Updated Nov 10,2013 – Pointed the video link on youtube to the second version of the video, that has a better sound quality. Thanks Kavitha Rajendran for getting that done.
Thanks to 2 of my team mates, October 28, 2013 turned out to be one of the happiest days of my life. Want to know why?
On that day, I gave a speech to the students of Lady Willingdon Girls School near the Marina Beach in Chennai. It is the school, the CAS Outreach Council [Cognizant's CSR Program is called Outreach and CAS is the Internal IT team of Cognizant] has been working with for several years. Please read this imagining yourself to be a higher secondary school student [I gave the speech in Tamil and have translated it for this medium].
The Youtube version of this speech is here. - Thanks Kavitha Rajendran for the recording.
The sound quality is not that good. Sorry about that. Sound quality is much better now. Please note that the first minute or so and the last minute or so of the speech is no longer in the video.
Dear students, good morning to all of you. Today, I am here to share my experiences from my school life. I studied 6th to 12th grade in the Adyar Sankara School, not far from here. I used to live near the Mylapore Kapaleeswarar temple which is also close by from here.
From 6th to 10th grade, I had 40-45 people in my class. What rank do you all think I would have gotten? [Several said 1st rank and a few said last rank :) ]
I was an average student usually ranked between 15-17 in the class. Never really considered studies important. Most of the time after school I spent playing – cards, cricket, pambaram (top), marbles, gilli thaandu [don't know tranlsation in english], kite flying. Depending on the season we would pick up a different game. Kite flying, especially making the manja, to cut the other kites down was a big fun then. We had to learn to how to apply the manja by crushing discarded tubelights etc.
While I played a lot, I never aspired to become the next Sachin Tendulkar in cricket (of course it was Gavaskar & Vishwanath then). Had no drive to achieve. My parents never asked me why I was getting the 17th rank. So there was no pressure at home. 10th grade public exams came by. Right after the exams I knew I had done badly. But the extent of the bad was known only after the results came. Last night in preparing for this speech I pulled out my mark sheet from 32 years ago and looked at it, so that I don’t utter any falsehood. I had scored a glorious 100 out of 150 (66%) in Math.
How many of you think you can’t do math well? [A majority of hands went up].
Yeah. I also thought I was a complete dud when it comes to Math. At the time I thought, the top rankers had some special talent that I didn’t have and hence I do badly in exams.
Given I was in the same school, they gave me the Science stream. As luck would have it, we got a new Maths Sir. His approach was entirely different. He made us practice sums till our hands hurt. He taught us some new kind of techniques that made math look much easier and amenable to all of us.
The quarterly exams came and to my complete surprise I scored 90%. Wow. If I can do that in a subject I thought I was a complete dud, why can’t I apply the same strategy of practice to other subjects also. I did that and in the half-yearly exams that came next, I scored 90%+ in all the subjects. My confidence in myself had increased beyond measure.
The 12th grade board exams came. This time I knew I had done well. I scored 93% in math and got All India 18th Rank. Think about the journey from 17th rank in a class of 45 to 18th in all of India [BTW, in CBSE you only get All India Ranks]. I managed to get into BITS pilani, a prestigious university, for an electrical & electronics engineering course and passed out with a BE degree. Today I am speaking to you after completing 25 years in the workforce. [I did not mention this in the speech - V. Ganesh who writes on this blog sometimes, was my classmate in Sankara as well as a fellow SAST Wingee from BITS Pilani, was also a student of the same math teacher. He obtained All India 11th Rank that year. I am sure Maths Sir will be proud of him as well].
All these accomplishments happened because of one man – the math teacher who changed the foundation of my life and rewrote my fate.
Who do you all think that man is? [Several students looking at me quizzically]
That man is none other than your own math teacher Rajendran Sir, who is right here. [It turns out Rajendran Sir had left Sankara 25 years back and had joined Lady Willingdon. What a coincidence that my team picked the same school for Outreach activities! ]
We then brought Rajendran Sir to the dais. the team was thoughtful enough to buy a shawl and a memento for him. That I could meet Sir after 30 years and speak about him to the school he is currently working is a special privilege/rare honor for me. I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life and will remain as one of the happiest days of my life.
Thanks from the bottom of my heart to my team mates Jayashree Sridharan and Kavitha Rajendran, who have been working to get this event done for the past 3 years. Thanks to Vivek and all the CAS Outreach volunteers who came. Thanks also to Laks and Nitty from Outreach PMO who came in person to attend the event.
Here is the photo that Kavitha snapped of me and my teacher.
P.S. the title of this post is inspired by E.R.Braithwaite’s brilliant work and also by the equally brilliant movie with the same title starring Sidney Poitier. And this post was originally published by me in the internal blogging system. Given that this is a public speech I gave, I am excusing myself of any copyright issues.