Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sharp Mind and Fiery Tongue

Strange title you might wonder. Well, this post is about an incident where my 'so called' sharp mind came to my rescue and my fiery tongue helped me create an impression of a life time. They actually helped me not only in getting out of a sticky situation but coming out with flying colours

(Warning: Long blog post ahead)

The incident dates back to my Engineering days. Those 4 years were pretty awesome.

I used to participate in school drama events but somehow during junior college years I did not get  chance to do it. In engineering, I took the chance again to be on stage. I participated in the class skit for our annual function and it was a great experience.

Well, the incident is related to my performance on-stage and how a dreaded situation worked to my advantage because of some quick on-the-feet thinking and a few timely words J

I don't really have a good memory so I always had the challenge of remembering my dialogues on stage. But, I would work out a way of having the script with me on stage to aid me J In one of the plays, I was playing a detective so I carried a small diary with me throughout the play where I was supposed to be scribbling all my notes and findings; whereas in reality it was in this diary that I wrote all my dialogues and I would refer it from time to time to prompt myself.

For the skit in this incident, I was playing a TV anchor and it would have looked pretty odd to carry anything in my hand. SO … I suggested a twist in the story right at the beginning so as to accommodate a writing pad with dialogues in my hand and that too after informing the audience that I was carrying my dialogues with me J

The twist was like this … I was to be "pushed" on stage and then the spot light would shine on me while I blabbered about being rudely woken up from sleep and being given the script at the last minute to anchor the TV show since the designated anchor was absconding. This served multiple purposes … introduced me on stage in a most dramatic way, introduced me a TV anchor and introduced the setting as that of a TV studio and a TV show … which otherwise would have required a boring narrative J AND it solved my biggest problem. I could now carry my script with me an even look into it AND make mistakes … and all would be seen as a performance and not a weakness …. VOILA !!

BUT ... Life has endless twists and it never fails to surprise !!

We were doing our final rehearsals for the skit on day of the program and then we left from our college and went to the venue. Just 15 minutes before going on stage, in the green room while I was getting my make-up done; I wanted to look up on a particular dialogue and to my horrors I realized that the script was missing.

Dramatically I could have thought that it was a conspiracy by the other class to bring me down since they might have known that a missing script would cripple my performance BUT real life is not that dramatic you know. I had simply forgotten my script in college at practice site. Wooops !

This sent shivers down everybody on the team since all of them knew what the loss of my script meant … and since I was the central character of the play (the TV anchor role was the like the 'sootradhar' and narrator who introduced the different components and performances of the TV show. I was the one who would hold the entire play together and conclude the play …. ).

In this moment of panic, I reassured the team and started scribbling any and everything that I could remember. I did manage to jot down most of the bullet points for almost 75-80% of the play but did not have time to write down the bullet points of the climax since it was time to go on stage (I was the opening batsmen after all).

I got ready, picked up the 'so called' script pages and stodd in position for being pushed on stage. The push came and I went on stage half falling and started off …

I guess my appearance on stage (being pushed) and me screaming and shouting at the people who pushed me on stage helped a lot in captivating the audience. You don't see such dramatic entry often on stage followed by the actor talking to people on stage rather than addressing the audience.

All went well till the documented script … and then I had to improvise.

Also, we had not been able to figure out a dramatic climax to our play so we had chalked up a rather mild close which had satisfied none of our team members but then we had no alternatives.

The missing script gave me a chance to improvise. Between the scenes, I worked with our 'director' and suggested that at the point where 'my bullet point script' ends, I will start shouting about a missing script and someone from backstage will shout that the 'channel' has shut down and the owners have run away and so has the producer of the show. I will then say a few dialogues about my payment not being made and then we can bring the curtains down. The director agreed that this would be 'dramatic' enough for want of a better ending !

What actually happened was totally different.

The play continued well. All the performances were good and there was a lot of clapping an cheering going on.

I came to the point where the script ran out and starting saying my dialogues and …. Stumbled !

Not physically but metaphorically and verbally.

I became silent b'cos I did not know what to say next (I was speaking faster than I could think the next dialogue) and I froze in front of a crowd of 100+

And then it happened … a guy from the audience said "Abe Bhool gaya kya" ('Have you forgotten?')

This is where my sharp mind kicked in violently and I said "Kya karoo yaar, TV Anchor hoon. Script ke bina kuch bolta hi nahin hoon" (What can I do buddy. I am a TV anchor and don't say anything without a script). There was a momentary silence followed by a huge round of clapping and cheering. I could feel the entire atmosphere reverberating with the sound of claps and cheers.

As the sound subsided, I continued with some other dialogues and brought the delivery of my dialogues to a close. In a typical presenter / narrator fashion, I bowed and the curtains were about to close in when a guy from other class (competing play) gave a shout from the back "Chal jaa jaa .. ab ghar jaa. Flop Show"!!

AND I flipped. I signaled the curtains closing to be stopped and they started going back. I had already begun to walk towards the wing, so I stopped and looking in the general direction of the source of that comment, I started to speak again and came back to centre stage. I did hear someone from backstage say 'Ab yeh kya kar raha hain' …

I spoke for the next 3 minutes.

Loudly, passionately, directly, straight from the heart, no dialogues, just plain words coming out

I spoke looking at the section of the audience from where the comment had come. I spoke about how we should be encouraging each other and supporting each other rather than booing people out and pulling them down to ourselves go up. I talked about sportsman spirit and how winning was about doing better than others rather than wishing/ensuring that other's performance was somehow worse than your own. I talked about winning attitude and competing with the world rather than fighting with each other. I talked about how we should help each other excel rather than worry about our ranks and small gains.

It was totally unexpected and unplanned. I myself don't really remember all that was said and unfortunately we did not have any recording of the play (there were no digicam's around at that time so no chance of having anyone shoot a video of that).

But it came straight from the heart and everyone listened with absolutely pin drop silence (which I could 'hear' whenever I paused between dialogues giving the audience a few seconds to absorb what I was saying).

I did make a dramatic close to this 3-4 minutes dialogue marathon by raising my hands to the heavens and asking the audience a question and repeating it 3-4 times. Some thing on the lines of "Kab tak aisa hi chalta rahega? aakhair kab tak? Aakhir kab tak?"

And then it happened … a few claps started and then the hall again reverberated with the clapping and cheering from the crowd. And then a few guys got up and cheered for our class and then some more followed and then some more … in a matter of a minute, the entire audience was standing (barring the first few row of professors and of course a section of the audience belonging to the competing class.

I can never forget that day and time and that moment standing there and absorbing all the positive energy out there. I felt elated at having accomplished something that was pretty unimaginable for me.

As I came down from the stage and went to the seats reserved for the team at the back of the hall .. I walked the entire way with students coming from seats and shaking hands with me, patting my back and congratulating me for the 'performance'. Some of our seniors even did impromptu bow and congratulated me for 'hitting back' at the comment in a fantastic manner.

I must have shook hands with over a 100 people and must have been patted on my shoulder a countless times. People would recognize me in college for a long time to come.

This singular incident is the most memorable of my engineering life. That evening the positive energy and confidence inside me was boosted a thousand times and it has helped me ever since. I remember that event not because of my sharp mind or fiery tongue that brought me name and fame in college.  

When I think about the event, I am filled all over again with a similar super positivity and supreme confidence that I experience that day. Imagine being appreciated by a huge crowd and personally ebing congratulated by 100. That  was a BIG Boost I got and I can fortunately relive it in my memories.

Whenever I feel down and out, I think of that event and I am back in the game again. The memory of that night wipes out all traces of hopelessness or down-n-out feelings which come with troubled times of speed-breakers in life.

So that's about that one incident of life where my sharp mind and fiery tongue got me out of a sticky situation!! I wrote this blog post inspired by the KFC fiery grilled contest on … Thanks to them, I have managed to document and record one of the most exhilarating events of my life. Now I can go back to that moment more often by simply visiting my own blog and reading about it. Thanks again.



  1. Yeah, your long-post-ahead warning right on the top was very apt!!

    But, at the same time, it was a fun- read!!!

    And really innovative ways of carrying your dialogues around on your person.. equally wonderful handling of self in a perhaps-crisis situation!!

  2. @Anupama - Thanks for your words. Those were fun times ... carrying my script with me. I can not longer do that in corporate world and have to rely entirely on on-the-thinking :) hehe