If you are one of those thrill-seeking souls lost among the countless wizards of grades, you must have heard the below statements:
What will all of these things you put your mind into give you? You are to focus on your studies. You are wasting my money.”
“Students these days while away their time in debates, essays, speech and stuff. They end up all tired with no energy to study.”
“Literature will not help you.”
I heard these lines countless times growing up. From the age of 11 when I began being on stage, volunteering to deliver speech in the morning assembly, participating in the countless debates and essay competitions and spending hours and hours practicing for the annual function, this one refrain echoed everywhere.
Teachers, parents, friends, everyone would wonder where all of it would land me if I wouldn’t be able to score 90% in Class X boards. Back then, for a large majority of people, the grades of Class X were the be all and end all of one’s career. I remember the Principal saying, “These grades are gonna be with you till the end of your life.” It scared us. Seemed such a big deal.
Exams are a big deal for Indian students.
Skills, probably not.
Nobody thought that the ability to speak in front of 4000 students, most of whom would begin commenting from the back row or make gestures and faces, would work for me in the future too.
Some of them definitely thought I’d be able to make something out of my writing and speaking skills. Or even acting skills. Or hosting, anchoring skills.
But, none were sure. Specially my father. He was worried I wouldn’t be able to make something of my life, my career.
When I decided to opt for Humanities, all hell broke loose.
My decision to study English literature also met with cynicism.
When I began working at Rs 7000 per month at the age of 20, my friends laughed at me. My father wondered if this small, private job in a regional news channel will help me in anyway. He wanted me to study. I did study, but I also worked.
On March 25, 2017, at roughly 7:30 pm, I found myself backstage sweating, nervous and crippled with fear. I was trying hard to chant “All is well” and calm myself down. I had to host a work event, which was supposed to have been done by professional emcees. But, you know, cost cutting induces a lot of stuff.
I had done it before. But, that event wasn’t a big one; there were some 25 people and I had nothing much to do.
But, here, there were things to do. I hadn’t prepared a script. I didn’t know what to do. The owner of the event management company had to guide me all though. He compelled me to rehearse an hour before the show was supposed to start. I flustered, fumbled and thought I’d have a nervous breakdown or something.
Michael Jackson once said he had stage addiction. He assumed a different form when he’d come on stage. He was magic! He did something no one else ever did.
Off stage, it was a different story altogether. Shy, reticent and introvert – the man was grossly misunderstood.
My senior at college chirped in joy when I asked her to perform on stage for our annual fest. She said she loved being on stage because she felt alive, she felt herself.
I feel the same. Whether I dance or speak on stage, I feel I am in a different space. Where I can be myself.
The show went well, somehow. I received appreciation from people, even the Chief Guest – Bollywood actor Dalip Tahil – who left me so star struck, I forgot to give him the microphone. I stared at his hand for a minute when he congratulated me. He has the charm, the poise, the grace, the humility and the mysticism around him which you won’t find in young artistes.
The trick is – and a lot of people will tell you that – once you start speaking, once you own the stage (just think it is yours for these few hours), it works. I don’t say it gets easier. It never gets easier. You will always be nervous and feel jittery; you won’t be able to eat or drink before the event and your bowel movements malfunction. But, once you are out there and you break through negativity holding your throat, it works.
You will make mistakes along the way. And that’s okay. You can use these tips by James Altucher
I remember how at school, our teachers would continuously prompt us from behind, we had to be agile and coordinate with whatever was happening backstage. There were wardrobe malfunctions. In one of the plays we staged, the microphone went off at exactly the moment the protagonist began his dialogue.
Sometimes, audience would boo.
We still worked our way all through. Those moments flash before my eyes and I feel obliged to my school and my teachers for training me and forcing me to do that every year till I left school.
I still feel like going back to that stage and the auditorium. That is home.
All of this is hard, no kidding. And when you are representing an organisation and feel eyes ready to judge you and prosecute you for your mistakes, it’s natural to want to disappear and never return.
Once you pass that stage, it gives a huge sense of relief and satisfaction. And the experience will help you a great deal, no matter how much cynicism you face.
I was told I couldn’t make a career out of extra-curricular.
Reading books, writing poetry, essays, participating and winning in debates and anchoring annual function – that’s all I did.
It did make my career. Writing is something which gives me purpose and it is my job too. I wish to develop my own content and learn to market it.
I don’t remember my Class X marks anymore. I don’t know if anyone in my industry does.
Grades are back-ups. Use when required and then, get back to aligning it with your talents.
Score high on skills. Always.