How Proza(i)c : Happiness in a Pill?

How Proza(i)c : Happiness in a Pill?

[Slide 1]How many of you recognize this pretty young thing? Quite recently , I came across a news article on Britney . She was prescribed Prozac at the tender age of 18 years. This singer, of stunning looks, abundant talent , world-wide fame and multi-million dollars in her kitty, was a nervous wreck just 2 years into her singing career. Hence she was prescribed Prozac for depression and panic attacks. I made an off-the-cuff remark that every American has probably been prescribed Prozac at some time in his or her life. And that America was a pill-popping country and Prozac and Americans were made for each other.

It was only later that I ruminated on my statement and asked myself “How much do I really know about Prozac, except that it is synonymous with modern American dysfunctional culture?” It was time I found out. Fellow ToastMasters and Guests, my topic for today is a little less poetic and lot more prosaic or should I say, a lot more Prozac![Slide 2]

[Slide 3] First, the boring technical details! Prozac is the trade name of the drug Fluoxetine. It is an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. It was initially approved by the FDA to treat major depression but is now prescribed for OCD , bulimia nervosa and panic disorder as well. You may refer to the sheets provided for detailed explanations.

[Slide 4]How Is Prozac Taken?

Your physician will prescribe you Prozac to be taken orally, with or w/o food. Prozac makes you either sleepy or wakeful. So your doctor may tell you to take your dose in the morning or at night. You will show improvement in 1 to 2 weeks. You will feel the full benefit after several weeks.

How does Prozac Work?

[Slide 5] It seems that the chemical serotonin is a good chemical as long as it is kept away from the neurons and provided in more quantities to the brain. SSRI’s prevent the neurons in the brain from reabsorbing serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. It transmits nerve signals to the brain. Once the nerve impulse has been transmitted, the serotonin is reabsorbed. The brain cells then receive the next impulse.

It is believed that in some people, serotonin is reabsorbed too quickly, preventing the transmission of nerve impulses. SSRIs block some of the receptors that reabsorb the serotonin, keeping more of the neurotransmitter available in the synapse for a longer period of time.

Over time, the number and sensitivity of serotonin receptors in the brain changes, and scientists believe that Prozac’s beneficial effect is due to these chemical changes in the brain.

[Slide 6] Now some history! Now, Prozac was not the first! But it is perceived as such, so much so that it is now synonymous with antidepressants. Prozac is officially a word in the English lexicon. The brand name Prozac was created by InterBrand. The name Prozac is antithetical with everything to do with anti-depressants – strong chemicals, side effects, and mood swings. Prozac was created by the pharmaceutical firm, Eli Lilly. Prozac was launched in 1987 and has achieved iconic status in popular American culture. How many of you are familiar with the book Prozac Nation and the movie of the same name? It outlines the life of a young working class woman and her struggle with depression.[Slide 7]

Newsweek says Prozac has become as familiar as Kleenex and as socially acceptable as Spring Water.

[Slide 8]Why is Prozac Popular With Patients?

1 > Prozac is FDA (Food & Drugs Administration) approved to treat not only depression but also bulimia nervosa (binging and purging) and obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. It has become a panacea for our times.

2> Now in the US the elderly are a critical demographic to be targeted by pharmaceutical companies. After all, younger patients are much healthier. Prozac is approved for use in older patients. Elderly patients have slower metabolisms and do not react to medications in the same way as younger adults. Prozac does not cause fainting and dizziness. This is good because, in elderly patients, falls result in broken hips.

3> Finally, never underestimate the power of a smart marketing and branding campaign! Prozac is as much a product of smart, focused marketing as of the laboratory.

[Slide 9]Criticisms of Prozac

Prozac does not work for everyone. Prozac , like most miracle drugs, has many side-effects.

One distressing side-effect is diminished sexual desire and performance.

Prozac’s breakdown products can stay in the patient’s blood stream for weeks after they stop taking the drug. These breakdown products when combined with certain medications may result in the sometimes fatal “serotonin syndrome” which includes a racing heart, high blood pressure, sweating and trembling. Cardiac arrest could occur because of serotonin syndrome.

But What’s Really, Really Dangerous?

Prozac is sometimes used by people to give themselves an edge. One such person says that, faced with looming deadlines and a dozen calls to return, she would find herself paralyzed. “I would be unable to focus,” she says. “I would end up waiting until the last moment to get things done.” Now that she’s on Prozac, she not only handles job pressures more gracefully but sports a more buoyant personality. She now finds herself able to get up and face audiences and make them laugh. She says “In the past, I might have wanted to do it. but I wouldn’t have done it without Prozac.” What an endorsement for Prozac!

So what gives?

It is the search for a quick fix. Prozac and more recently Viagra. Though Prozac is currently licensed only for depression, doctors are prescribing it for gambling, obesity, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and [pause] fear of public speaking! (punch-line).

The bigger concern is drugs will become a substitute for fixing what’s wrong with one’s life. Unhappiness can have many causes. Unhappiness can drive personal change. Does a Prozac sedated patient have full control of his or her senses? Isn’t it possible that the feeling of false contentment will cause him or her to plateau both personally and professionally? Are unpleasant feelings really unwanted? Do we want to be so clinically desensitized? Still others find it unnatural to be shielded from their sorrows. They do not want their minds altered; they are afraid that they will live out their lives without a core understanding of how to live. This slide says it all [Slide 10]

Some little known facts about Prozac: “Ounce for ounce, Prozac is worth the same amount as heroin. The end-market value of a kilogram of Prozac is worth over $100,000 USA … it’s more expensive than cocaine.” Also hostile, aggressive cats and dogs are prescribed Prozac![Slide 11]

For every gushing fan of Prozac , there is an equally rabid critic. In fact, you may either feel that there is too much Prozac in the world! Or you may feel that there is not enough Prozac in it! So what are you, (pause) fan or critic? [Slide 12]

Over to you, ToastMaster!

1> The Slide Show :

2> Speech Glossary


For All The Times!

Tales For You And Me. Of You And Me. A mini-epic poem in free verse.

Disclaimer: The characters are fictional. Any resemblance to any person(s), dead or alive, is purely coincidental. The piece is a work of fiction and is the writer’s creation.

Magic For Maya

For All The Times - Project 6_html_1ebfe9b7

The coin rattles across the street,

It teeters at Maya’s feet,

as though by magic!

It was enough

for a cup of tea.

The tea-seller is unhappy.

His inventory is stale.

He throws in a cup-cake!

Gratis! For free!

The tea is fine

Better than most times.

And the cup-cake is saccharine!

Maya’s sweet tooth is sated by it.

Low-calorie tea!

How high society!” she thinks.

It is the best of times!

No Gym, Jim!


Jim’s steps are heavy,

Its been a weary day!

His boss was at his stomping best!

His laughing child yanks the door open.

The fees are due”, his wife tells Jim,

He has just enough,

For the fees.

Not for the new shoes he needs!

He’ll make do!

Jim’s now walks every evening,

From the station to home.

The exercise does him good!

Saves on doctor’s bills!

It is the best of times!

Burnt Ravi Is Blown!


Its the little, tiny things,

That Ravi’s so grateful for!

The small joys!

He’s burnt the big notes on the market!

Its his third trip to the cobbler!

And the same mocassins to be repaired!

Style is temporary!

Class is permanent!

He consoles himself!

He’s been skimping and saving,

To buy that snazzy watch!

The carburetor blows!

He’ll buy the watch next year!

It is the best of times!


Tim & May Do!

For All The Times - Project 6_html_3c683968

It’s just not on the cards,” Tim says.

The wedding’s off!

But we can still live on love and fresh air”,

with a glint in his eye.

May replies, “Yes, we can forget about saving”

And have a little, nay, loads of fun

Its the now and here that counts.”

Its now 3 months,

Since Tim last had a tete-a-tete with his wife,May.

She’s working the night-shift;

So all’s well that ends well, is it?

It is the best of times!

Shyam Reminisces!


Shyam’s back aches!

It’s all those extra home-deliveries!

The customers and their orders have shrunk.

But not the large grocery deliveries.

But the cart and Shyam survive!

Shyam’s cash ‘n’ carry is pushed

a bit farther every day.

Fresh customers for fresh vegetables

Can still be found.

Shyam reminisces about being the milkman.

He was known to all;

He had a certain standing.

In this age of tetra-paks,

His job was also well-packed.

It is the best of times!

Chloe Wishes!

Chloe wishes she had the time.

She’s working multiple jobs

Her lad can still afford private tuition!

From working to cooking to working,

Just no time for sleeping;

What’s the crowded seat on the train for, anyway?

Chloe hears her neighbor yell “Wake up!”

The station’s here.

Get off or you’ll be going back home”.

Chloe wishes she were!

It is the best of times!

Sam’s Sessions!


Sam and his pupil are busy;

It’s his student’s third session;

Business has been slow;

He usually has 5 – 6 students at a time.

So what’s the world come to?

There was a time when the Queen’s English opened all doors!

Now I can barely sight a porthole;

And my students can’t either, it seems!”

Yes, Sam was a Better English teacher!

It is the best of times!

Satish’s Gold!


Satish is very, very busy!

Work has piled up like crazy!

It’s suddenly apparent

That the cobbler is

worth his weight in gold!

And doesn’t Satish realize it!

With all the savings he’s accumulated,

He can afford and is buying a Nano!

It is the best of times!

And so it is,

Stories of men and women

Their lives, their dreams, their heart-aches

We live, We eat, We sleep, We die!

We love! Oh! We live to love!

And so it is, that the best

Is yet to come!

And so it is,

The best times are here! The best times are now!

And ,we dream! Oh! How we dream! We dream to love, of love, of peace, of joy!

For time is what we make it!

Life is what we make it!

Our lives are our time!

Make the best of them!


The slide-show is available at

Emceeing a ToastMaster Meet!

Today’s Theme is Cartoon/Comic Characters.

Good afternoon, Fellow Toastmasters and Guests, I hope you had an enjoyable week. Now, how many of us have watched cartoons or read comics as kids and as adults? Almost all of us! Today’s session is dedicated to all those comics, the cartoon characters and caricatures who have made our lives so much more enjoyable.

I still remember how as a kid , I would first turn to the comics section to catch up with the latest instalment in the Phantom or Mandrake comics. That first, followed by the sports news.

At one point of time, my brother and I were cutting out and building our own comic books using the instalments published in the daily newspaper.

In our heyday, Indrajal comics ruled the roost. Four different comics, Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon and our very Indian martial arts expert Bahadur comprised the Indrajal series.Phantom and his skull cave, his 2 rings, one which marked you as a bad person and the other that brought you luck and Guran, his trusted aide. Also, Diana his fiancee and later Bride and their twins, Kit junior & Heloise. For the sake of continuity, all Phantoms from the 2nd generation onwards to the 22nd were named Kit.

Then there was Mandrake, the magician , his sidekick, Lothar the strongest man in the world and Mandrake’s Japanese cook, Hojo, a martial arts expert. And his beautiful partner and princess Narda. And there was Theron the grandmaster of magic and probably the oldest man in the world with the powers bestowed upon him by the magic cube. He was also Mandrake’s father!

I never quite got the hang of Flash Gordon possibly because for some reason those comics were not that popular and hence not that freely available. And Bahadur was of course the Indian equivalent of a super-hero, unarmed and always tackling the Chambal valley dacoits. Remember, this was the time, when dacoits still ruled Madhya Pradesh and Phoolan Devi was a living legend!

Later on , Indrajal comics added a few more characters like Garth, the supernatural hero, Rip Kirby, the brilliant detective but this was when Indrajal started declining and the lines of comics ended and coincidentally my school-days! My comics reading continued and does to this day! It was then that I discovered Asterix and Tintin and summer holidays were a laugh-riot all over again. Tintin’s pal Captain Haddock with his foul mouth and “Zillions of Blistering Barnacles” could not but provoke laughter. And then there was Obelix, Asterix’s partner in arms. Who can forget him and his beloved menhirs?

[Introduce the guests]

Before I forget myself , I now ask the guests to introduce themselves. Tell us something about yourselves, and also tell us who your favorite comic/cartoon character is and why?

I’m sure some of you must be wondering why I have not mentioned Diamond Comics. I was not that much of a fan of the Diamond Comics for 3 reasons, I found the story-lines very thin, not funny, and the English not quite there. I did however squeeze in time for Chandamama and Amar Chitra Katha, well, I guess you couldn’t go very wrong with mythology! No offense to any diamond comic fans but the only reason we were allowed to read comics was because it was to encourage

our reading and improve our English. Diamond Comics did not pass the litmus test!

Speaking of improving our English , brings me to the grammarian for today.

[Introduce the grammarian]

The other comics I loved reading were the then imported DC comics, these included Superman, Spider Man, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow , The Justice League and The Fantastic Four. And of course, the funnies, Archie Comics , and Laurel & Hardy.

And before I forget, The Western, Cowboy and Commando comics were favorites too!

Has someone been counting my ahs and/or uhs? We only count ahs and uhs here at Toastmasters, not the ‘oohs’!

Before we continue , let me introduce our ah-counter for today:

[Introduce the ah-counter]

And returning to comics! As kids, there were the British girlie comics such as Mandy, Debbie,Judy et al. You see I had to keep my sister happy too, else there’d be quite a row! These had quite different story lines and were quite enjoyable in their own right! But my priorities were always the Indrajal comics followed closely by Superman, Western/Cowboy and Commando comics.

Do you know whom you have to keep happy, as speakers? Our time-keeper of the day!

[Introduce the time-keeper]

And what about animated cartoons? The ones you watch on the telly or on the big screen! In those days, television programmes were a rationed item, with just 2 channels; I still remember Doordharshan 2 being announced with such fanfare!

The cartoons I then watched were He-Man and The Masters of The Universe & SpiderMan.

But the cartoon series that can still have me and my siblings smiling is Tom & Jerry.

Kudos to the makers of that series! Having so many variations of cat chase mouse and carrying them off so successfully. Quite like our Hindi movies with overgrown boys and girls running around trees singing duets!

And finally R K Laxman (You Said It) and his common man deserve special mention. His take on everyday Indian politics and how it affected the common man is a part of Indian political humor folklore! R K Laxman was called the Art Buchwald of India! Though we Indians would probably call Art the R K Laxman of the US!

R K Laxman’s common man was an observer of the Indian political spectrum , a silent observer!

We, at ToastMaster meets, also have an observer, a person we term the general evaluator. He remains silent for most part of the meet, keenly observing our proceedings.

Our general evaluator for today is

[Introduce the General Evaluator]

And now let us move on to the meat of the meeting, the prepared speakers:

Our first speaker for today

[Prepared Speakers Round]

A large round of applause to all our prepared speakers! Without their hard work and preparation, most of the meet is well, just dead meat!

We now move on to the butterflies, the round where all have butterflies in their stomach. Without further ado, I would like to call upon the Table Topics master to relieve me and conduct the club business:

Our Table Topics Master is:

[Introduce the table topics master]

[Table Topics Round]

Finally, we move on to the round of evaluations.

Our General Evaluator for today will conduct this round:

[Recall the GE]

[Evaluation Round]

And finally, we now come to the part, we are all waiting for. The award-giving or ribbons ceremony!

The items in contention are these 3 ribbons, one each for the best prepared speaker, the best TT speaker and the best evaluator!

And the winners are:

[Announce and award the ribbons]

[Close meet with announcements]

[Adjourn meet]

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Table Topics – Part 2

Table Topics are sometimes synchronized with the Theme/Topic of the Day.

The following is the text of a table topics session where the Theme of the Day was Nostalgia. I did not have too much time to fine tune these Table Topics. And most of them are quite long-winded. It is recommended that the topics be kept short and pithy!

Nostalgia is an ice cream. Your either have it before it melts or freeze it away for another day. Table topics are like ice cream . You have just 1 – 2: 30 minutes to make a point. Anything less than a minute and the audience feels short-changed. More than 2:30 minutes and they will feel overly full! Today’s table topics are designed to evoke nostalgia that is to remind you of the good old days when things were so much simpler. We sometimes forget that it was we who were so much simpler and the choices we made were simpler too. We were younger and less burdened. Maybe this is a call to restore simplicity in our lives. Life is not complicated; we are.

I would like to now call upon our first table topic participant:

Our first table topic participant is ________________

and his topic is ______________________________________________

Yahoo! Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe! Don’t you love those 70’s Hindi movies? Or why not?

Does nostalgia still have you asking for a Thums Up? Not a coke or pepsi, but Thums Up?

Who in heaven is Rajesh Khanna?

From Johnnie Walker to Johnny Lever, whither our Hindi film comedians?

Nostalgic about comics , who was your favorite comic book character?

Nostalgic about villains turned heroes, Much before shah rukh, there was Vinod Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha. Whom do you prefer and why?

In this age of tetra pak milk, where is the milkman? And whatever happened to your milk-card?

From walkmans to ipods, are you still a moving jukebox?

Doordarshan and All India Radio. Does that give you a warm feeling or goose pimples?

Test cricket to one day to T20, who was your favorite childhood or old time cricketer and why?

From fancy to flight, do India’s open skies evoke nostalgia for when it was just the Maharajah and Indian Airlines and air travel was a luxury?

In these days of shopping malls and choice and more choice, do you feel that less is more and yearn for the days of yore?

The more things change, the more they remain the same. So what hasn’t changed for you?

Table Topics – Part 1

Table topics are challenging not just for the participants – they , of course, have to think on their feet and say something that entertains , enthralls or has a takeaway value within a space of 30 seconds and in just 2:30 minutes. However, being a table topic master is equally challenging: You have to choose topics that the audience and the participant can relate to:

The following is the text of one of the TT sessions that I had the privilege of hosting:

I own a copy of the book How Life Imitates Chess – Insights into life as a game of strategy
by Garry Kasparov. Before you bombard me with questions about this book, I have not yet completed it. Now Garry Kasparov is considered by many to be the greatest champion the game of chess has ever seen. And the book is a superb outline of his approach and strategy in life. Chess, too, like a good speech , is made up of 3 parts, the opening game , the middle game and the end game.

Most chapters in the book begin with a quote that gives the reader an idea of what is to come. I have picked some of these quotes and some quotable gems from the great master himself, as table topics for this meet. I am sure that you will find them insightful and enlightening; and provide an interpretation based on your life experiences.

The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who also knows why will always be his boss – Ralph Waldo Emerson
‘Tactics’ is knowing what to do when there is something to do.
‘Strategy’ is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do. – Savielly Grigoryevich Tartakower leading Polish and French chess Grandmaster
I see only one move ahead but it is always the correct one – Jose Raul Capablanca , 3rd world chess champion
When I was 11, I just got good – Bobby Fischer , the eleventh world chess champion and child prodigy
If a man has a talent, and cannot use it, he has failed. – Thomas Wolfe
Before the endgame, the gods have played the middle game – Siegbert Tarrasch was one of the strongest chess players and most influential chess teachers of the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Knowing is different from doing – Carl Von Clausewitz a Prussian soldier, military historian and influential military theorist.
Even a bullet fears the brave – Russian saying
What you can do or think you can do, begin it. For boldness has magic , power and genius in it – Goethe
Success is the enemy of future success
If you want to be taken seriously , take yourself seriously
The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves – Oscar Wilde
We know more than we understand
Everything is condensed into one moment. It decides our life – Franz Kafka was one of the major fiction writers of the 20th century
Your life is your preparation
The game can be won before you get to the board
Be aware of your routines, then break them
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference – Churchill
Originality is hard work
Innovation alone doesn’t equal success
And a child shall lead us
Ideas reflect society
Fear of change is worse than changing too fast
Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties – German-American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm
Know why we make each move we make
Art is born from creative conflict
Make sure a good peace follows a good war
Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight
The threat is stronger than the execution – Aarton Nimzowitsch,  Latvian-born Danish unofficial chess grandmaster[1] and a very influential chess writer
Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts – Churchill

Sum Of All Parts


The Sum
Of All Parts

[Start by
waving hands in the air. Side to side]

How many of you realize
what that is? For those who didn’t , that was a part of a Mexican
wave. A Mexican wave is a movement performed by sports audiences one
tier at a time, by standing and waving and yelling, then sitting
down, with the next tier doing the same, in a sequence. I was once
part of a Mexican Wave , a long time back at Wimbledon in 1997. It
was People’s Sunday, Center Court and I was watching Tim Henman
versus Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands. The rain kept coming
intermittently and during one of the rain breaks, the tier opposite
me exploded into action waving, standing and yelling. Then the next
tier and then my tier and I were doing the same. But while being part
of the Mexican wave is fun, you do not see the visual effect. Its
just a lot of noise. Later that evening when I caught the highlights
on television, the Mexican wave was exposed in all its glory , with a
birds eye view of the undulating wave movement. It was beautiful!

Fellow Toast Masters and
Guests, the whole can be much more than just the sum of its parts.

The Whole can be much
more Than Just The Mere Sum Of Its Parts!
How many of you agree
with this statement? And you are not at all wrong. Indeed, you are
in elite company.
You have just hit upon the underlying
principle behind an exciting branch of science called quantum
. Now , quantum mechanics and its applications is an
interesting and deep topic. I do not profess to be well-versed in its
intricacies and neither do I intend to use this time to strive and
enlighten you. You may be even more in the dark , if I try.

A single
term that would describe the whole being more than the sum of its
parts is holistic. However, the whole being more than the sum
of its parts does not hold just in a branch of physics. We can see
its applicability in our daily lives as well.

To give
you an example, the Indian cricket team is made up of 11 players.
Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni,
Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel. Each of
them have an assigned role to play; they each do their part and
contribute to the team’s efforts. On their day, some more than the
. But without the gelling of the team as a unit, they would
just remain individual achievers and team success would be an elusive
The synergy achieved and the strategy employed makes for a
well-oiled machine. A machine that can beat all-comers.

example of synergy achieved that makes the whole more than the mere
sum of its parts is our ToastMasters meet every Sunday. Each of us
have a role to play ; Can you help me with the various roles? The
sergeant-at-arms, the toastmaster of the day, the table topics
master, the grammarian, the ah-counter, the timer, the prepared
speakers, the general evaluator and the evaluators, the table topic
participants, the guests and last but not the least, Jeetu. Here too
the whole , when the parts fall into place smoothly, make for an
enjoyable , memorable experience. Who , among us, would claim that
just he or she is wholly responsible for the success of the meet?

So, it is
with firms. How many of you are familiar with Michael Porter’s
description of the value chain as a source of competitive advantage?

value chain is a chain of activities.
Products pass through all
activities of the chain in order and at each activity the product
gains some value. The chain of activities gives the products more
added value than the sum of the values added in each activity.

example, with a diamond manufacturer, first you receive the rough
stones, these are cut shaped and polished into diamonds, these are
then stored in warehouses and then sent to distributors, or end-users
such as jewelery makers and finally a product is provided such as a
diamond ring, /earrings  or necklace. At each step in the chain,
value is added but the final value is much more than the intrinsic
value of the stone at the start of the chain. So again the whole is
more than the sum of its parts. The synergy achieved creates much
more value for the customer.

with the software development process; the process consists of first
eliciting the requirements, analyzing the requirements, a feasibility
study , an architecture that will meet the requirements, the design
, implementation and coding with unit testing. Finally integration
testing and delivery followed by production deployment and finally
maintenance. Now each activity in the process adds value but the
value created by the whole set of activities is much more than the
value added at each step in the process. So again the whole is more
than the mere sum of its parts.

So what does this teach
us? It teaches us that when we put aside our egos, our pride and
acknowledge that we are all cogs in the machinery called the
universe, that we are insignificant in the face of eternity, only
then can we acknowledge that we need to learn to live with each
other, for each other . And the microcosms where we can achieve this
synergy are 2 fold; At home , it is the family. At work, it is the
immediate team within which we do our part. When each role is played
well, then only can we find things running like clockwork. Teamwork
is the most rudimentary form of people synergy , where we achieve
more than the sum of its parts would. A good team can achieve great
things; a not-so-good team with great people will still fail!

So pull the yoke, shine on
and NEVER, NEVER forget to shine the spotlight on your fellow!

A quick link to Quantum Mechanics

Quick Tips for ToastMaster(s) of the Day



Toastmaster Cafe

Toastmaster Cafe (Photo credit: welcometoalville)


Tips for ToastMaster(s) of the Day





  • Choose
    a topic/thought of the day that will impart a takeaway value or
    which you believe will enhance participation.

  • Notify the table topics
    master and grammarian your chosen topic of the day so that they can
    synchronize their choices with the topic/thought of the day.

  • Ensure that you have an
    introduction , speech titles from each of the prepared speakers. If
    possible, get these from the back-up speakers as well. Email and/or
    call them.

  • Find out if the
    office-bearers have any announcements or have invited any special
    guests. You will need to incorporate this in your flow.

  • Be ready to take over
    the sergeant of the arms duties; i.e. you should be aware of the
    golden rule of the club “No topics that touch on sex, religion
    or politics”; know where the restrooms/washrooms are.

  • Begin by welcoming the
    members and guests and announcing the topic/theme/thought of the

  • Have
    each member introduce himself/herself; Have the grammarian describe
    his role and the word of the day to promote usage by every attendee
    prior to the round of introductions.

  • Since every session has
    guests, do make it a point to describe the structure of the meeting
    i.e. prepared speeches and table topics , then the break, and the
    evaluations and felicitations.

  • Make use of the little
    props you have, such as the medals/ribbons that are to be awarded to
    the best speakers in each category. It enhances impact and also
    gives you something to do.

  • Try and start on time.
    Ensure that you finish on time as well. Members and guests have
    other commitments too.

  • Do welcome toastmasters
    from other clubs and ask them for their feedback and experience at
    the club, preferably at the end of the session. Their welcome will
    be performed by one of the office-bearers.

  • If members have
    participated in area or speech contests, it will be a good idea to
    recognize their exploits. Kudos are due! This may be done either at
    the beginning of the session or the end.

  • Be prepared to comment
    favorably on prepared speeches and do not forget to ask for a round
    of applause for all the speakers when the prepared speeches end.

  • Finally, end by
    thanking the attendees for their wonderful participation!




This is
an attempt to lend structure to what to the untrained eye will appear
extempore and fluid! Best of luck!



for details about the role of the toastmaster of the day, refer to
your member handbook. Or look up the Toastmaster International


Now, That’s Incredible!

and tide
wait for no man; that sounds so trite, doesn’t
it? But what I am more interested in is what awaits the man left on
the shore? What is his reaction to the next tide, the events that
have occurred since his twiddling fingers and playing with sea
shells? Is his reaction so mundane , it matches the non-events that
have happened since? Or is his reaction to the earth-shaking events
since a more exclamation filled one, like say, “Now, That’s

ToastMasters and Guests, so what would you and I term incredible?
Incredible is an overused term; I say overused with no disrespect to
the ad line used by the Tourism Board of India, “Incredible
India is truly incredible and that is wonderful

dictionary defines incredible as too extraordinary and improbable
to be believed
. However, it is an accepted axiom that what seems
incredible now is so passe post the event.

example, if you had told the Europeans at the beginning of the 20th
century, that there would occur a war between half the European
nations that would last 5 years from 1914 to 1918, with the most
destruction to life and property until then, you would have been
labeled a crackpot, even a warmonger! But the Great War –
The War To End All Wars – did occur , and to compound folly ,
barely 20 years later, another great war on a larger scale, with even
more destruction to life and property, with the only ever explosions
of nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, followed. They are both
part of world history in the first half of the 20th
century. We now recognize those 2 wars as World Wars 1 and 2. Now,
that’s incredible, if only at the same time, they weren’t so
terrifyingly terrible!

incredible and terrible synonymous? Some would say so! Yet, did
anyone ever imagine that the very nations that bore the brunt of
World War 2 , the losing nations, Japan and Germany would by the end
of the 20th century be among the most economically
prosperous nations in the world? If anyone has seen pictures of the
carnage the war wrought and believe me with some of the
visuals you can actually feel the acrid taste of gunpowder and
, you would have to say “Now, That’s Incredible!”

I was
born in an era when the Cold War was at its peak; you could cut
the frigidity with a knife; it was that palpable!
The world was
firmly divided into 2 halves, you were either Red or Free.
And for non-aligned nations such as India, navigating the treacherous
diplomatic waters was like treading a path littered with
The arms race was at its peak; and yet by the end of
the 20th century , communism was in its death throes. The
Soviet Union no longer exists, not because of any conventional war
but simply because the arms race bankrupted it; Russia now
marches to a different beat; the Berlin wall has fallen and the
European map has reverted back to what it looked like at the
beginning of the 20th century. I cannot even start to name
all the newish old Central and Eastern European nations! Now,
that’s incredible!

I was a
young man of 19 when Dr. Manmohan Singh as finance minister of the
Narasimha Rao government, flung open India’s gates to foreign
investment and jump-started the economic reforms program.
Since then India has grown steadily and at an increasing pace, and
the prosperity we now enjoy is the result of those initially
vilified reforms
. Now the changes we’ve made are incredible! So
if you had told me 16 years ago, these changes would have occurred so
quickly and all in my lifetime, I would have said ‘No, that’s
improbable, even impossible!” Today, I say, “What an
incredible journey! Bless the IMF! Now, That’s Incredible!”

The shift
in the priority from being a nuclear superpower to an emphasis on
becoming an economic superpower is the greatest change in the mindset
of developing nations, and this includes India and China. China has
truly become an engine of growth and if India can unshackle itself
even further, then by 2025 , India can truly be pushing to be the
No.1 economy in the world. Now, if you were living 30 years ago,
just when China began its economic reforms, such a scenario would
have been considered inconceivable, improbable, even impossible.
And yet, you and I may still be around to say “Now, That’s
Incredible! The Impossible Has Arrived!”

Nicholas Taleb, in his book, The Black Swan, has described such
improbable events as Black Swans. A Black Swan seems highly
improbable to us who have been exposed only to white ones so termed
‘normal’ ones. But a Black Swan event has a dramatic impact both on
history and on people’s lives. The Great Depression of the 1930s, the
Black Friday in 1987 and the current Global Meltdown are all Black
Swan events. They seemed highly unlikely but they did occur. Now
that Taleb wrote a book about such Black Swan events is incredible.
That it is a bestseller is not so incredible.

friends, let’s admit that there is nothing that is truly
impossible, or improbable. They are mostly Black Swans waiting to
happen. So when they do, let’s accept them in all their improbability
and say “Now, That’s Incredible!” and thank you
for listening! You are truly incredible!

Over to
you, ToastMaster!

Disruptive Innovations



English: Disruptive Technology Graph

English: Disruptive Technology Graph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The speaker is
an IT professional with more than 11 years software development
experience. From cultivating a healthy skepticism of management
practices in the workplace, he has now come full circle with an MBA
from the Cyprus International Institute of Management. The speech is
about Disruptive Innovations and is culled from varied sources such
as the now definitive source of knowledge, the online Wikipedia,
articles by Clayton Christensen and Scott Anthony and a NYTIMES
article on ZipCar.




How many of
you own or use a digital camera? Quite a few! And yet not less than a
decade ago, we were using mostly film cameras.


Toastmasters and guests, what I just described is a wonderful example
of a disruptive innovation. What is a disruptive innovation? A
disruptive innovation is firstly a technological innovation; it
improves a product or service in ways that the
does not expect. It ignores the current definition of quality in a
product or service and creates a brand new definition.


are 2 types of disruptive innovations : Either
or designed
for non-consumers
The term was first coined by Clayton Christensen in his book,
Innovator’s Dilemma as disruptive technology and later modified to
disruptive innovation.


quote Christensen
often don’t involve big technological breakthroughs. Rather,
they involve mastering the intricate art of the simple solution. “




low -end disruption, the innovator targets the lower -end of the
market I.e. The customer who is least profitable. The innovator
offers a product that is good enough to meet this segment’s needs;
and is able to keep its costs down and enjoy higher margins than the
incumbents. As time goes by, the innovator improves his service and
product and moves up in the value chain , now targeting the more
demanding customers. He is able to do this and at the same time
maintain a higher profit margin than the existing players. Finally,
the innovator closes out his sale to the most demanding segment and
thus drives the existing incumbents out of the market. This is how a
low-end disruption strategy works.


“New market
disruption” occurs when a product or service creates a new
market ; Either this market was not identified or was not considered
worth targeting.


quote Christensen again, Disruption is not just about technology.
Successful disruptors have the ability to make money at low price
points. Or they have low overheads that allow them to start small and
adapt. Or they play in a very different value chain, with new
partners, suppliers, and channels to market. It is these business
model differences, and not technological prowess, that so often throw
incumbents off balance.
is about trade-offs

that the customer can live with.


Type Notes


Film photography Low-end
Early digital
cameras suffered from low picture quality, low resolution and
long shutter lag. But as the technology improved, quality and
resolution were no longer major issues and shutter lag has
reduced. In addition, memory cards and portable hard drives helped
drive the growth in adoption.


Google Docs/Zoho Microsoft Office Low-end
MS Office is now
being revamped into a web ‘avatar’. Or at least, that’s what they
keep promising. I , for one, don’t really know since I now make do
with Open Office. However, Google and Zoho have targeted the cost
conscious customer such as schools, universities, colleges, home
and SMEs with their redefinition of a good enough Office Suite.
I.e it is good enough for low end use.
Easy Jet British Airways New market
Easy Jet with
their low cost, no-frills approach was able to cater to
cost-conscious European customers. And flying out of smaller
airports was a key part of their strategy. They targeted a segment
that would previously travel by car, bus,sea or rail. BA attempted
to compete with a low-cost airline of their own but were unable to
build a cost-conscious culture and ultimately sold the business.


ZipCar Vs
Hertz,Avis and Enterprise [New Market Disruption]


Another more contemporary
example of a New Market Disruption is ZipCar. Some salient features
of their offering are as follows:


  • membership-based car-sharing company
  • Billing hourly or


This is a change
from the existing incumbents who charged for a minimum of a day,
irrespective of the hours actually used by the customer.


  • view available cars and reserve them
    either by internet or phone for the no. of hours you wish to use the
    vehicle. You pay only for the time you reserve.


For instance,
you could reserve a car for 2 hours over the weekend and do all your
grocery shopping within that time for a month. Much cheaper than
hiring a taxi and more flexible too! Now you see why it is a new
market disruption; some of the cab riders are now converted to


  • For your
    convenience, each vehicle has a home location: a reserved parking
    space located on a street, driveway, or neighborhood parking lot in
    the member’s area, usually within walking distance from where you
  • access card, called a “Zipcard”,
    which will open the vehicle they have reserved only at the time they
    have reserved it.
  • Each vehicle
    records hours of usage and mileage, which is uploaded to a central
    computer via a wireless data link.
  • “kill”
    function that allows the company to prevent the car from starting in
    the event of theft.
  • reserve and use a
    Zipcar in any Zipcar city.


Now this service
is the result of an innovative use of technology to disrupt the
existing market.

Hertz and
Enterprise have launched copy cat services ; time will tell if they
can displace the pretender to the throne.


acts as an enabler
It is the identification of the customer need and market segment,
creation of a sustainable business model and the flawless execution
of strategy that completes the success story.


Implications/Defense Strategy


technologies are not always disruptive to customers, in fact, I
consider them a boon to consumers, because if you will have noted
from the examples, Quality is provided at a lower price. Disruptive
innovations are often ignored by existing players because they are
stuck with the Entrenched Player’s mentality; that is, they have made
a significant investment in a technological approach that is
currently paying them rich dividends, they have grown big and fat,
the flab makes it hard for them to move quickly and challenge the
innovator, also they are reluctant to cannibalize their existing
product lines and make way for the disruptive technology.


recommends that


for these innovations,


in small firms that might adopt these innovations,


to push technological demands in their core market


so that
performance stays above what disruptive technologies can achieve.


adopted this defense strategy very successfully and thus have
retained their edge in networking products.


Established Companies Disrupt?




  • Customer
    – Put the customer, and their important, unsatisfied , often
    unstated needs at the center of innovation. Think like the customer.
    – Keep
    it simple(easy to use), convenient (available) and affordable(not
  • Create
    organizational space for disruptive growth businesses – think
    like a start-up
  • Look
    beyond features and function – create a differentiated
  • be
    class at testing, iterating and adapting – don’t try to be
    perfect,just good-enough ; get it out there, the customer will
    perfect it for you.


sum up, adopt agile business practices and models. Agility is key.



examples of established companies innovating in this generation
include Tata with its Nano, Apple with Ipod and Iphone. In fact, 35%
of disruptive innovations in this generation (2001 – ) have come from
established companies.
elephants can dance too!


Why should
established companies disrupt?


To create new growth businesses
, period. That is a good enough reason , by itself.


GE has invested in new growth
businesses. Time will tell if it succeeds.


Implications for
Developing Countries


The US
government takes disruptive innovations very seriously so much so
that it defines it as something that has the potential to
significantly degrade or increase US national power, even if only


countries can accelerate their development by skipping more
expensive, more polluting, less expensive technologies and adopting
disruptive technologies. This has the potential to change the balance
in the competitive advantage of nations.


India for one has
leveraged IT to be one of the pioneers of e-governance in the world.
African nations have skipped landline telephony and embraced mobile
phones as the main modes of communication.




innovations are here to stay. For customers, the market has never
been better. For businesses, change drives disruptions , so
adaptability and agility is key to continue in the game.


Over to you,


Dance, The Body Music

The following is the prepared text of my Project 2 Speech at Mumbai ToastMasters:

Dance, The Body Music, Music Makes You Happy. These lyrics from the song Dance, The Body Music, by the famous Afro rock band of the seventies, Osibisa, ring so true and make so much sense!

Fellow Toastmaster, Members and Guests, if music be the food of life, play on / dance on/ sing on. Dance is the expression of our souls through our feet, our hands, our whole body. And the best way to dance is like no one’s watching. Are you watching me? Look , I close my eyes and I dance.(waltz step)

Yes, I love to rock. And why not? Life may not be the party I hoped for , but while I’m here, I ,sure as hell, will dance.

So what is it about dancing, makes us suddenly enter a different world, and exhibit a completely different dimension of our personalities? How is it that suddenly that overweight gentleman glides around on his toes oblivious to the stupefaction engendered in the people around? And the shaking of his belly adds to the poetry of the moment? And that quiet mousy girl, who wouldn’t speak to a fly, suddenly floats around like a professional ballerina with the most dazzling smile lighting her face?

Love, poetry, music and dance, o how intertwined are these? What beauty would a song have if you could not tap your feet to it? If love is about first sight, why is it that most life contracts are sealed on the dance floor? And to paraphrase a French proverb, Love teaches even asses to dance!

I learned to jive, (jive is a type of swing dance) because there was this girl I wanted to ask out to the college prom but I couldn’t dance ; oh yes, I could shake a leg or two, but waltz and jive were beyond me. I remember begging and cajoling a friend to teach me a few steps, and I still remember my elation when I was able to reproduce my form at a party. So yes, love or infatuation taught this ass to dance too!

What do we know about the history of dance? Dance doesn’t leave behind clearly identifiable physical artifacts such as stone tools, hunting implements or cave paintings. It is not possible to say when dance became part of human culture. Dance has certainly been an important part of ceremony, rituals, celebrations and entertainment since before the birth of the earliest human civilizations. Archeology delivers traces of dance from prehistoric times such as the 9,000 year old Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka paintings in MP, India and Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from circa 3300 BC. One of the most famous dance rituals , and this seems to be common across many cultures, is the famous rain dance. The rain dance is a ceremonial dance that is performed in order to invoke rain and protect the harvest. The most famous culture that performs the rain dance is the Native American one. Interestingly , the rain dance there got its name because the Sun Dance along with the war dance , was banned by the government. The Native American Indians fobbed off the authorities by renaming it the Rain Dance. Our Indian movies have their own modern version of the rain dance where the main protagonists prance in the rain trying to look as love-lorn as possible.

Now that I have mentioned movies, how many of us have been enthralled by a dance movie or musical we have watched either on the silver screen or from the comfort of our arm-chairs? I still remember being thrilled by Footloose the eighties dance hit about a small American town where dancing was banned. The movie was based on Elmore City, Oklahoma where dancing was prohibited for over 100 years until 1980. Imagine that! Footloose got me moving to the rhythms of life. And how many of our generation and the next can ever forget Michael Jackson and his fantastic break moves in Thriller? And more recently the melodramatic Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge? And then there are our very own Hindi movies with their innumerable dance sequences that either entertain or drive you up the wall!

Another very entertaining dance form is figure skating. Have any of you ever watched a figure skating competition? The pairs event is sheer poetry in motion. It is rightly called ballet on ice. Two people moving in unison, floating on ice ; the sheer difficulty and the awesome talent overwhelms the viewer. And to watch them interpret their chosen music is awe-inspiring. You cannot help but doff your caps to these masters of dance,music and the rink. If you have the opportunity to catch a figure skating competition, I suggest you do so as soon as possible and you will be truly amazed and delighted.

So you think you can dance? There are several types of dance that might interest you, ranging from the classical ballet style , the exotic belly dance, the Spanish flamenco, hip-hop, swing and even tap. You can pick the type and style that suits you and your sensibilities best. Or if you are one of those macho types that feel real men don’t dance, you could choose the Punjabi ‘bhangra’ , where ‘men dance like men’. Or if you wish to go ethnic, you could explore the traditional forms like the Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Bharat Natyam, and Odissi. The choice is yours; unleash the poetry in your soul.

I would like to conclude with a quote from Yoko Ono, the wife of John Lennon, You can’t dance if you got too much muck in your head. So my friends, lets twist again, like we did last summer, lets twist again, like we did last year.After all, life may not be the party we all hoped for, but while we’re here let’s all dance.

Can you all stand up please? We’ll do the boogie-woogie. Put your right hand in, put your right hand out, put your right hand in, and shake it all about. Do the hoogie-boogie, turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about. Put your left hand in, put your left hand out, put your left hand in, and shake it all about. Do the hoogie-boogie, turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about.