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.

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