Life to the power of Ten

Poster

Advertisements

Communicating in English

reading
Credits: The Huffington Post

I have come this far and out of college or high school and have become what they say a job aspirant!  Popping a long tablet of aspirin is easier but communicating in English especially when it is not your native language becomes a tongue twisting vexation. There are so many books available to improve upon it and some come so cheap from the street vendors, you doubt their efficacy…

When I came out of high school, I could not communicate in English even though my medium of instruction at school was in English.  I thought I could make amends but the situation remained more or less the same when the same me came out of College and landed a job as an instructor. When I started giving instructions , it was then I came to know that I was a below average speaker and needed to bring the level of fluency to a level where my students didn’t  get frustrated or dozed off so much so, that they fell off their chairs.

To cut a long story short, here is my recipe for fluent communication in the English Language for those whom it is not the native language. It should work out for other languages too, but then English is a language which you hear often but have trouble speaking when the need arises…

1. You should have a good reading base.

If you never had any affinity for reading, this is the right time to catch up with whatever time you have lost in the bygone years. A strong vocabulary will come to your rescue when you started speaking in sentences, otherwise you could never frame a sentence without a lot of conjunctions in between. The poorer your choice of words or the scarcity of the right word, you would start sprinkling if’s and buts & and’s more than the amount of pepper in a soup. I don’t have to tell you where you would land..

2. What should you read?

Read the newspaper or pick up any book on any subject that might interest you. It could be on the Arts, pure science, religion or even Humanity. I am sure there would be one or a couple of subjects that might interest you..

Is there any rule to read a book so that my communication improves?

Yes there is. You are not going to read the book or the newspaper at least in this context to memorise it. You are going to read the book fast, slow and loud (not necessarily in that order) so that your articulation of words and training your tongue on how to pronounce words becomes easier. Loud reading is a must for you to be a good communicator. Read some paragraphs of the book loudly as if you are reading to a small crowd that has gathered to see what is wrong with you. Silent reading for an hour is also important as that helps the brain to store them somewhere up there.

3. Why can’t I learn new words and improve upon my vocabulary rather than reading a book?

Good question but honestly reading a book helps you not only to understand the meaning of most of the words automatically based on the context in which they were used and  fitted, but also to reproduce them the same way whenever such contexts arise in your communication. How does this work you might ask? Don’t worry, your brain takes care of it, you need to just do the reading part. Sometimes you switch to a fast gear of reading some paragraphs, so that you can talk fast when you are in a situation where you might get only a minute to explain what happened in an incident ( or an accident) before you pass out. Also check up on those words that acted as speed breakers, this means you are not confident on them, hearing it for the first time or do not understand their meaning. An online dictionary helps with their meaning and how they should be pronounced.

4. Ok the reading part is going on, what next?

The reading part has to be a continuous exercise like the one you do at the Gymnasium in case you want to remain fit in communication.  The next step, jokes apart, you have to start communicating now…

5. Who is going to be my audience? And what Topic should I select?

Ok let us put it this way. There is a small dummy invisible group of people who have assembled in your bedroom wanting and waiting to hear from you on the book you have just read. You do not have to blurt out everything you have read, but can tell them a summary on what the book was all about. Wait a minute. If this sounds scaling or climbing the Himalayas, let us make a small note of it on paper. Go through the main points and once you are confident, it is time to face the group. If you can give some 5 to 10 speeches to such an invisible audience, then you are ready to face your close friends who would like to listen how you have improved on your communication levels.

6. When you start speaking, always know that it would turn out to be interactive.

Which also means that the sort of preparation that you did for your dummy audiences won’t help. It has to be more of a dynamic talk with your friends. Ask them to be a bit patient with you in your trials of surmounting your hurdles. Instead of using your native language for day to day talk, supplement your talk using English.

7. Start listening too…

Switch on your Television and let news channels in English take at least half an hour of your siesta at home. It would be good to listen to the BBC or the CNN or any such native channels in English, so that you know and learn how to pronounce words correctly as you hear them right from the horses mouth as they say…

8. When I start speaking, to whom can you speak?

Start speaking to yourself first silently. For example, narrate to yourself the entire events of yesterday at work or at home and see where you stumble in your silent talk. Imagine yourself being the expert commentator of a cricket or a football match and let go of what ever emotions you think of the rascals on the ground making mockery of the game and the nation they represent..

9. Changing your notes.

Once you have gained ground on your silent speaking, you can switch to a more resonant audible note, yet not strong enough to attract attention. It can be a murmur which you can practise while travelling or commuting as they say or while you are just standing for that idiot friend of yours  for the past one hour with still no sign or sight of  him or her …

10. Summary

I understand that all this won’t happen in a day. It may take at least a few months before you are confident of yourself to be a good communicator and once you are confident enough having practiced all that has been written above, please let me know by Email so that I can send a certificate to you 🙂

Just to list some of the hurdles below that keep you from communicating in English. My humble suggestion would be to kick all of these to the nearest bin and out of your mind.

1. My Grammar is poor.

2. What would others think of me when they hear me out?

Let others think of you or have perceptions based on when they hear you. Let them see your progress and then commend or comment. Be steady, calm and sustained in your efforts to get there.

Your grammar should improve faster once you start communicating because somewhere at the back of your mind and based on the amount of pages that you have read so far (especially if the books had been well written), your brain immediately tries to correct you as you speak, first slowly and then On Demand as you gain in confidence…

Orpheus and Eurydice

I do not know how many of you have read this lovely story of Orpheus and Eurydice that ends in tragedy. I am repeating this story for the benefit of my readers as this mythological incident teaches us something important.

If anyone who reads the story wonders what we learn or why Orpheus failed to regain Eurydice in his memorably journey to Hades or the so called netherworld, it will come back to two simple words.

It teaches us how important it is to use faith and patience as our two legs in our journeys, and if you use them well, you will reach your intended destination with the person whom you set out with…

Source: www.greeka.com

Orpheus is known as the most talented music player of the ancient times. It is said that god Apollo was his father, from whom he took his extreme talent in music, and the Muse Calliope was his mother. He was living in Thrace, on the northeastern part of Greece. Orpheus had a divinely gifted voice that could charm everyone who heard it. When he was presented first the lyre, as a boy, he had it mastered in no time at all.

The myth says that no god or mortal could resist his music and even the rocks and trees would move themselves to be near him.

Humans and beasts alike would be enchanted by it and often even the most inanimate of objects would yearn to be near him. Well into his youth he had mastered the lyre and his melodious voice garnered him audiences from near and afar.

It was at one such gathering of humans and beasts that his eyes fell on a wood nymph. The girl was called Eurydice,who was beautiful and shy. She had been drawn to Orpheus enamored by his voice and such was the spell of beauty in music and appearance that neither could cast their eyes off each other. Something inexplicable tugged the hearts of the two young people and soon they fell dearly in love, unable to spend a single moment apart. After a while, they decided to get married.

There was one man who was despising Orpheus and desired Eurydice for his own. Aristaeus, a shepherd, had plotted a plan to conquer the beautiful nymph. And there he was, waiting in the bushes for the young couple to pass by. Seeing that the lovers were approaching, he intended to jump on them and kill Orpheus. As the shepherd made his move, Orpheus grabbed Eurydice by the hand and started running pell-mell through the forest. The chase was long and Aristaeus showed no signs of giving up or slowing down. On and on they ran and suddenly, Orpheus felt Eurydice stumble and fall, her hand slipping from his grasp. Unable to comprehend what had just happened, he rushed to her side but stopped short in dismay, for his eyes perceived the deathly pallor that suffused her cheeks. Looking around, he saw no trace of the shepherd for Aristaeus had witnessed the event and had left. Few steps away, Eurydice had stepped on a nest of snakes and had been bitten by a deadly viper. Knowing that there was no chance of survival, Aristaeus had abandoned his try, cursing his luck and Orpheus.

After the death of his beloved wife, Orpheus was no more the same carefree person he used to be. His life without Eurydice seemed endless and could do nothing more than grief for her. This is when he had a great but yet crazy idea: he decided to go to  the underworld and try to get his wife back. Apollo, his father, would talk to Hades, the god of the underworld, to accept him and hear his plea. Armed with his weapons, the lyre and his voice, Orpheus approached Hades and demanded entry into the underworld. None challenged him. Standing in front of the rulers of the dead, Orpheus said why he was there, in a voice both mellifluous and disquieting. He played his lyre and sang out to King Hades and Queen Persephone pleading that Eurydice was returned to him. Not even the most stone-hearted of people or Gods could have neglected the hurt in his voice. Hades openly wept, Persephone’s heart melted and even Cerberus, the gigantic three-headed hound guarding the entry to the underworld, covered his many ears with his paws and howled in despair. 

The voice of Orpheus was so moving that Hades promised to this desperate man that Eurydice would follow him to the Upper World, the world of the living. However, he warned Orpheus that for no reason must he look back while his wife was still in the dark, for that would undo everything he hoped for. He should wait for Eurydice to get into the light before he looked at her. With great faith in his heart and joy in his song, Orpheus began his journey out of the underworld, joyful that he would once again be reunited with his love.

As Orpheus was reaching the end of the Underworld, he could hear the footfalls of his wife approaching him. He wanted to turn around and hug her immediately but managed to control his feelings. As he was approaching the exit, his heart was beating faster and faster. The moment he stepped on the world of the living and was in the light, he turned his head to hug his wife. Unfortunately, he got only a glimpse of Eurydice before she was once again drawn back into the underworld. When Orpheus turned his head, Eurydice was still in the dark, she hadn’t seen the Sun and, as Hades had warned Orpheus, his sweet wife was drawn back to the dark world of the dead…. In conclusion, when one runs out of patience, he loses faith and vice versa…

 

Hands that lent life

A stone sat in the middle of the dusty road
no one cared or bothered to move it away
though some did stumble in the night
and broke a leg or sprained many a neck.

Nearby a tree stood in the centre of the road
everyone took care to go around it their way
there were many pointed and sharp stones around
but not good enough for anybody to sit and rest.

A shallow pit lay in the centre of the dusted track
with water filled from the occasional rains
treading with care, some did fell and got out
but everyone left it muddied as they found it.

A stone carver came that way one day
he carved a seat of the stone and with others
he constructed a platform below the tree
he felt proud as it helped many a tired traveller.

A mason ventured on the same path one day
he decided to make a well out of the pit
though he was at it, no traveller helped him
he felt proud of his creation and went his way.

The next day the Lord’s Angel walked that way
his job to help those in distress on this path
he blessed them who used their hands to help
not knowing if they would ever come back this way…

 

The Hidden Gold

Omprakash and Jaiprakash had migrated to the town with their mother from the village after their only strip of land was usurped by the landlord on the grounds that they did not make their payments toward the money they had loaned a few years ago.

Omprakash, the elder of the two was a lazy fellow, always complaining about others and even Jai, his brother. This had gone for a few years and their mother did not do much to reverse this habit of Om. They lived in a small shanty on the edge of the town, as they could not afford anything better.

One day, Om took up an argument with Jai and almost came to blows with him, and Jai was told to leave the house and never ever show his face to Om. Their mother was helpless as both of them were grown up now and she could not offer much to bring down frayed tempers.

Jai soon set up a small shop where he borrowed goods on credit from another shopkeeper and started selling them. With his hardworking nature and pleasing manners, customers thronged to his shop and within no time he prospered. A part of his earnings, he did sent to his mother through his assistant.

Om, though he had driven away Jai, was curious to know how Jai fared and one day went and stood in front of Jai’s shop for quite some time. Jai didn’t notice him as he was busy inside.

That evening Om started complaining, as was his usual wont, to his mother.
“I saw Jai today in his shop that he has setup. But he didn’t even bother to look at me, even though I stood for a full 15 minutes to glance at his face. I am sure he has got his hands on some hidden gold, as otherwise, how can he set up this shop in no time?”.

Om’s mother was tired of this and wanted to put an end this conversation soon. “You only drove him away last time saying you don’t want to see his face again and now you,  yourself go and stand in front of him to get a glimpse of his face?”.

She continued “Jai doesn’t need to get his hands on any hidden gold to prosper. His hard work and endearing nature alone would suffice to bring prosperity to him. If you go and drive him from there, he will go to another place and still prosper. The hidden gold, that you talk about, is hard work and a sincere nature. He has found it and therefore is way ahead of you. For you, it is still hidden by your veil of jealousy and attitude”.

Om had no answer to this, and walked off in a huff as such emotional taunts laced with philosophy from his mother never made any dent on his psyche…

The King of Breakfast times

Paddy Fields
Paddy fields in Andhra Pradesh
Waiting for the next train
Traveler at Mantralayam Road Station

Raja came from a small village situated near Mantralayam road. His father used to be a snack vendor at the railway station and had always liked Raja to follow him in his footsteps. Every day, the family used to be busy making the breakfast idlis and vadas and the chutney and sambhar that used to go as one pack. Initially in the late 70’s, Raghu, Raja’s father had decided to venture into this field after he could no longer work at the paddy fields. Raja’s mother Savitha and his aunt Seetha helped with the kitchen work to make the dough overnight and prepare steaming idlis by 7:00 AM, just in time for the express trains that would halt at mantralayam. This used to be a daily affair till Raja decided he would exhibit his sales skills at the nearby and more prominent Raichur railway station.

dscn0021

Raja had been to school for around 9 years , but somehow, the trains and the people in them amused him so much so, that he left school in tow with Mani to whom school was just a place to gossip with his mates in the morning and plan their evenings. Evenings was all about playing cricket in the fields next to the railway tracks, in the parched river bed of the Tungabhadra river. Little did he know, that after a few years, he would be playing on the Krishna river bed too.

train

When he was 17, Raja along with Mani decided to board the passenger train daily to Raichur, so that they could be there in time for the express trains halting for breakfast. His wares includes 2 baskets full of idlis, vadas and the traditional sambhar and chutney, all packed neatly. The quality check was done by the railway ticket checkers on the up train, who used to verily depend on these food packets for their breakfast. Sometimes they paid, sometimes they didnt.  Raja never complained, as he was always guaranteed a free trip to Raichur. There were some like the aged ticket checker Ramanna, who used to get down at mantralayam to see that these boys actually boarded the train on time.

idlivadai

Both Raja and Mani had picked up other languages to help them get into business with the travelers who traveled from various states and spoke different language. With a broken hindi and a bit of english, especially the translation of costs made it easier to sell their wares. Nobody wanted to be caught stuck at understanding prices in the early morning, especially when one was hungry. Raja knew it by the bottom of his stomach.

Every morning, his baskets were like manna for people travelling in trains that reached the station. Every now and then, people used to compliment him and Mani for the well made idlis and vadai. But majority of the travelers just paid them and did not make it a point to comment. Also, since most of the travelers were like the annual flock of geese flying to native homes, they used to forget all about him and the taste never lingered that long, though his fame spread to the nearby stations. People from as far as Guntakal and Wadi used to come and enquire about how he made such tasty vadai.

But for the people who travelled by the daily passenger which used to halt at Raichur at 8:00, his tiffin was a blessing for those who missed it at their homes in their rush to catch the train and especially when the express trains were late, so that they were the first arrivals.

The duo donned different colors during the day, as by noon, they used to sell lunch packets on the platforms trying to sell through the windows of trains with halts during those times. In the evening, it was again a plate of vadai and cool drinks to give respite to travelers already showing fainting signs due to the scorching sun.

For years during the 80’s the tiffin trade thrived in and around Raichur with Raja and Mani sustaining people during breakfast times with quality food. They used to be called the king and pearl of breakfast times. In fact there were a lot of requests for them to carry coffee and tea to make it a complete breakfast offer. But then they had a few friends in the beverage business who were always on call, so they kept themselves busy with what they were good at.

With the Indian railways legalising and passing the catering business to contractors, the likes of breakfast vendors including the famed Raja of Raichur and the Manis either got into the system or were out of the catering system on indian trains by the late 90’s.

telegraph
Pic courtesy: The Telegraph

A Working day

I got into the elevator wondering
if it was going to be a busy day
When my client on the phone asked
with raised voice, what was I up to
I knew it was going to be a hot day.

It seemed my customer was waiting
for an hour, tired of my baiting.
humid air in the cabin not helping
it was a tough day for selling
while to others, it was a cool day.

Just as I managed to tame him well
my wild boss called to my discomfort
rushing to him was a daily effort
thinking, was it worth the effort?
made me drench on a sweaty day.

On the bus back, the wind in my face
jostling the crowd, to keep my space
I had to count on my shoelaces
to keep me from tripping in my chase
to reach my home from a working day.

Motivating Kids at School

Try and Try till you succeed.. is a good punch line aimed at school goers..but the punches are so forceful that students duck for cover..The difference between a champion in academics and an average grader can always be pinpointed to practice, talent and interest. Like the hare and the tortoise story, an average student can come close to beating a topper with consistent practice…but the question is will they last till the end (read success) without motivation..

At school, we have people who are invited as guests who lecture on the importance of studying, getting good grades allowing them to choose the best universities and so the saga continues..but looking from the student’s perspective, what motivates him or her to perform is what we are going to look here in this post…

Let us look at some simple  facts here..

1. I get motivated as my teachers bestow praise upon me..

2. I get motivated when the charming girls and guys look up to me for help in studies..

3. I get motivated if my teachers regard me as their right hand in helping them out…

4. I get motivated if only my teachers could motivate me relating studies to my favorite sport…

5. If only, teacers could spend or devote some time maybe an average of an hour as to see how am I progressing and where I need correction and spell that out to me on a weekly basis..

6. If only, my parents sat with me and saw how am practicing for my exams, instead of just saying, GO and STUDY!

7. If only we friends could group together and have competitions fixed for half an hour to assess our level of understanding on the subject or chapter that was taught in the last class..

8. If only my Headmaster or the Principal knew my skills personally..

9. If only they could give me due recognition as an individual and treat me as potential athlete at a sports academy…

10. If we had monthly motivating sessions that could lift us from slumber or polish us up on lagging skills in certain subjects…

In a nutshell, motivation means all of the above and more…If my teachers knew my academic strengths and weaknesses and could sit down with me to iron these out, I know I can aspire to be an Andy Murray or a Pete Sampras in academics….Hope you agree? Now please don’t ask me who is Andy and Pete… 🙂