Shyam stepped out of the car that had carried him to the big auditorium. He walked towards the big auditorium, at first awed by the number of people walking inwards. The red carpet which was under his feet signified a sense of achievement more than he had ever felt in his life. As he reached the gate, a guard, with a wide, dense moustache welcomed him, ‘Namaste.’ Shyam smiled back, but as soon as he passed through the wide doors, his fears came back. Had he been too callous in his preparations for being here?
As a young boy from a small village but with a big dream, this was the first time he was about to experience what big audiences meant. His village had just been chosen as a role model by the government. Being the topper of the only school in the village, he was chosen by the village Sarpanch to present in Mumbai why his village was a role model. The intent was to let the future generation of the village showcase the future of their village.
The day he had heard the announcement was a very bad one for him. While he was good at studies, almost everyone at the school agreed that Shyam’s personality didn’t allow him to be a good speaker. He was a thinker who would rarely utter his words out. Also, rarely in his life had he participated in activities that required speaking in public. But the Sarpanch had insisted that the school’s topper should be the one who presented.
As a result, two teachers were appointed to groom the young boy, force him to talk and make him practice so much so that he could talk in front of a thousand people without a single ‘Umm’. The boy was obedient, as he regularly came an hour before school began each morning. But the effort of turning the boy around was not simple. It had taken the two teachers- the two best speakers in the village, almost two months to get the boy to a level where he could speak confidently to people.
After this, they had gone on to lengths to create a presentation for the boy on the school’s computer, and the boy had managed to infuse his creativity and design skills into the 10-minute presentation. He had deliberately seen a lot of TED talks and had seen several CEOs launch their products with ease. “How easily could these people speak?” he had thought every moment while going through the several videos he had seen.
This morning, as he left the village with a presentation in his USB pen-drive, the whole village was here to wish him luck. The Sarpanch was himself going with the boy, to make sure that the boy had support and won’t feel lonely amidst the hordes of people he would find in the big city. Shyam was confident as he sat in the car at 6.00 am in the morning. The Sarpanch had exact reports about his preparation, so he knew that the boy was well prepared and he would easily be able to pull it off.
As the car left the boundaries of the village, the Sarpanch indulged the boy in a conversation talking about the importance of the presentation. It was only now that the boy was told he would be presenting in front of the country’s President. In fact, the President was going to hear from fourteen other students just like Shyam. As the depth of presenting to the President struck him, he suddenly feared why he was here. He was very well aware that there were several other people in the village who were perhaps more deserving than him.
The tension in his mind started to accrue as the Sarpanch, although mistakenly, had triggered a chain reaction. What if I am unable to open my mouth? What if the President doesn’t like the small stain on my shirt? What if people don’t like the way I look?
It would lead to a lot of bad publicity for the young boy, whose school friends were his life currently. As soon as they would come to know of his failure, they would distance himself, and there would definitely be several students who would mock him. He was soon going to be a monkey in a circus, one who was an integral part of the circus because people laughed at him and mocked him.
The 4-hour long journey soon turned into a journey of 4 centuries, as Shyam twisted and turned several times. His hands were sweaty even when the Air Conditioner had the temperature inside the car well under control. The Sarpanch had by now turned to his newspaper, leaving the boy alone in his preparation.
Within two hours since they started, Shyam wanted to turn back and drive home. He wanted to go hug his mother and go play cricket with his friends. By now, the tautness had deepened to him thinking about his village’s reputation being at stake. If he fumbled even once while giving the presentation, the village reputation was only going downward.
Suddenly, everyone he could see seemed so perfect- the driver with his left hand firmly sitting on the gear stick, the Sarpanch having reached success in his political career, the passers-by in other cars who were definitely successful at whatever they had done. It was only Shyam who was going to fail in the biggest exam in his life. He already felt that he was thrown into the well from which there was no coming back. There was so much more to do in life, but all that was put to rest. His throat felt an ache, but he somehow held on as the car cruised ahead.
The car reached the destination exactly at 9.45 am, as Shyam got goosebumps when the car braked for the final time. The sarpanch called him out, and he was walking on the red carpet within a minute.
As he entered the auditorium, the sarpanch naturally wished him luck. “You are our village’s future. Do your best, there is a lot at stake here. But believe in yourself. I know you will do well.” The words were just like an additional hundred kilos being pushed onto his shoulders.
Somehow holding in one place and not uttering even one word, he reached backstage, where fourteen other students just like him, many of them elegantly dressed stood beside him. He handed over the pen-drive to one of the administrative staff, who checked the presentation for him before going on stage. He was scheduled to go third, but the wait was going to be a long one, he was sure.
But now that he was here, he knew one thing. There was no going back, so it was better to look at his notes lying in his pocket and making a mental note of what all he had to cover during the presentation. As a result of this exercise, he was a little bit more confident, but the pressure still lurked.
As the first student stepped onto the stage, he saw him holding a black rectangular remote which he was constantly pointing at the screen. It was only now Shyam realized why he was worried all this time. He was just not prepared! He had seen several presentations online where the presenters used a similar device which had a laser pointer which would point towards the screen. The device also had buttons to go to the next or previous slide.
Unfortunately, Shyam didn’t have access to such sophisticated tools in his school. As a result, he had used his hand to point towards the lines on the slides. But looking at the first student on stage comfortably use the device, he felt that if he didn’t use the device, he was definitely going to lose out to other students. He desperately had to figure out how the laser pointer worked.
But the innately introverted nature prevented him from talking to the organizers. He tried to look closely at how the student holding the pointer was clicking the buttons. He was petrified every time the boy pointed the sharp laser pointer towards another line on the screen. This was a question that he had left hanging ever since he had started seeing the videos online-“How did the speaker know the exact coordinates of the point to which the pointer should point?” Of course, it was the years of practice that the speakers would go through before they got such a high accuracy of pinpointing.
After staring constantly for another five minutes, he realized that there was no way he could use the pointer as efficiently as the other boy was using. Forget the pointer, he didn’t know if he could even change the slides using the pointer.
The pressure mounted as the crowd cheered loudly as the first student finished his presentation. Shyam realized that the second student, a girl from Assam, was equally proficient in using the device. She had gone many steps further with all the fancy animations she had built into her presentation.
As the girl neared the end of her presentation, Shyam was completely dejected as a result of all the things that had happened since morning. He just wanted to get done with this, not caring about the result. People in the village would move on from his failure sooner or later, he realized. As for his friends, he would try other things to gain their confidence. About the village’s reputation, he didn’t care anymore. People in the village were dedicated towards the cause so they would find a way to work around his failure.
As the girl stepped off the stage with a loud applause from the crowd, the comparer called out Shyam’s name. Shyam was handed the device as he entered the stage. He looked at the screen once and realizing the first slide of his presentation was already up, he looked towards the crowd. “Good morning everyone. I am Shyam,” he started with the part he was to talk while the presentation was still on the first slide.
It was only after a minute into the presentation when he felt the need to change the slide. The device in his hand had three buttons, one which had a red dot for laser, one up arrow and one down arrow. Shyam quickly pressed the up arrow and noticed the slide changed to the next one. Realizing the partial victory, he almost sighed into the microphone.
But he soon realized he still had to get through the thirteen slides so he began talking again. As he spoke for another minute, he was wondering if he should use the laser pointer. The next slide was where he would actually have to use it. This slide had a roadmap diagram, and it was imperative that he either had to use his hand to point towards the slide or use the pointer. Using his hand was not possible as the slide was too big and his hands won’t be able to pinpoint.
As he turned to the next slide, he paused for a few moments. The crowd was busy looking at the fancy diagram he had drawn on the slide, so he decided to steal a moment and try out the laser pointer. He looked at the black device and calculated the angle at which he should hold it to be able to point to the first part of the diagram. He then looked at the diagram and once again thought if he had placed the device’s laser pointer at the right angle.
But as soon as he pressed the button with the red dot, he realized that the laser pointer was exactly where he wanted to point. As he began talking, the crowd was once again engrossed in his talk. He swiftly moved the pointer through the slide.
The young boy flipped slides one after the other, confidently speaking with the exact voice modulations that his teachers had taught him. With a talking speed that stayed consistent throughout, his presentation ended exactly in nine minutes and forty-eight seconds.
A boy had learned that his brain was smarter than he had thought. This was his first experience at realizing the power of hand-eye coordination. He was prepared now to face the world and talk as many times as was required.