As an orator, I make an excellent gymnast. Better by far than any of the gymnasts winning Olympic medals, since they only seem to do one feat at a time. The moment I step up on the podium and speak into a mike, I do multiple feats all at once.
Let us take a roll call of the feats I perform. My vocal chords attempt some synchronized skating inside the throat and tie themselves up in knots, making it feel like I am strangling. The tongue decides it is time to hang upside down and goes and sticks to the roof of the mouth. My heart decides it is time to practice the Produnova - with scant success, considering the confines it is working in and, consequently, either bounces off the diaphragm or gets stuck in the throat. My spine, though, adapts itself well to a gymnast's requirements, turning all rubbery. Meanwhile my hands...I suppose you get the point. Unless you raise nit-picking objections about whether 'I' can be used for each individual part of the body - instead of only the whole, you will have to agree that I outdo any gymnast you can think of.
The first time I had to speak - at school, it was - I started off (after the gymnasts decided to take a break) with "Respected Principal...uh, sorry, I should mention the Chief Guest first...Teachers and...maybe it is better if I refer to my notes, after all, haha...laddies and..oh, no, it is 'Ladies'...my handwriting is so bad that even I cannot read it sometimes, haha..." and was roughly shoved off the podium by my PT master (the most physical guy of the teachers who, alas, was close to me that day).
Everyone and his uncle told me about how jokes are useful to attract audience attention and keep them interested but no-one told me about the problems in using them. There I was at IIM, in a course called "Written and Oral Communication" giving a public speech to my batch-mates for the first time. I start off with a joke and look around expectantly for laughs. Everyone stares back gravely at me as though I had just announced my grandmother's death. Nonplussed, I say "Hahaha" just to encourage them all to laugh and it comes out like a bleat. I do succeed in capturing their attention, for they all lean forward in interest, only to subside back in the seats upon realizing that I was continuing with the speech and had not switched over to doing animal imitations. Meanwhile, the Professor is frantically writing in his notepad - a memo to himself, I suppose, that he should push for a public speaking test too in the selection process, in addition to the usual Group discussion and Interview, so that people like me could be filtered out.
There is a certain problem with acquiring certain degrees. People have these stereotype ideas of certain profession, which is certainly a killer for the person who does not fit the stereotype. I mean, call yourself an Engineer and people expect you to be a good enough handyman around the house - or used to, till Infotech came in and saved the day for those who did not know one end of a screwdriver from the other. Quite similarly, if you are from IIM you are expected to have the gift of the gab - after all, that's your sole expertise as far as most people know. Not that I run totally dry in that area as anyone who has had the misfortune to be caught in what I call a conversation, and he would call a monologue, knows. It is just that I prefer to talk sitting rather than standing and there is something about the magnetic field around a mike that dries my vocal chords. Or, if you prefer what the uncharitable say, where I suffer from verbal diarrhea in private, I suffer from verbal constipation in public.
You know what - this open, honest, manly confession does not avail me a thing. If someone wants me to give a speech, he is all praise for my modesty in disclaiming expertise in this area. Modesty!! My foot!! I am only being honest. Story of my life: When I am being honest, people think of it as modesty. Where I am really being modest, people see it as honesty!
Meanwhile, I have taken to writing and...you know what...a writer is ALSO supposed to be good with words. Egads! A writer AND an IIM grad? I am expected to scintillate!!! Me - about the only thing scintillating would be my head if someone shone a spotlight on it. AND if I fail to speak well - a cast-iron certainty - then obviously I cannot write well or manage well - such, indeed, are the assumptions of the world.
Maybe I SHOULD take up gymnastics instead!