Friday, July 17, 2009

Stage fear and beyond

I still remember my first stage appearance from my kinder garden days. May be because it has been repeatedly reminded by my parents and from the recording I have of the lines I had to recite on stage. It’s funny, because at that age, you know nothing about stage fear. You are not bothered about the huge crowd in front of you. All what you think about is how you look in your costume! I was in total love with the police costume that I had to wear. I even wore that dress on a school day and stood out from the class for doing such a thing. The very first lines I spoke on stage “police aaga naan irunthal, polla thirudanai pidithiduvaen, kaali sirai il adaithiduvaen, kambi yenna vaithiduvaen” (If I were a police, I would catch the notorious thief, hold him in an empty cell and make him count the bars).

After this performance, I didn’t get the chance to deliver dialogues on a stage until 1998. For some strange reason, I was chosen to play the role of Nehru in a play. I had to recite a few lines, emote patriotically and wear a costume. Stage fear showed its colors. I had to practice this several hundred times and still, seeing the entire school in front of me, I went numb and sweaty. The rose pinned on my shirt fell down and caused much laughter which made me even more nervous. How I spoke those lines, I don’t remember now, but it was over!

Its funny how life transits and how behavioral characteristics change and influence. Two years later, I still could not overcome stage fear during a simple intra school cultural event and exactly one year later, I was an orator. A change in school did the magic and the determination that this new crowd should never see me sweat or stammer during a talk. Credits go to my parents who framed my talks that time.

Now I crave for the stage. It’s like marijuana to me. Every talk I hear, I feel I could have done it better and I show that in the opportunity that I grab. I feel let down if some one does not utilize an opportunity to dazzle. The latest incident being a researcher messing up precious 10 minutes in front of 25 Noble laureates and hundreds of international researchers and several funding agency directors. What a stage it was and what an opportunity to make yourself noticeable and envied. Where else would have been the perfect place to glorify the scientific greatness on India and showcase India’s greatest research works and contribution to science. It was the perfect platform to bring to notice the great Indian scientific works that would have received the Noble prize if not for a racially biased committee. And he stood there, blabbering bits and pieces of his research work in English that was incomprehensible. I am amazed that the Indian government that nominated this group took so lightly the importance of these ten minutes. I couldn’t recover from this for a week and until I lit up the stage with my performance in the DFG at Bonn.

I don’t know what takes over me these days when I board the stage. I can reach out to the entire room without the microphone and tell confidently that no one gets bored or sleepy when I talk. I feel like a whirlwind thrashing with utmost ferocity to show it cant be matched against and until its there, it has to be respected. The awed look on the audience face tempts me even more to talk. I felt highly satisfied after my talk on 10 July, especially when officials from DFG praised me and when they told me that they too got excited about doing research once again, to actually step into the lab and start making things happen.

I have inspirations too. Very first is Rangarajan of Alma matter. Hearing his speech changed my outlook towards public speaking. Next comes Cho. I like his fierce dictation and slap stick humor that he vents out on politicians regardless of their power. Then my dear father. I like his style when he stands in front of the mike, his spontaneity and the way he observes and builds upon his speech as and when he talks. Finally, APJ Kalam’s motivatory content.