Table Topics: Diwali dhamaka

Table Topics prepared for 1st November, 2014: Diwali special at Bombay Toastmasters by yours truly.

  1. If life were a Rangoli, how would you design it and why?

  2. Diwali is all about noise and air pollution. I hate it. What about you?

  3. The sights and sounds of Diwali makes my heart sing and soar. Does it do the same for you?

  4. Diwali is not Diwali without ….

  5. Diwali is about new clothes, sweets and holidays. Nothing else. Argue for or against.

  6. Diwali is just another shopping festival. It’s just so crass and commercial. Argue for or against.

  7. What are your memories of your first ever Diwali? When and where? What was special or not?

  8. If you were to use one word to describe your Diwali, what would it be and why?

English: Rangoli, decorations made from colore...

English: Rangoli, decorations made from colored powder, is popular during Diwali. සිංහල: Rangoli, decorations made from colored powder, is popular during Diwali. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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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]

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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
mechanics
. 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
others
. But without the gelling of the team as a unit, they would
just remain individual achievers and team success would be an elusive
grail.
The synergy achieved and the strategy employed makes for a
well-oiled machine. A machine that can beat all-comers.

Another
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?

A
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.

For
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.

Similarly
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

Now, That’s Incredible!



Time
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
Incredible!”



Fellow
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!”
India is truly incredible and that is wonderful
copy!




The
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.


For
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!



Are
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
shells
, 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
land-mines!
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!”




Nassim
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.


My
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.

 

Disruptive
Innovations

 

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.

 

Fellow
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
market
does not expect. It ignores the current definition of quality in a
product or service and creates a brand new definition.

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

In
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.

 

To
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.
Disruption
is about trade-offs

that the customer can live with.

 

Disruptive
Innovation
Displaced/Marginalized
Technology
Type Notes
Digital

photography

Film photography Low-end
disruption
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
disruption
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
disruption
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
    daily.

 

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
Zipsters.

 

  • 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
    live.
  • 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.

 

Technology
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.

 

Business
Implications/Defense Strategy

 

Disruptive
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.

 

Christensen
recommends that
existing
firms

 

Watch
for these innovations,

 

Invest
in small firms that might adopt these innovations,

 

and
continue
to push technological demands in their core market

 

so that
performance stays above what disruptive technologies can achieve.

 

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

 

Can
Established Companies Disrupt?

 

Yes,

 

  • Customer
    – Put the customer, and their important, unsatisfied , often
    unstated needs at the center of innovation. Think like the customer.
  • KISCA
    – Keep
    it simple(easy to use), convenient (available) and affordable(not
    pricey)
  • Create
    organizational space for disruptive growth businesses – think
    like a start-up
  • Look
    beyond features and function – create a differentiated
    service.
  • be
    W
    orld
    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.

 

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

 

 

Some
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.
So
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
temporarily.

 

Developing
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.

 

Conclusion

 

Disruptive
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,
Toastmaster!

 

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.

IceBreaker Speech at Mumbai ToastMasters

I am now a member of Mumbai ToastMasters and have completed 2 project speeches with them.

This is the prepared text of my first speech at MTM:

Mr./Madam Toastmaster, Ladies and Gentlemen,

“What is this life , if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare”. These lines from the poem “Leisure” by W.H. Davies struck me as an apt way to introduce myself. Because I AM A MAN OF LEISURE.

Why do I say so? If I were standing before you, 3 years ago, I would have introduced myself as an IT professional working for so-and-so company. If it were 2 years ago, I would have introduced myself as a full-time student at the Cyprus International Institute of Management. But since receiving my degree in the beginning of March, this year, I am at a loss as to what should I designate myself to be. Would it be a job aspirant, a Singles for Christ , a CIIM alumnus, a ToastMaster member or something else? Or would I introduce myself as a software developer, a part-time activity to fill the hours? And keep the trade skills honed?

I am sure that some, if not most of us here, would have faced the very same question at some point in their lives. And why not? All our lives have been filled with a certain identification, a certain structure. And that’s what we seek to create and reinforce in our lives, whatever we do, wherever we go. We seek structure. I could elaborate on the need to find structure in our lives but that is not the topic of this speech. I am.

I call myself a man of leisure but this term has some awkward connotations. A man of leisure is assumed to be relatively well-off and of independent means. But I am neither of the two. It also has some other associated negatives but I choose not to dwell on those. But I do have the time to stand and stare! Literally so!!! (Stare)

Returning to the subject matter, that is , me, Linus Julian Fernandes, I was born the second child of 3 , well over 30 years ago, in Bandra. I have 2 siblings, an elder sister and a younger brother. I have lived most of my life in Vakola, Santacruz where I schooled at St. Anthony’s High School. I had a very sheltered or even insular childhood. I was a very good student. My childhood was spent either playing cricket or other sports in the building compound or reading comics and novels. I was a voracious reader, a habit that I have retained to the present. My reading now though consists of mostly non-fiction. My college education was completed at 2 Catholic institutions , St. Andrew’s College and St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, I was a very good student in school but I sort of drifted through my college years. It was only in my final year that I buckled down because I realized the need to prepare myself for a career. I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics with a first-class.

Post-graduation immediately followed with a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Mumbai. Lectures were on the sprawling Kalina campus. I started my first job with Mahindra British Telecom, now known as Tech Mahindra through campus placements. Work has provided me the opportunity to travel and work abroad, both in the UK and the US. In my capacity as a software consultant, I have worked for organizations such as British Telecom and IBM. It has also provided me the opportunity to meet interesting people wherever I go. For instance, one of the managers at IBM, Santa Monica was a bartender before she drifted into a career with IBM. How utterly fascinating!

Besides reading, my other hobby is writing poems. However, I do not consider myself a talented poet nor do I have the patience to sit down and pen lines. Most of my writing is very sporadic and occur when I am having the blues rather than in moments of elation or joy! I need the feeling to make my poems really expressive. At least, that is my belief!

The other activity in my life is regular exercise. This is something that I have tried and instill over the past 3 years. Since I was a teenager I have been interested in building a strong physique especially since I was rather a fragile child suffering many ailments and always sniffling with a runny nose. I now try and run 3 times a week , to build my stamina and keep myself fit. I also love most sports ; I am a decent badminton, tennis and table-tennis player. But most of all I love to run, FAST, AS FAST AS I CAN! A healthy mind in a healthy body!

I would like to end my speech with a little Spanish I learnt a few years ago, Buenos Dias, i.e. good day and Gracias i.e. Thank you.

Over to you, Toastmaster.