Tuesday, July 17, 2007

This Desert Had an Oasis

This was my project 4 in Toastmasters. The project 4 speech requires you to use figures of speech like similie, metaphor, alliterations. The speech is expected to create vivid images in the minds of listeners. I wrote this speech for a contest conducted by the Garden City club. I had not yet completed my project 3 in TM but won the first place for this prj 4 speech.

Read on.......................

Being in the software profession requires you to be flexible in terms of traveling to places that are not necessarily picturesque like Switzerland, beautiful like Australia, lucrative like Dubai, historical like London or hospitable like Bangalore.

5th feb 2004
I was asked to go to Chennai. All the horror stories I had heard about the city came to me in vivid images. Shortage of water. The three weather conditions namely hot, hotter and hottest. Scorching heat throughout the day. And no survival without a knowledge of tamil.

14th feb 2004
I was driven down the East Coast Road by the cab, from where I had a continuous view of the sea since the road runs parallel to the sea. I was taken to the guesthouse. It was a beautiful independent bungalow, spacious, well furnished, air conditioned and boasted of lovely breeze all throughout the day since it was very close to the sea. The tiled roofing only served to enhance its appearance. From the terrace I could get a direct view of the sea, a vast blue eternity, a feast to the eyes. The garden was well maintained and had plenty of flower bearing plants. The lawn in front of the house fringed by yellow daffodils was the best part of the place. On the whole it was anybody’s dream house, which evoked poetic thoughts even in those who did not have a poetic soul.

Since the guest house was a mere 200 meters away from the sea, the inevitable happened. I ran to the shores at the first opportunity. It was dusk. The time of sunset and moonrise. I stood before the waters with my eyes closed for a few minutes.

I then opened my eyes and Paulo Coelho’s words came to my mind. When you want something desperately in life, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it. And at that moment I felt the whole universe had indeed conspired to help me achieve my want; my want of pure bliss.

All the eternities of the universe had come to a meeting at that point so I could behold the spectacle and be mesmerized and enchanted. Ahead of me, the endless sky was in union with the vast ocean at the horizon which in itself was an eternity. Above my head were countless stars, below my feet, innumerable sand grains.

Men may come and men may go but I go on forever…………
The mystery of the never ending tides, the music in the cool breeze, the mischief in the wind that played with my hair and the magic of the moon light, held me in rapture. “Living in abandon” was a phrase I had come across so often. But I understood the meaning of it only at that precise moment.

If someday I fall in love with someone intensely, and he were to ask me “how much do you love me?”, then I wouldn’t know how to answer that question. I am confused. Should say love you taller than the skies, or should I say deeper than the floor of the ocean? Should I say brighter than sunshine or should I say love you more than the number of stars in the sky? Which one is greater in magnitude, no one knows and no one will ever know.

That’s probably why my grandfather used to say whenever your accomplishments in life make you feel proud, when you start believing that you are a very important person, when your ego and self esteem get the better of your modesty, humility, you must come to the sea and simply stand there before it. The vastness of the ocean will at once bring to you a realization that you are very insignificant, a spec in this universe and even without you everything in this world would go on perfectly well.

After a year, the same ocean awakened from the depths of its sleep. All the anguish it had been containing in its womb for god knows how long, assumed a ferocious form of sky high waves, invaded the shores of the city, and engulfed its people, leaving them no room for escape. Before people could act or even realize what was happening, the waves had receded carrying back with them, thousands of innocent lives, and years of their effort that had gone into the making of their small worlds. A part of earth submerged in the waters irrevocably forever, because the sea had receded but not completely, thereby, redefining a nation’s boundary at it’s free will and as it pleased. It will take people humungous effort and a very long time to rebuild their worlds, the scars will probably remain for ever but the ocean lies there, calm, serene, tranquil, pretending that nothing happened at all. Now I understand why the expression “dangerous innocence” is used to describe the ocean.

With a lot of effort I had to pull myself away from that confluence of infinities because the more finite and less immortal creations of mankind were calling me.

Thousand year old stones carved into horses, elephants, chariots, warriors, shilabalikas, majestic pillars and splendid Gopuras. I was in a land of temples, a land of culture, a land of music. Not to visit some of these temples would only have been a waste of my stay there. To build a temple more majestic and with more grandeur than the previous king built, was the only ambition every king nurtured and nourished in his lifetime and he dedicated his entire life for this noble cause because those were the days when religion was the opium of people.

Many of these temples were built by kings of the chola dynasty. These structures appeared so gigantic from a distance but when examined closely, they revealed such fine, intricate designs, yet so symmetric, so perfect. It is rightly said that the Chola artists conceived like giants and finished like jewelers.

Hundreds of figures that bejeweled the walls surrounding the sanctum delighted visitors as a storehouse of murals and sculpture. Both the interior and the exterior walls were replete with images depicting incidents from the lives of people from that era.

Many of the huge sculptures were monolithic, meaning, carved out of a single rock. I was left wondering as to how such huge rocks and boulders weighing tones and tones were elevated to such great heights at a time when there was no technology that people could depend on for help.

These were structures that stood tall and proud, defying gravity. They had withstood the onslaught of time and elemental forces of nature. I don’t know if such endurance can be attributed to the sculptors who erected them or the god in their sanctum who was protecting them.

These temples had become an inseparable part of peoples’ lives. This I realized only when I entered my office. One day while in my seat, I smelt some strange smell, the kind of smell that does not normally linger in air conditioned offices. I looked all around me in an attempt to identify the source of the smell. I then realized that the smell was emanating from the hair of a lady sitting right next to me who was wearing a small garden of assorted flowers in her hair. This fragrance of some unique flowers mixed with the aroma of coconut oil that nourished not only her hair but also the back of her neck and a part of her forehead was quite an experience to me who was not used to it. Added to this was the conspicuous vibhuti on foreheads, the jingling of glass bangles and the tinkling of Payals. But for these sounds, people there walked quite noiselessly. I didn't even hear the occasional tip toeing sound of the high heels. The reason being the fact that, people came to office, left their footwear under their seats and walked around bare feet. Very comfortable indeed!!! Although I was baffled and amused in the beginning, I had to convince myself by saying, this was a world away from glamour, glitter, grooming and style. People here preferred to be closer to the soil than to the stars.

Finally after five months of staying in Chennai, the day of departure arrived and it was time for retrospection. All the horror stories I had heard about the place were absolutely true. In spite of all that, I had enjoyed my stay there. There are two things in life you can do when you are in a situation you don’t like to be in. You can go on cribbing and complaining about things you cannot change or you can simply change your perspective and make the best of what is available.

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