Sep 1, 2011


One afternoon my mother walked into my room and said “Your aunt is here from America, she wants to meet you, can you come and say hello”
Me? oh NO, I am ok playing SIMS on the computer. 
But that's not what I say aloud. To my mom I say, "Coming in  5 minutes."

15 minutes later, “Are you coming? You must come and SAY HELLO”
“Okay Mom! Why this big deal?.”

Grudgingly I get there- say hello and the little kitten that I am, in 15 seconds I give some stares to my aunt, to the wall, to the fan and before my aunt can blink, I am out of there.

Believe it or not, this was the scene at my home every weekend 5 years ago. If it was not my aunt, it was my granny’s sister, or my grandfathers friend. Once I was asked to say hello to our neighbour's brother who was visiting from Australia. Imagine? 

My parents were fed up. They hated dragging me up to greet guests. It was not only humiliating for them, but after I turned 12, my shyness became an issue of worry. They kept persevering to come up with solutions to my little problem! I hated what they were doing. I was in my comfort zone, happy where I was. I did not really care for any change. But I knew that my parents did. And they would do something about it-very soon.

As expected the D-Day arrived. The dreadful one – and I got the BITTER PILL.

Do you know what is the 2nd biggest fear most people have? (the 1st being death) Do you know what the biggest punishment my dad gave me was?
When my uncle was once visiting and I refused to come up and say hello, my dad punished me by pushing me into a public speaking club, namely the NEW DELHI GAVELS CLUB.

Corporal punishment was banned. But the 2nd biggest fear. You fear, I fear..PUBLIC SPEAKING! And can you believe it, my own father was the one who pushed me into facing this fear.

I had heard of Toastmasters. My dad went there on Sundays, when he had nothing better to do (although he still claims that he tries his best to go there). It was a place where he went to improve his speaking skills.
One fine day, I was in my happy place (in front of the TV) when my dad walked in and announced "My toastmaster friends just told me that there's a junior version of toastmaster being opened. It's called the New Delhi Gavel's Club. It's for kids of ages 12-18. And guess what, Payal's joining it!" 

The fireworks began!! I am actually scared of swimming, but I was willing to jump into a 12 feet deep pool. Maybe get some water in my lungs, NO BIGGIE RIGHT? 
But gavels? Woah!  BIG BIGGIE!
From that day onwards, 90% of my time was spent thinking of ways to get out of this big mess. But my dad was adamant. He would take me there. 

1 week later I was at the first meeting of the NEW DELHI GAVELS CLUB. I had already decided that I would hate it. I wouldn’t open my mouth. I would behave just like I did at the dentists.
There was no way in hell they’re going to make ME speak! I went and sat inside. As people kept coming up and speaking, I thought, what geeks, don’t they have anything better to do!

While these thoughts flew in and out of mind, the others in the room spoke. I was so preoccupied with my thoughts that it took me a while to realize it when I was called upon to speak. There were some chits on the table and I had to pick one at random and speak on the topic that was written inside the chit. As I opened the chit to read my topic, my knees trembled! I was sweating and suddenly, there were double the number of people in the room. Why didn’t the ground just open up and swallow me.  Gosh dad! I hate you! If it wasn’t for you I could have been in my happy place.  
Now, I had a new happy place, the time the meetings would finish!

This cycle continued for a while-my dad would force me to go and I would unhappily and half-heartedly oblige. 

Strangely, after a couple of meetings, I began to feel better about being there.I actually felt confident. My voice no more shook, my knees started to stabilize! I started actively taking part in the meetings. 
I guess the end of the meeting was no more my happy place! The people around me were not geeks any more. And I was in no mood to kill my parents.

Not only had the D-Day lead to me feeling better about my speech, but over the years, being part of the club made me more confident as a person. I became more open about coming out of my comfort zone and doing things that initially sound very scary and undoable. Sometimes you need someone to force the BITTER PILL down your throat!
Now, when my parents insist on me joining a class or a club or a program, I willingly accept. After all, who knows what it might have in store for me? 


Ravi said...


Happy to see the happy outcome.

Payal Lal said...