Of Mute Microphones and Mellow Memories

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Rejection is painful. Often it crushes people, leaving them with the lack of desire to pursue their dreams. It’s easy to give up, but to succeed after being beaten down is what true courage is all about. If you manage to get up after a nasty fall, you’re already halfway there. Only the weak decide to stay down. As Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, satisfaction lies in the effort and not in the attainment.

In the past of every success story, is the hidden embarrassment of the failed first footsteps. Such is the happenings of Radhika, a class XII student. Born in the rough blend between the loving care of her inspiring mother and her abusive father, she grew up, feeling mostly intimidated and terrorized, her voice always lost somewhere between the tangle of false soothing words and brutally honest criticism. Mostly quiet and always alone, she dragged herself through her miserable school days, her eyes sore from un-shed tears and her throat parched from forcefully gulped emotions.

Luck began to turn around when she turned 15. By now, with her confidence levels shaken and her character taking a rough beating, she closed herself into a shell, agonized by the fear of having to come out into the real world. But when one fateful day, her friend forced her onto stage to participate in a speech contest, she found in her a new motivation. At this rebellious yet confusing stage in her life, she decided that it was time to make a change. That was, until, the impatient microphone stared back at her. The paper with her lines burned a hole in her pocket as her heartbeats soared. Fifty students looked into her eyes and she felt them seep into her blank mind. Terrorized, her knees shaking and her palms sweaty, she ran off stage after murmuring an apology and hid in the washroom for the entire day.

But that was only the beginning. She spent sleepless nights reliving that one moment when she almost had it all, torturing her poor soul with troubled thoughts of her incapability. However, only one thing kept nagging at her and made her want to give it another shot. That was the sound of her own voice over the microphone as she muttered her apologies before running away. It boomed through the speakers, reverberating in the closed school auditorium. It was louder than she’d ever thought it would be and made her feel like she was finally getting the opportunity to voice out her repressed soul.

So, she did it again. She signed up for another contest, this time in a crowd of over a hundred students and of twenty other participants. She wrote a speech, memorized it countless times in her locked room and took deep breaths to calm herself down. But when the day arrived, she panicked and regretted ever thinking that she’d be capable of doing anything. In front of yet another crowd that seemed monstrous and hostile in her nervous mind, she started with a couple of paragraphs and then froze. Running off stage, she cried till she could no more. But she couldn’t give up. No, not when she knew that there was finally hope. She tried again. She recorded her own voice and played it to herself. But she failed. She spoke in front of a mirror, she timed her speeches, she tried different voices, she read books on body language and she attended seminars on public speaking. But she failed again and again and again. It wasn’t just because she forgot the speech. Sometimes, it was because she let a mischievous boy in the corner, distract her. Other times, it was because she let the faulty microphone upset her. But mostly, it was because of her lack of belief in herself.

Frustrated and shattered to bits, she decided that she’d try one last time. This time, she’d make it all or nothing. Picking up the pen, she wrote down her name for the inter-state public speaking event. As the day arrived, she took on all that she could, conducting research and improvising till there was nothing more she would possibly be able to achieve. On the traumatizing day, she heard her name being called out and stepped up onto the stage that seemed to keep drawing her into humiliation. As she took a deep breath and positioned herself in front of the microphone, she finally dared to look up. Four thousand pairs of eyes stared back at her. Determined, she said her first set of words timidly and upon watching the interest on their faces and observing the calmness in the room, she braved up. Her next paragraph came out with ease. Towards the middle of the speech, she even smiled, gestured and made the audience laugh. But the defining moment was the last word. As soon as that was done, she heard deafening applause. The beating of her heart joined in the fantastic rhythm as she smiled brightly, tears beginning to spill out of the sides of her eyes.
It had finally happened.
She had conquered her worst nightmare.

As the event ended, she went home, her arms empty but her heart filled with elation. She didn’t win the trophy but she knew that overall, she’d won. Success would come. She had found the path to it. The worst was already over; the stage was now her friend.
While she’d encountered many defeats, she didn’t let herself get defeated.
That, she believed, was success itself.

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