Pic.: Anima D'Cunha

When I call our young-ones on stage to talk, during the PD sessions, I have no idea about the topics I give them to talk on… It is only when the speaker has landed on stage, he gets his topic from me… And, where do I get it from?

Well, I have no idea!

“It’s all there in the air… the thin air,” I often joke. Sometimes, the funny hair-cut of the young man… sometimes, that naughty message on his T shirt… sometimes, the sleepy eyes… or his round, well-blown belly… It could be even the blush on girl’s face… whatever that triggers me on… And, believe me, it works… They spontaneously speak well and make us feel happy…  laugh, learn, entertain and, yes, often, inspire…

Sixteen-year-old Rohit had turned up for the session today almost after two weeks. He had gone through the sessions earlier, too, when he was in eight standard. Now that they have a long vacation after their ICSE board exams, he had joined once again…

Rohit is a soft-spoken young kid… very talented, very creative. But, when it comes to speaking in public, he needs to go a long way… Not that he has any stage fear… No, he doesn’t have at all. He can speak. But, he is spice-less… very bland. He doesn’t show his emotions… conveys everything in a flat pitch and pace… or with no pauses… There is no emphasis, no repetition… no connect… And, his parents and I want him to speak well… be a good story-teller on stage…

So, this morning, when Rohit was on stage, I said, “Tell us why did you disappear for two weeks?”… Which means, “Tell us about your trip.” (I have very spicy way of putting it, too: “Tell us why went off the radar?” or even spicier… “How was your honeymoon?”)

They love it… and, they speak with lots of spice… But, not Rohit, this morning. He had been with his family on a Europe tour… France, Spain and Italy – yes, three magnificent countries and eight exciting, exotic and world-famous cities… When Rohit was narrating his story, it was without any soul… I prodded him, again and again, to tell it with feelings, with excitement with loads of joy… But, Rohit was telling it all flat – so much so that three countries and their eight glorious cities just passed by like a ship passing by the night!

“Rohit, it is a such an exciting story… and you are telling it so casually,” I blasted, “What is the use of telling it like this… Three great nations dear… Eight glorious cities… and, it is all over like this… Sad, really sad!”

“Do you know where Dandeli is?” I asked the class… Almost none knew. I told them about a young boy who had just returned from a trip to this place in Karnataka. This twelve-year old was so charged up while narrating to me about this place, that I really felt like going there with my family… I told them about another kid who had just watched the latest version of ‘The Jungle Book’… He fired my heart so much, that I really didn’t mind watching it all over again… Then, I asked the class this: “Have you heard about a place called ‘Bhau Cha Dhakka?”

I was sure, they hadn’t!

And, they really hadn’t!

Many of my young boys and girls in the class were pure vegans… So, not wanting to repel them with the fish odor, I explained, “It is a place near Mumbai’s Mazgaon dock… Early in the morning, the fishing launches return and fish is auctioned there to retail fish-vendors… If you are a sea-food lover and want to feast on it, you should go there early in the morning with a group of friends and buy baskets of your favourite fish at a wholesale price… Though I am fond of sea-food, and though I have lived in Mumbai for over thirty-six years, and though scores of my friends and relatives had been frequently visiting this place… I had never been to this place. A couple of Sundays back, finally, I did. Three of my colony friends tempted me, the earlier night, and, the next morning, I joined them in their car… Through the Freeway that early Sunday morning, we were there in fifteen minutes flat… Bhau Cha Dhakka… “

“I will never, ever go to this place once again… It is my first and last trip,” I put it dramatically…

“Why?” Yes, this was the look I was getting… “Sir, tell us why won’t you go to Bhau Cha Dhakka once again? You love sea-food, don’t you?”

I did not tell them why… The description of the place – even without any graphic or VFX effects – jut one emphatic statement, “I will never, ever go to this place once again… It is my first and last trip” – yes, this one spiced-up statement was enough to cause the desired effect: cause an excitement in them to visit Bhau Cha Dhakka or a deep repulsion…

“Rohit beta, you did not visit a Bhau Cha Dhakka… You visited a Barcelona and a Monte Carlo. We expected you to excite us so much, that we would dream of visiting these amazing cities… yes, even if that meant begging, borrowing or stealing!... Beta, let me remind you and all your friends here, that every speaker is here on stage to tell his story… and, all that he should do is - tell it well. That’s all!”

Now, Rohit has promised me, that he would write a small book on his recent Europe tour… and tell in it the story the way an audience expects him to… And, you know what… I have already decided on the title:



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