3

She’s sitting there in the hall.

The people are being called randomly, so everybody is on tenterhooks, attentive but anxious. She’s more than anxious.

Clara, Allegra and Chuck are discussing what they would say with the other guy. She’s framing up her 2 minute introduction and finally decides upon a failed bunk attempt at school as her funny moment and making up some answer for the other parts.

As the introductions progress, she starts enjoying. The people are giving very good feedback, cheering, laughing, asking questions and welcoming each new speaker as if initiating a new bond.

It’s difficult to remember every detail but she’s storing parts of information about everybody. For example, the guy who sang a very rustic song to much applause and hooting, the girl who said she writes but doesn’t show it to anybody except people who are close to her (to which a burly guy sitting in front of her whispers to other guys – ‘now we’ll make sure nobody hears what you write’), the guy who says he likes gifting people and would give gifts to them all at the end of the program (applause again), the girl who smiles a lot, the girl who refuses to accept the mic saying it would be a personal insult to her voice, etc.

And soon it’s her turn. She’s trembling by the time she arrives on the podium. All 65 something eyes are turned to her as she shakily proceeds with her introduction. All is going fairly well, until she relates her funniest moment. At the crucial moment when she explains how they threw their bags out from the back gate of the school to find the teacher staring down at their backs nobody laughs. Some of the guys have a questioning look in their eyes as if asking, ‘so far so good but when’s the funny-ness of this going to come?’ She’s about to freeze due to such weird response but somehow completes her intro and stumbles back to her seat. Duh! So much for a grand first impression!

Now she’s relieved. Easing back into the chair she enjoys the new introductions.

Soon it’s lunchtime. They are all supposed to have lunch in the open dining area of the premises.

Shit! Food was something very personal to her. And eating with complete strangers! Oh god!

She follows Clara, Chuck and Allegra downstairs to the dining area.

The other guy is also with them. She finally decides to speak to this bespectacled serious-looking bloke.

“Hi! We haven’t been introduced yet. I’m……..” she says.

“Hi, I’m Beathan” he says.

That’s all they say till lunch ends. Silence punctuated by Chuck, Allegra and Clara conversing. She pipes in whenever adequate, noticing that Chuck too is not that familiar with them. It turns out to be better than expected.

She notices a few more people but that’s that.

Slowly people are starting to talk to each other, acknowledging each other with smiles.

They turn back to the hall and the session continues well into the evening.

She reaches home thoroughly exhausted, not really forming any opinion about any person there or the program in general. She just wants to catch up on rest before the equally grueling day tomorrow.

Drifting away to sleep she smiles to herself that she got out of home and found a place with so much energy bumbling around her.

© 2013 A. K.

2

There’s a small gallery all brown in its interiors the stairs lead to. The door nearest to the staircase is closed and there’s a little crowd outside. Some people her age are standing there, talking, shouting, engaged in the kind of friendly banter you see outside a classroom.

Two girls are standing a little aloof talking to each other. Considering the fact that she doesn’t know anything or anybody here, she musters up the courage to go and speak to them slowly.

When we try to suppress our true nature, if only to reveal it at a more appropriate time, little do we know that we’re killing that part of us. It rarely comes back. We become what we forced ourselves to become.

She’s a little timid in her approach, asking them whether they are there for the same program as hers and almost shouts a yes when they say they are all in the same batch.

She asks them their names.

Clara, replies the shorter one with fair complexion and big bulging pale eyes. Her bushy hair is nicely framing her face. She is attractive. Allegra, says the taller one. She’s thin and has a jumpy quality about her. She tells hers.

A few minutes pass while she surveys her surroundings and the girls chat with each other with occasional conversation with her.

Meanwhile, the crowd outside the door to their right is swelling and she wonders aloud to the other two girls how they’ll ever get in. They tell her their room is on the other side of the gallery, showing her the door. There are a few people standing near that door too.

A few moments later a bespectacled guy ushers them in, saying the class is about to start.

The room inside is a typical classroom setting but of a professional kind. To their right is a wall with a whiteboard mounted on it. Straight ahead stands a podium and behind that a table with three chairs positioned behind it. To the right are 65 odd chairs with leather upholstering which, in some cases, is tearing on the sides. There is a small aisle in the middle to give access to chairs on both sides of it.

The girls decide to sit in the last row where all chairs are in one continuous line uninterrupted by the aisle so that the person sitting in the middle chair would be sitting bang on in the middle of the aisle. And yes, she has to sit on the chair. Clara and Allegra find two guys they already knew before this and introduce one to her. His name is Chuck and he greets her while looking at the ground. Shy type no doubt, she thinks. The other guy just mingles in the background. She makes no attempt to speak either.

People start filling in the room and soon almost all chairs are filled. A girl their age is standing near the podium and guys repeatedly go near her to ask if she’s their teacher. She smiles shyly and asks them to sit. Slowly the chatter starts growing in the room and people start recognizing others who they’ve known before.

To her dismay, she doesn’t know anybody here, but she decides to remain unfazed.

The young girl near the podium finally stands up and tells them that she is going to start their session now to hoots and cheers by all the guys. Guys will be guys, right!

She starts speaking, “I’m here to stay with you the whole of the day today. To make you familiar with each other. Because this is going to be a new start in your life. Here, you are going to find friends, such as you have never found in the course of this professional education. You will be mingling with each other and going out a lot. I will help you break the ice.”

She then goes on to give a brief intro of the program scheduled over the next 15 days and tells them what all will be happening and which faculty they should expect. At the mention of each faculty, someone or the other says something and other chirp in. Turns out that the people are mostly the ones who teach at coaching institutes for the course and many of the people here had been students at some time or the other.

No wonder i don’t know all this. I never attended a coaching class, she thinks.

The agenda for the day, says the podium girl, is for each of them to come over to the podium, introduce themselves, the reason they chose this course, say a few words about the best thing in them and explain the funniest incident to have ever happened to them.

There we go, she sighs inwardly.

Public speaking, her best quality in school, is now her biggest weakness. The moment she is asked to address even 3 people sitting in an informal setting across the table, she dissolves. Her heart starts beating so loud that she becomes deaf to the outside world and starts shivering in tandem with her heartbeats. It’s probably with most of us that we acquire the fears of others in addition to our own, sometimes to make them feel comfortable about theirs and at other times to show them that we are like them in some ways. She had always been a very powerful orator. The most sought after to represent her school everywhere. But graduation had put her in company with people whose sole aim there was to get a degree with high grades. Add to that the non-existent extra curricular activities at her college and she had become an alien to the world of public speaking.

So today, as everybody started going to speak with their turns, she started shaking just at the anticipation of speaking in front of these 70 plus people.

She just kept reminding herself, I don’t want to be noticed………………….

© 2013 A. K.

Where it all started

She wakes up earlier than she usually does. Well, way earlier than she usually does. What with all the nervousness surrounding today!

It’s the start of a new training session. This is the final training for her to get her professional degree. The one for which she has been slogging since a long time. So all this training means to her is the last straw in her educational journey. The expectations are low even though her friend who has completed this training in another batch concluded a few days ago has told her she would enjoy it. She wants to get it over with as soon as possible.

She’s contemplating her sense of dread and yes, fear of the unknown as she starts getting dressed.

The green and brown combo of her dress is going well with her brown footwear and white & brown bag. She doesn’t really care how she looks actually. She knows her life is just going to continue from one ebb to another, no space for tides.

As she leaves home well in time to reach the far away venue her spirits lift slightly. Well, anything that takes you out of home is good, right?!

She checks in at the underground tube train station but…………………

She’s descending the steps to her platform when suddenly the strap of one of her sandals starts loosening. Ah, usual stuff, she thinks dragging on. But it’s the other sandal’s turn now. ‘Whatever’ she continues. But both her sandals give way as she descends another three steps.

‘Oh no! What now?’ she’s shaking with fear and indecisiveness. Her training is important. She can’t be late or it will jeopardize her degree. She has to be there on time. But how?

Ok, time for her real self to take over. She removes her sandals and puts them in her bag. And there, at the busy station, amid hundreds of people, she moves ahead with barefoot. Feeling absolutely divine, she puts her headphones on and saunters to the platform. All eyes are on this weird girl who’s so nicely dressed, carrying a high profile handbag and wearing nothing on her feet. Her favorite band Green Day blaring in her ears, she doesn’t give a damn about the onlookers.

Question – Into the train, onto the destination platform, checking out, arriving at the road upstairs in public is fine. But how the hell do you go into an upmarket professional training where the dress code is strictly formal without anything on your feet!?

Answer – You get into a cab, keep your eyes open for a street cobbler(sadly no store would be open so early in the morning), find him, sit inside the cab while he mends your shoes, wear your mended shoes and pride and continue to the auditorium.

So there it is, the auditorium in all it’s 3 floors of glory. Her conference room, she finds out, is on the first floor. As she ascends the steps with bated breath and anticipation, it’s time for an entire new chapter of her life to start.

© 2013 A. K.