduous climb, getting hot dal and chawal will seem heavenly. You appreciate the effort that goes into making early morning black tea! A pack of tiger biscuits never tasted better than when shared amongst fellow trekkers, while taking a small breather on a steep incline! Everywhere your eyes roam, you get to see beauty. Mountains kissing the skies and trees that seem to be in an endless competition with them. Vast stretches of beautiful white snow. Walking on a glacier is something to be experienced to be believed.

During the kedarkantha trek, we decided to slide down 50-100 meters of steep descent and believe me when I say that this gave me more of an adrenaline rush than all the wonderlas and waterparks! But the most beautiful and peaceful sight is the night sky -Black velvety sky lit up by zillions of stars and the Milky Way snaking in between them. Star gazing on a clear night with absolutely no light pollution from artificial lights, gives you that moment of pure elation and you feel one with this vast universe.

I have met so many interesting people on treks – A world famous botanist, a great guitarist and so many ordinary people like me who all have extraordinary stories! On the Valley of flowers trek-incidentally my first trek, I was trailing behind everyone and just wanted to give up at one point. I was buoyed forward by a group of Sikhs on their way to Hemkund Sahib (they seem to be exceptional people). They helped me keep moving with the chants of ‘Satnam Vaheguru’ and glucose powder. There was an old man, around 80 years old probably who helped me cover almost two km with his stories about Sikhism and Guru Gobind Singh. I have nothing but respect for this warrior clan who helped so many of us during our way up and down. As I walked past them, I met up with a couple of Bengali babus, who told me ‘tea khabhi’ and then had the grace to laugh at their own Hindi and made wonderful company for a couple more kilometers. I was resting for a while, when it started pouring and I realized that I had left my raincoat in my solo journey. But as if someone had heard my thoughts, from the mists materialized my friend from sixteen odd years with my raincoat. From there on it was him and me and the mist walking in tandem to the pitter patter rain and the sound of our breathing. It is always an amazing feeling to finally reach the summit, to know that I am greater than my limits and the mental barriers that I had set for myself. The only parallel I can draw to this experience is very clichéd and probably cheesy – delivering my baby boy–where I yelled for the doctor to cut me open and end the pain, while he yelled right back at me to keep pushing. In the end the pain was gone and I had a perfect baby in my arms….this trek was almost as magical as that for me…and that, is saying something!

Before I started trekking, my perception was to conquer the mountains; you know…the planting your flag on the summit sort. But nothing could have been farther from the truth. I was the one who was conquered and in letting myself be conquered lay my victory! I know it’s grammatically incorrect, but “Yes! I dind it.” Well that’s how Rishi, my son used to put it when he achieved anything that is extraordinary for his little hands. And that’s what I think and feel every time I reach the summit! I want to go down on my knees and give thanks to the majestic mountains, the gurgling streams, the thundering clouds, the angry river and the unpredictable rain for letting me complete this journey. I feel humbled and grateful and elated all at the same time. This I think is as close to a spiritual experience that I will ever get.

I started with a quote and I feel it is only fitting that I end with a quote form one of my favorite authors – Maya Angelou….

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.

So friends…as Ruskin Bond says –

Out of the city and over the hill,
Into the spaces where Time stands still,

Cast away care and come roaming with me!

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