Project 1 – Balakrishnan Nambiar


Challenge and Response

Now-a-days everything is coming with a disclaimer.  I have a preemptive disclaimer for this speech. This is my second speech on public stage during my whole life. The first speech I spoke before two years back became topsy turvy and this speech may become namby pamby.

All the toastmasters sitting here are more experienced than me in public speaking  – the veteran gladiators !!  This speech is like I am lighting a candle under the blazing suns –Therefore I greet you all with the classic song lines “Endaro Mahanubhavalu – Andariki vandanamulu – meaning – all the great people  –   to you all – vandanam- vanakkam – namaskar , Adab, Salam malaikum, good evening.

The theme of my speech is Challenge and Response – If the theme of the life of Gandhiji is Experiments with truth likewise, the theme of my life could be ‘Experiments with Challenges.

The great historian of all times , Arnold Toynbee wrote a monumental magnum opus – The Study of History. In that book, scanning 21 civilizations , he tried to prove that civilizations survive or die depending on their responses to the challenges of time and environment.  Similarly my life was largely just responses to challenges – if no challenge – I remained neutral –only responded when challenges pushed me to the corner.  Most of  you proactive people are inviting challenges or searching for new challenges, but I was only chasing away failures. I will give you a bird’s eye view of the events that I took as challenges.

After my college  in 1980 I wrote an UPSC exam for income tax/customs/excise inspectors along with 5000 candidates. It was a 9 hour grueling exam and when the rank list came my rank was 18.  Sixty vacancies – 120 candidates called for interview. Sure selection. Before the interview my mother took me to a famous but crazy astrologer – I did not believe in astrology but went for my mother’s sake. The question my mother asked which one I should select – Income tax – excise or  Customs. The astrologer declared – I will not get this job. Forget about it. My mother cried and I told her he is bluffing, I will get it. Due to a tragic incident, I could not attend the interview.  Astrologer’s prediction  became my first challenge – I want to know how the astrologer predicted, I studied astrology, years together, now I am a non-practicing astrologer. Any takers?

In 1981 without any professional qualification I landed in UAE. I got a job in an European company, in accounts. After some time my German boss told me – If I don’t know accounts well – I am in the red zone. Another challenge – I began collecting book keeping and accountancy books – days and nights studying – meeting with accountants – after two years I was preparing the balance sheet of the company – manually – there was no computer at that time.

1983 – my first  test for UAE driving licence – after the test finished the policeman shouted at me. Did you put on the signal while parking – no sir. When I said right turn, you made left turn – yes sir. When I tried to brake, you accelerated – yes sir. At last the policeman wrote something in Arabic on the test slip and gave me –yallah. Dejected, after 3 months I went to the driving school to start learning again – to my surprise, they told me that I passed the test already, where were you? They asked me – The challenge – I could not read what policeman wrote in Arabic – another challenge – I joined Arabic course – after one year of intensive learning I could read, write and type in Arabic – even now I am giving private coaching to students in Arabic. Al Hamdullah Rab Al Alameen.

After European company I joined Sharjah Municipality headquarters and after 15 years joined Ruler’s office Sharjah assisting the Ruler of Sharjah in his daily routine official works.

I have three children – two daughters – and  a son. Elder daughter studying for MBBS course and second daughter  studying a law college in Trivandrum and the boy 11 years old studying here. My wife is a teacher in Sharjah Indian School.

Now I will tell you about public speaking challenge I faced that pushed me to join Lagoon Toastmasters as response to that challenge.

One of my friends wrote a book and its releasing function was arranged in Sharjah Indian Association hall.   I was compelled by my friend to make a speech in that function and I had to agree.

I started to prepare my speech one week before – ransacking encyclopedia pages, foraging literature books, plagiarizing  book reviews, pilfering from famous speeches – thus I thought I was ready.

Seeing the audience, I was nonplussed and dumbfounded leading to complete black out. The rest was a kind of sleep talking – a somniloqy. After 20 minutes or so I heard a thunderous applause that woke me up. Even now I am not sure whether it was for my speech or to wake me up.

I went home and my wife asked – how was the speech ? – I replied her – “Which speech”. I remembered Mark Twain.

He had a lecture in New York to a large audience. After the lecture he reached home. His wife asked him – How was the speech? – Mark Twain replied “ Which speech? –

From that day on, I was searching for a venue to improve my public speaking skills but the stage fright pulled me back from coming here before.

I read a write up recently by a CEO of an American company in USA. He wanted to ride the monster roller coaster in Florida, he went there many times – looking at the ride and screaming of the people, and he hesitated and returned home. 5th time when he went there to have another try still hesitated, he found a 12 year boy coming out of the gate. The CEO asked him – Are you not terrified of riding this giant roller coaster. The boy replied – Yes . The CEO asked again – Then how did you overcome the fear? The Boy paused a little  and replied casually “ buy the ticket” and  walked away. The CEO stuck a moment confused with seemingly silly answer… and then yelled : yes – that is it. Buy the ticket – the rest is automatic –  like in an assembly line. No escape.

I applied the same – join the toastmasters – blindly –  and here I am.


Now the red light shows I exceeded the time.  That will be my next challenge which I will target in my project 2.

Over to you.  Thanks

  1. Excellant Drafting Mr.Balakrishnan
    We expect more fire work in your P2.

    • Balakrishnan Nambiar says:

      Thanks Syed for your comment – my P2 is on the way – In June 1st week.

      I speak from my heart – with conviction – I dont speak that I dont believe, may be that is the reason some of you like it.

      A rocket leaves fire and smoke at the launching phase only, rest will be smooth journey.

      Thanks again to Syed and to Ravoof too for providing this platform.

      • AK Balakrishnan Nambiar says:

        Dear Mr. Nambiar

        Excellent write up. Keep it up.
        All the best
        AK Balakrishnan Nambiar

        • Balakrishnan Nambiar says:

          Thanks a lot Balakrishnan Nambiar – generally people are miserly for giving compliments and you are different – You deserve applause.

          Meanwhile, can you please stand up and identify yourself, I think sharpness of my memory is blunted.

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