Sunday, March 28, 2010

Stages are made in Hell

I was 6 years old at that time. It was Children's Sunday in my Church and the entire focus of that day's sermons would be on children. As part of Children's Sunday, children should go to the altar of the church and sing songs and recite biblical verses which they had learnt in Sunday School. My Sunday School Teacher in the previous week asked me to learn just 2 verses in 23 rd Chapter of Psalms in Bible and recite in front of everyone. Each of the Sunday School Children had different tasks and as I was just 6 years old, my assignment was just to recite 2 verses.I memorized those 2 verses the entire week and was very confident. My brother's assignment was to recite around 10 verses from a different chapter.As he was 5 years older than me, he was given a bigger assignment. On Children's Sunday,I was sitting beside my mom.The service began and the Church was full because the entire congregation of around 200 people were present . My mom asked me whether I remembered those 2 verses.If anyone had asked Abdul Kalam whether he knew basics of missile technology how he would have reacted, the same way I reacted.The proceedings started and children started performing their tasks with lot of applause from the church. After few minutes, Sunday School teacher called my name in the microphone and told Israel would recite verses from Psalms. I got up confidently. I saw entire crowd seeing me. As I moved forward to the altar of the Church, I could see all eyes watching me. I had an unusual sensation which I later realised as 'fear'. Once I reached the altar, microphone was adjusted to my height.Once I faced the entire crowd looking at me, that unusual sensation became acute.I could feel the lub dub of my heart. I started reciting "The Lord is my Shepherd". Next line was "I shall not want". But seeing around 200 faces in front of me,I forgot the verses. I started repeating "The Lord is my Shepherd". My head became blank. I could not move forward to the next line.I could see my brother who was sitting in first row, laughing at me.Again I tried, but nothing came out of my mouth.My Sunday School Teacher realised that Lord had let down Israel.She came forward, adjusted the microphone,completed the verses and called the next name. I did not walk back to my mom.I could hear giggling here and there. I went to the back door of the Church and sat.I felt that whole Sky had fallen on me.It was terrible feeling.I was sitting not knowing what to do next. Then I could hear my Brother's name called.My prayer to Lord was that he should also forget otherwise he would make fun of me throughout my life.As he confidently continued his verses, my confidence declined. Once my brother successfully completed, I got up and went back to my house which was nearby before the service got over. In my house I was waiting under the cot with so much of tension for my brother to come back.After an hour, I could hear my brother shouting "Where is the Shepherd" and was searching me.Once he found me, he was so happy.I told that I deliberately forgot to tell the verses because I wanted to check whether Sunday School Teacher knew it, knowing very well he wont believe it.Naturally he made my life hell for next few months by teasing me on "The Lord is my Shepherd".

18 years later, I got appointed as Lecturer in Sri Ram Engineering college.I was assigned to handle one subject for final year students, 2 subjects for 2nd year students and one subject for 1st year students.That was my first day in College and unfortunately I had to give lecture to Final Year Students on my very first day. I had to handle the 3rd period.During first 2 periods I was sitting in the library and was taking notes for my lecture.Once tea break was given I could hear students rushing out and my lub dub suddenly started.The same uneasy sensation in my heart which I felt 18 years before again started.It was 10 minutes 'tea break' and after that I had to go and give lecture that too to final year students.After 10 minutes, bell rang and I started moving to the final year class.Students were rushing in and my lub dub increased.Instead of entering the class, I went back to my chamber.My HOD Prof Radhakrishnan saw me and asked me why I had not gone to class.I told I came back for chalk piece.He then took me to class(may be he would have thought seeing my pale face that i would run away)and introduced me to students as the new lecturer and left the class.I did not know what to start because I was blank. I saw the attendance register.There were around 40 students and in the pretext of introducing to each other,I took attendance and asked each of the student,his schooling, place of birth etc to kill the time.As I was nearing the last 10 students I was scared what I would do next after 'Attendance'.So I started asking more details for last 10 students like their hobbies, parents occupation etc.I heard the bell ringing when 2 more students were left. It was a great relief as the period got over.I told 'thank you' to students and rushed out.I went straight to my HOD's Chamber and told that I was going to resign.He smiled and asked me to sit and asked whether students teased.I told no and and explained how I managed taking attendance.He laughed for next 10 minutes. Then he gave me cup of tea and started giving me lecture. Like Lord Krishna tutored Arjuna, for next few hours he tutored me on how to manage "stage fear". The focus of his advice was, everyone including PM of India would have fear in their maiden speech but they manage the fear positively.He canceled my classes for next 2 days and tutored me whenever he found time.He gave me very practical tips on how to capture the attention of audience.I gained lot of confidence and when I went for next class I had the lub dub but I managed it effectively.I started using the tips he gave.Within few days the lub dub stopped totally and I became a very popular lecturer among students, thanks to Prof Radhakrishnan.

I worked as Lecturer for next 4 years.Later I joined Indian Railways and then IAS.In Railway Academy(RSC,Baroda) and IAS Academy(LBSNAA,Mussorie) the trainee had to do presentation invariably once in every 10 days on some topic.So I became seasoned and I totally forgot this 'stage fear'.But once I started working in West Bengal as Sub Divisional Officer(SDO),a new problem arose.It was 'language fear'.I could read,write and speak in 'Bengali' language but I had a fear to address public gatherings in bengali language. Speaking with common man in bengali is different but once we address in 'stage' we should follow certain grammar and I was not good in it.So whenever I was invited to any public function, my first condition was that I wont address the gathering and I used to take a deputy magistrate(State service officer) who used to address on behalf of me.I managed this way for more than a year in Bengal.,Almost after a year, things changed. I was to launch a new tribal health programme called 'Jeevan Jyothi' in one of my naxal affected blocks called Belpahari block.Few days before the launch,I invited my 'District Magistrate' to inaugurate this scheme.DM was Mr.Narayan Swaroop Nigam, who is an young, honest and efficient officer.He was a mentor to me.Happily he agreed to be the chief guest for the occasion.On the day before the programme he asked me to send the programme schedule by email. I did not include my name in the programme because the tribals would not understand speech in English and I cannot make speech in Bengali.Once DM saw the programme schedule he called me and asked why I was not addressing the gathering. As if I was too generous I told,"Sir I want to complete the programme within a short time so that tribal people can return to their villages before dusk".He told that my speech of 10 minutes wont make a big difference and he told that he would reduce his speech by 10 minutes so that I could address the gathering. I was taken aback. I tried to give few more lame reasons but he told that I had to address.I did not know what to do.I decided to tell the truth and told him about my problem in addressing the crowd in Bengali. He told," Israel, I knew it even before you telling me.I don't want my SDO to avoid giving speech in Bengali.You are like my younger brother.You have to start learning instead of avoiding.So tomorrow you have to give speech in Bengali.Its an order".My first reaction was to fall sick and avoid next day's function but I knew it wont work with my DM who was a very good person by heart but was also a very strict officer. I did not have any option.I called my deputy magistrate and asked him to prepare a speech. I then started memorising till 3 am. Next day when my turn came, lub dub and unusual sensation in heart started.I don't remember what I talked.Somehow I managed and completed my speech.The entire gathering including DM clapped for next 5 minutes.Once I got seated after my maiden address,my deputy magistrate came and told in my ears,"Don't worry sir.Only you and me know that you have forgotten 75% of speech.Anyhow,speech was not bad".

P.S-I gradually picked up public speaking in Bengali language within few months because I did not have any option.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The other side of "Indian Hockey"

Tamil Nadu Express was about to start.Passengers were busy in keeping luggages and bidding farewell to their dear ones.It was 2003.I was in Indian Railways and I was going to Delhi for official work.It was 2 tier AC coach and normally in 2 tier AC coaches you can find many Railway officials who use their free railway passes.In the opposite Berth , a Tall Dark Handsome person who may be around 50 years old was seated.His face was familiar .I was observing him and he found me observing and gave me a smile.I smiled back but my brain was busy in recalling who this person was.Suddenly it flashed in my memory.I asked him," Are you Baskaran?". He was so happy that atleast someone recognised him. He was Vasudevan Baskaran, the captain of Indian Hockey Team which won Olympics Gold Medal in 1980. That was the last Gold Medal India won in Hockey. Baskaran's achievment was part of Tamil Nadu School Curriculum and I told him that I had read about him in my school days.He was more than happy. He was Senior Sports Officer in Southern Railways at that time and he was going to Delhi for a meeting. He started asking about me.Tamil Nadu Express takes around 32 hours to reach Delhi. Except the sleeping time, we were discussing during the entire train journey.Even though we discussed on many topics, our discussions were centred mostly on Indian Hockey. We became very close friends after this train journey and I used to visit his office whenever I was in Chennai.

After the failure of our Indian Hockey Team in World Cup that too when it was home ground, I was remembering my discussions with Baskaran.He told that changes in international playing conditions, infrastructural constraints,internal politics etc have eroded India's supremacy in Hockey. In my view,yes these factors are important for India's declining performance in Hockey, but the most important villain which has destroyed Hockey in India is 'Cricket' .Whole country is crazy about cricket.Even if last Indian Batsman is batting, and if 18 runs are required in last ball, every Indian watches with a hope that there will be two 'NO' balls and our last batsman will go for hatrick sixers and will win the game.India has won world cup in cricket only once but UNFORTUNATELY it coincided with advent of TVs in middle class homes. Industrial sponsors preferred 'Cricket' because it gave them 'whole day' for advertising whereas Hockey gets over within 70 minutes.TV channels also preferred cricket because of the same reason.Some may argue that Hockey's failure should not be related to cricket. If sponsorships are there only for cricket, where will the fund come from for making international standard hockey grounds in India.Our hockey players practice in 'low quality' grounds and get defeated when they play in 'international quality grounds'.

Some may say that only 'Cricket' has got recognition for India. They forget to remember that India has not won a world cup after 1983.The only recognition cricket has got for India is,world recognises that there are crores of Indians who sit at home in office hours and watch cricket even if their office is Indian Parliament and compare their players (who stay in studios and are busy before cameras in giving advertisements) with their jawans (who stay in bunkers with snowfall and enemy's shell fall around).On the contrary, hockey gave a recognition to India even before India got freedom.In 1936, Berlin Olympics, Indian contingent headed by a Major named Dhyan Chand sang Vande Mataram and hoisted tri colour national flag in its dressing room. During opening ceremony march past, teams from all over the world saluted Nazi salute to Adolf Hitler, except USA.The only other team which did not salute Hitler was the Indian team(called British India those days) and the flag bearer was Major Dhyan Chand. The finals of Hockey match was between the home team Germany and India. Adolf Hitler was seated in the stadium and was supporting his team to prove the world that Germany is invincible in every field. In the "first half", India was '1' and Germany was '0'. In "first half", Germans played a rough game and Major Dhyan Chand had lost his tooth.The Indian hockey contingent knew that if the lead was just one goal, things would change in a moment in Germany's favour in the "second half "of the game.Major Dhyan Chand, the captain of Indian Team got first aid for his tooth,then removed his shoes because he thought he was not getting grip to run in wet ground(when all the Germans were in attacking mode and were wearing shoes with spikes). He played with bare foot and scored 6 goals against the Germans in second half.India not only won gold medal but also got recognition for India that Indian nation is a nation with fighting spirit.

Berlin Olymics was not the only occasion in which Indian Hockey made us proud.India is the only country in the world to win 6 consecutive Olympic gold medals. Our grand parents and parents used to listen to the live commentary of Indian Hockey's onslaught in field. It was 1948 and England was the host for Olympic games. Indians participated first time as an independent country. Our tri colour national flag was officially hoisted.As usual our Hockey team was slaughtering its opponents and moved to the finals.Interestingly the other team which moved to finals was England. The finals was between the conqueror(England) and the conquered(India).Whole world watched with eagerness about the outcome. Kishan Lal who was the captain of Indian team and his boys massacred England by scoring '4' goals and not allowing England to score even a single goal. Probably this was a retaliation for Jallianwalla bagh massacre but in a Gandhian way. Whole world applauded when India won Gold medal against England. This winning episode continued(with occasional setbacks) till our Baskaran's team won gold in 1980 Moscow Olympics. Things changed after 1983 Cricket world cup win.People forgot the national game. If India wins a cricket match against Holland or Bangladesh, it became a first page news item whereas if India wins Asia Cup in Hockey, its a last page two line news item.The lazy game of cricket has been found very lucrative for sponsors, media etc.Under these changed circumstances, where hockey players are like orphans, even if they don't win medals, we should feel proud of them because when all their friends in schools and colleges took cricket bat, these brave boys took hockey stick and are trying to win. Even if they don't win, they are the real winners.


(2) Dhyan chand sang Vande Mataram in 1936 Berlin Olympics