Over the weekend of 3rd May ’19, my own alma mater, The Doon School, invited me to conduct a Writing Workshop with boys from middle-school grades. Needless to mention, I was delighted to be back at school.
Wonderful as it was to return to my old stomping-grounds, it wasn’t ONLY nostalgia that made the visit and the interaction with the students exciting; that I have now been actively teaching for nearly six years, have poured tremendous hard work and passion into this pursuit – it was a huge validation of my work and efforts to be called by Doon.
I must share that my observations of the boys currently studying at the school filled me with pride and immense hope. That here is a school that is clearly doing many things right, because in a long time, I haven’t had the chance to communicate with kids that are as sharp, perceptive, intuitive and enthusiastic, as this bunch. It is almost a given for old/ex students of an institution to say, “It was much better in our time.” I am happy to report that Doon seems to have changed dramatically, though, for the better. The systems, infrastructure, facilities, the standards of boarding and lodging, it all seems exponentially better than it was when I was a student there. And let me make one thing perfectly clear – there is NO romance in enduring bad food, and poor living conditions. The vastly improved pastoral care and general environment is palpable, most noticeably in how happy and content, even kids who have recently joined, seem to be. This is most heartening.
Of course, to return to the institution that instigated my own journey of self-discovery, to now aid, in some small way, the potential discovery of a new generation of Doscos, is deeply fulfilling. Somewhere in my subconscious mind, I think I’d decided that I’d return to school only if and when I had a compelling reason, a meaningful contribution to make. This workshop has proved to be that ideal reintroduction.
It has been a moving and exciting weekend, Back to School! 🙂
During my interactions with students across middle and senior school have yielded a disturbing reality. That unlike when we were young, unworried, unhurried, kids nowadays are a stressed lot. They seem to carry the weight of the world on their tiny shoulders. While some are constantly burdened by the heft of unrealistic and sky-high expectations, of academic and non-scholastic achievements & targets; others feel a tremendous pressure to create an identity for themselves that is unique and differentiated, yet enabling them to ‘fit in’.
However, among all this psychological load that students tend to feel these days, it is an uncertain future, that many of them seem mortally frightened of. Why, we need to ask as parents and educators, do our kids feel this kind of bleeding pressure? Why, rather than being hopeful, enthusiastic, excited, and optimistic about the future, are they scared, troubled, dismayed, and pessimistic about it?
STOP NAGGING & COMPARING
My own perception of this troubling trend is down to the conscious and unconscious competitive pressure that we place on our kids. Without even realizing it, we constantly nag our children, comparing their performance and achievements with those of their friends and peers, on occasion, even proudly siting specific kids as examples of how THEY should be! All this causes a child to lose not just interest, but a will to explore, discover, and find themselves. It is a behavioral pattern that we as adult care-givers must correct, forthwith.
OPEN FUTURE OPTIONS
The other facet of this increasing disillusionment with the future comes from a predetermined future course of education and career. Now, planning for the future is all well and good. However, many times, as parents, we don’t merely suggest and expose our kids to options, we pretty much assert, even brainwash them into a certain chosen future path, that has little or nothing to do with the child itself, not accounting for his/her likes, dislikes, passions, talents, interest areas and aptitude. In this kind of a scenario, the future, rather than presenting itself like a hopeful and joyous prospect, becomes a tunnel with no light at the end of it. We must therefore, however hard the temptation might be, steer clear of defining our children’s’ future plans, academic, and otherwise. We need to let our kids make their own choices, give them the power to own their own lives.
ALL KIDS ARE THEIR OWN UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE
Lastly, the sooner we can accept that it isn’t necessary that our children are either versions of ourselves, nor is their intelligence defined ONLY by academic achievements, the better the environment that we create for them, will be. If there is a student who is not performing well academically at school, rather than berating that child about it, taunting, warning of a bleak future; the child will be infinitely better served, if as parents, we focused our energies and efforts in identifying areas that the child is good in. I have seen countless examples of students who were my own contemporaries, and even today from among my students, who don’t present an aptitude for traditional subjects, but are remarkably adept and ingenious in alternative areas. One example that comes immediately to mind is a local Jaipur story of this boy who dropped out of school, and employing his immense entrepreneurial skills, today owns and runs one of the most successful chains of Burger Restaurants called Burger Farm!
The future, as it is, isn’t looking particularly rosy. With all the problems that plague the world, the last thing we need is a generation of worriers! In fact, what is required, is the complete opposite – a set of people who are confident and optimistic enough to bring significant change in the world, and heal it. Let us begin by making a small change in our own parenting philosophies today, and enable our kids to shine tomorrow.
I had recently written this article for a national publication and thought it might be of value to share it with all of you on this forum as well. So here is my article on How To Write & Deliver Great Speeches.
A great speech is one that solicits a range of emotions, feelings and responses from its listeners. It must amuse, tickle, inform, question, relate, opine, entertain, engage. While it isn’t easy to achieve all these seemingly incongruous reactions, it is very possible. All it needs is a planned approach that takes certain key aspects and factors into account.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
One of the most overlooked aspects of speech-writing is information about the occasion and the target audience. We tend to focus on writing a brilliant speech that is thoroughly researched and beautifully written while failing to take into account who our listeners are going to be. The more information we have about our listeners, the better informed we will be to make intelligent, strategic content choices. If for instance you know in advance that the audience will be made up of mostly middle-aged business people, your examples, your jokes, the context that you provide in your speech will be more appropriate and relatable to that audience. If on the other hand you know that the audience is going to comprise mostly of say, school children with a smattering of parents, your choice of humour, anecdotes and the language and style in which you speak will organically be one that finds favour and understanding among this relatively younger age group. In fact, the topic of one’s speech almost becomes secondary to the audience and the occasion, that is how important these two factors are. So do your homework, first and foremost, on these two aspects.
Speeches, no matter how serious one’s topic, must engage. One of the best ways of engaging a live audience is humour. Having said that, one must tread carefully while employing humour. First, it should never dilute the main topic. It shouldn’t be as though in a speech on gender equality for example, you are making sexist jokes. By that same token, if you are addressing a group where most people will be sought after individuals of a certain community, it would probably be unwise to poke fun at that community. So use humour, liberally even. But pay particular attention to what kind of humour. A good trick to avoid any controversy arising from jokes in public gatherings is to make the humour ‘self-deprecating’. Jokes at the expense of oneself rarely offend anyone. They are funny, engaging, yet inoffensive. Sharhrukh Khan’s now famous Ted Talk address is a great case in point where he pokes fun at himself being a self-obsessed ageing movie-star.
We place a lot of importance of researching facts, figures and statistics while preparing our speeches. Of course, this is of paramount importance and must be done. However, it is often in lieu of a personal touch to our speeches. Understand this, when people come to listen to speeches, they are there not just to get factual information on the topic or subject. That, they can, themselves, just as easily get from the internet. They are there chiefly to listen to a unique and personal opinion of the speaker. This opinion can be communicated most effectively, if the hard-factual portions of our speeches, are generously peppered with the speaker’s own ‘experience’ of the topic. His or her own stories, anecdotes, and slices from their personal lives that reflect their engagement in that sphere. For instance, if the topic of the speech is School Uniforms, one must share one’s own experiences of that by way of a story that could be the one time the speaker had to play a cricket match in school uniform and it was terribly uncomfortable to play effectively (if of course, the speaker’s opinion is that uniforms are not a great idea). My recommendation would be to begin the speech with a personal incident that connects topic and speaker rather than starting by simply stating “the topic for my speech is x,y.z”. The latter is passe, amateurish, and uninteresting. Towards the middle too, continue to share more anecdotes, and again, at the end, before stating your final opinion, try and include yet another personal incident. The belief that sharing personal stories is somehow unprofessional is not the truth. Personal stories must be wholeheartedly and generously used.
CONNECT WITH AUDIENCE
Most of us have an inclination to memorizing our speeches and delivering them verbatim. Without realizing, what this does is that it calls for all our attention and focus during speech-making, on trying to recollect the content of the speech. This distracts from any real engagement with the audience. A live event thrives on a human connection. Therefore, it is a good idea to write one’s speeches, but then, divide the speech into cue-cards with only the main points written on them, and use the cue cards to make the speech in a less formal, more instinctive, natural way where your mind and body is free to establish a connection with the audience. This will take practise since the memorizing habit will take some doing to kick. Once it happens though, you will find that you are able to adhere to all the body-language basics that are recommended for speech-making, because you will have the head-space to pay attention to those vital elements. Eye contact, dividing your sight-line between all quadrants of the audience, smiling, walking and using the length and breadth of the stage, gesturing with your hands; all these little tricks that give the audience the feeling that you are there, present, and interacting individually with each audience member will start to come naturally to you.
TONALITY & PACE
Finally, remember that you are there to make an impact with your speech. The first requirement in order to do this, is to have your speeches heard and understood. Rather than shoot like a bullet train and rush through your speech-delivery, a direct consequence of wanting to get the memorized speech delivered and done with; it is recommended that speeches be delivered in a moderate tempo. This helps the audience get the necessary time they need in order to really process and understand each point you are making. Pausing, increasing pace and volume, decreasing pace and volume, at crucial junctures throughout the speech also makes speeches more interesting, and make them seem like a dialogue or a conversation, rather than a boring lecture. So identify the most emphatic points in your content and at those places, pause, so that the focus of the audience in firmly on that extremely critical point you made.
A great way of improving one’s speech writing and delivery is to watch and listen to good speeches. On the internet, one can find a host of videos of great speeches. Similarly, there are any number of books that one can refer to and read the greatest speeches ever delivered. It really boils down to simple, yet personal content, that makes for the most memorable and compelling speeches.
When my daughter Krisha was born, I was nervous, yet overjoyed. At the time, I had written extensively about becoming a father. Many of you read those posts, even reached out to me. It was an exciting time, a new phase, uncharted territory, an unknown path. Now, nearly two years on, I thought I should write an update-piece. Share what the past two years of brining up and interacting with my daughter have been like. So here goes!
With some trepidation life began with Pishu (as Krisha is fondly known at home). Not for any other reason except not wanting to make a misstep. Things soon settled down though. And it has been the most delightful time since. To watch your own flesh and blood, in many ways, an extension of yourself, grow, develop, evolve, is an indescribable feeling. It is an emotional rollercoaster. On the one hand, your heart swells with pride when the first-step is taken, at the same time, the mind fears that some harm might come to the child. While you want your child to engage, interact, and socialise with others, you are vary of her being mistreated, protective, paranoid even! And from the minute she is up to the second she FINALLY falls asleep, she is ACTIVE. Her increasing understanding of things, concepts, language, emotions is scary and fascinating in equal measure. Her irreverence and abject lack of obedience are both attractive and annoying.
Most of all though, you have, as a parent, an opportunity to be a child once again. With your child, you rediscover the world through their eyes and innocent little hearts and minds, full of genuine surprise and wonder. They are amazed at the simplest facts, lured by the mundane, captivated by the ordinary, enchanted by the elementary. It is enviable, wonderfully refreshing, and always entertaining. Then you see reflections of yourself – physically, habitually, in their personalities, in their likes & dislikes, and in their several inherited traits. When Pishu dances to pallo latke by Asha Bhosle with gay abandon, I can’t help but notice her inherent sense of rhythm, and the fact that she instinctively prefers the ‘original’ to the modern version of the song. Just one example of the infinite list of adorable eccentricities!
Having said all of this, I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to a certain amount of very real and palpable frustration. Of having to give up time, people, places, and pursuits. Time with my wife Anuja, for instance, is something that was crucially important to me – that has almost vanished, and it has caused me much anguish. Similarly, the pets have been, to some extent, deprioritised. Such is the crude reality where time and places are usurped by a new baby in the home.
In the larger scheme of things however, the overwhelming sense is that of immense joy and fulfilment. What a child brings to you isn’t selflessness. I dare say, it is terribly selfish. And that kind of love and joy, can not be replaced, traded, or compensated for, by anything else in the entire world. Two years on, I am proud as a potato and pleased as punch, that Pishu is in my life 🙂
Jaipur, I’m delighted to share my upcoming Workshop for Public Speaking & Creative Writing for students above age 10 during the upcoming Holi Break.
These 7 sessions will be a highly interactive, fun, engaging time wherein I hope to instil some of the fundamental skills of Confident & Convincing Public Speaking & Written Communication in kids. These are invaluable, lifelong skills that will separate your ward from others and make him or her communicate like a winner!
Check out all the details of the Workshop in the poster below. For more information about me, you can log into my website kartikbajoria.com
Hope to see you @Wonder Years Jaipur
Ray Carver, having decided to take Benjamin Burham as his protégé, was deep in explanation. The myriad ways of pleasuring a woman. Benji would listen intently, like a scholarship student at an ivy league school. Each night the playboy and his apprentice would meet after their shifts at the departmental store and devote a focused hour to the theory of feminine gratification. The understudy would quiz and question. The master, expound. Uncharted territory that Benji could almost taste. He was hungry. Ray sensed this. And thus, Benji was the chosen one.
Ray, a lonesome kind of middle-aged man, single, a supervisor at the block supermarket Glenn’s, could be accused of having spent his life ‘under the radar’. Benji, the new kid on the payrolls, young, ambitious, if a touch unsure. Easily influenced, had come under a spell from the otherwise unremarkable Ray. In turn, Ray had found purpose. Meaning. Someone FINALLY noticed him. It all began when, on a smoke break, Ray overheard Benji making a mess of a chat with a girl and offered some advice. Three months since, their after-hours meetings had become, ceremonious, sanctimonious.
Ray had promised libido-led Benji that his training was near complete. That very soon, he’d be able to put his education to the test. Benji was beside himself. Eager, raring, raging. On Saturday night, after their ritualistic lesson, Benji reminded Ray
“ So we’re checking out that new bar or what”
“No.. You don’t employ a new education at a bar, what’s wrong with you!”
“Ok, so then where? Name the place and I’ll drive us there”
“Not tonight my little cub. Patience.”
“Fuck you man. When is this going to even happen? I mean, do you even know what you’re doing? How-come I’ve never seen YOU with a chick?”
“Not that it is any of your fucking business but I don’t make a public display of my exploits like you millennials”
“Screw that… Just tell me WHEN?”
“Next Friday. There’s a party at a friend’s house. Come with me. I promise it’ll be the night of your life”
It was anything but easy for Benji. The week that followed, starting with his jilted and hollow weekend, each hour, every minute, a torturous test. Each night the duo continued to meet and his mentor would reassure him. He’d assuage Benji with promises of a sweet sweet reward. It somewhat calmed Benji.
The fateful day arrived. At different points during the preceding week, the two had put in applications for half day on Friday. Why? Because as it turns out, the ‘friend’s house’ the party was a little-ways outside of town. A bit of a drive. Ray picked Benji up from his place at six in the evening. They set off. The air was thick with anticipation. Beads of testosterone-filled sweat dripped down Benji’s brow as they made their way out of town in Ray’s dilapidated car, AC, radio, malfunctioning.
“Now once we get there we try and blend in. No need to draw any unnecessary attention to yourself. Got it?”
“But that makes no sense! Isn’t the entire point to mingle and impress. Game time man!”
“I have a very special treat for you. For all your patience and hard work. I’ve had this girl in mind for you, for a long time. And we don’t want to come one too strong right?”
Benji’s growing impatience and distrust in Ray vanished. His eyes lit up with a hunter’s anticipation.
“as you say.. you’re the boss”
They drove up a driveway and arrived at this old but majestic looking castle. Ray parked the car in the last spot of the parking area. They got off. Ray pulled out a back-pack from the trunk. When Benji asked him what it was, he was told, supplies, to make the night memorable! Benji was tearing up with excitement. Ray led him. They reached the castle but rather than go in through the front, they went round to where the back door led to the sprawling grounds of the building.
“Shhh… Now we wait”
“But where is she?”
Ray had a huge gulp from a hip-flask that emerged from his back-pack and handed it to Benji.
A slightly inebriated woman, in her mid-forties, not especially attractive, stumbled out of the back door and into the gardens. She walked towards a little fountain and lit a smoke.
The two men tip toed, reached within a few feet of the woman. In one swift motion, Ray took out a large rod from his bag and struck the woman at the back of her head. She feel to the ground.
“here you go my hungry cub”
With a little inspiration, motivation, and some Writing Prompts, young students can create magic. What I enjoy the most about teaching is when I can, in some small measure, inspire. So proud to share two poems of my Grade 6 student Yashasv. I assigned him some writing prompts in class and these are his original creations.
At some point through our schooling, we would have been introduced to the concept of Need vs Want. Perhaps in Economics class, maybe in some other subject – we would have been familiarised with the difference.
The interesting thing is that the world that exists between Want & Need is where a great story resides. See, stories aren’t about places, or setting, or events. They are about people. And people are flawed, conflicted, grey-shaded individuals who are grappling with issues that exist inside of them. It is these internal pushes and pulls, this inner tug-of-war, this churn, that leads to conflict. And stories are about peoples’ conflicts, about them overcoming, or not overcoming them.
There is a simple way of defining Need & Want in terms of Fiction Writing. Want is something a character is convinced, he or she ‘needs’, in order to be happy. A very blatant example of this could be an alcoholic who has persuaded himself/herself that the one absolutely essential means to happiness is alcohol. Need, on the other hand, is what that character or person Actually/Factually needs to do, in order to be happy. Following from the same example, it may well be that the alcoholic really just needs to find a life-partner and put an end to his or her loneliness (the actual problem of his life).
Characters in stories, like people in real life, are often completely unaware of their ‘need’. And thus they blindly pursue their ‘want’, mistaking it for their ‘need’. These two facets of their lives need to be reconciled, and it often needs an event, in cases, a series of events, that journeys the character from aimlessly chasing his ‘want’ to realizing his ‘need’. If the story is to be a triumph, the protagonist realizes and accepts his ‘need’. If it is to be a tragedy, the character continues to deny himself his ‘need’. Irrespective of the outcome, it is this journey between the two, and the resultant conflict, that makes for real, compelling, engaging characters and stories.
My advice to writing students always stresses on the vital importance of this need vs want in their characters. One must work hard to identify characters with conflict. Because once this is done, the rest will naturally follow. Once the character has been properly fleshed out, he or she will tell the writer where, how, when, and what to do with them. In which circumstances they are to be placed. What events they should go through. Often we fall into the trap of being overawed by a scenario, a setting, a situation and an event, into which we try and retrofit our characters. I believe it would make for much more believable, organic, human characters if the story were to be conceived the other way round. Character first, rest later. And if we can understand and figure out the Need vs Want of our characters, we’d be extremely well placed in the service of our own stories.