Friday, March 25, 2011

Get to the point - Work & Personal Life Balance

Get to the point was my third speech at PSU toastmasters club. This was after my first Ice-breaker and second Organizing your speech speeches. Theme of my speech was 'Work & Personal Life Balance'

I started by explaining that in today's mechanical world, it is becoming more and more difficult to have a robust balance between work and personal life. Having priorities in life is important but more important is to manage them. I learned this even before I started my career. I have always been a firm believer in learning from other people's experiences in life. We need not step on a banana skin to understand the pain of slipping and falling.

This incident happened with me while I was doing my masters in Hyderabad, India. During that time, my parents were getting their house constructed and I used to visit the site to oversee the progress every now and then. During one such visit, I happened to meet this gentleman, who was working as an accountant for the construction company responsible for building the house. While there, we struck a conversation and started talking about different topics. That is when I came to know that earlier he was working for a reputed multinational company, with a fat package and in a good position. I expressed my surprise and curiosity to know how he ended up here and taking up a role, less glamorous and evidently paying less. That's when he shared his story, which struck with me since then. He was working in Mumbai, west of India for this large multinational company

He used to work for long hours, seven days a week. His day used to start at 4 AM, catching local train at 5 in the morning, spending time till 10 in the night at work and coming home at 11 PM. This was his routine for day in and day out, seven days a week.He had a wife, who was a home maker and a 3 year old son. His hectic work schedules were hardly giving him any time to spend with his wife or son. When he used to start for work in the morning, his son used to be still in bed and when he returned in the evening at 11 PM, son would have gone to bed. This was continuing for some time. One Sunday, he decided to stay home to spend time with his wife and son. He was excited and got up early, waiting in anticipation for his son to get up. He sat in living room, reading Sunday newspaper while waiting. After sometime he saw his son get up and come to where he was sitting. His son looked at him, gave a puzzled look and went into the kitchen where his wife was preparing breakfast. The man got up and followed his son into the kitchen. What happened after that completely changed his outlook towards life. He entered the kitchen and overheard his son asking his wife, 'Mum, who is this uncle?'. Next day he quit his high profile job and moved to Hyderabad, taking less demanding one with more 9 AM - 5 PM schedule.
That day I learned a very valuable lesson, which struck with me till date. Its very important to set priorities in life. Keeping work - personal life balance is crucial, especially in this mechanical time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Organizing your speech - Meaning lost in translation

My second speech at toastmasters club was about Organizing your speech. It was a hot seat speech. Hot seat speech is the one in which a speaker gives a speech without a prior intimation when some scheduled speaker does not show up. I was asked whether I am willing to give a speech and i took up the challenge. In the competent communication manual, the second speech is about Organizing your speech. This was going to be my second speech after the ice breaker speech. I selected the topic 'Meaning lost in translation'.
I started my speech by explaining how in day-day life there are many instances when we tend to lose the true meaning in translation gaps. I elaborated this by sharing two incidents. First one I heard while I was learning Japanese language in Ramakrishna Math and the second one was one, which I experienced.

First incident was about this German scholar who came to give a session in one of the Indian universities. Since the scholar had very limited grasp over English, he was provided with a translator to translate his speech while he was delivering. During the speech, scholar thought of lightening things up and said that he would like to narrate a joke. And then went ahead and told the joke in German for couple of minutes. After finishing, the scholar looked at the translator for him to do his bit. Translator said something for few seconds and entire audience started laughing. Scholar was obviously impressed and asked the translator, how he was able to translate a couple of minutes long German joke into few seconds long in English language? Translator looked embarrassed and sheepishly admitted to the scholar that he actually did not get the joke. So he told the audience that since the scholar took so much effort in sharing a joke, please make sure that you all laugh

Second incident happened with me while I was working in Japan. I learned Japanese language till level III and was comfortable enough to have small conversations. But I understood my true limitations when I reached Japan and actually stated listening to native Japanese speak. One evening, I and 3 of my colleagues decided to have dinner at KFC. We went after work around 6:15 PM to KFC. Once there, lady at the counter said something in Japanese, even gesturing at the clock. I interpreted it as that the lady was indicating that if we come after 7, its like happy hours or something. I shared this with my colleagues and we all thought that if we can save few bucks, it makes sense to just wait. So we headed out and decided to kill the time by roaming around in the streets of Kawasaki near Musashi-Shinjō Station. One of my colleague was finding it little uncomfortable since he wanted to use a rest room but decided to wait till 7 and use the one in KFC. We roamed in the streets for 45 minutes during a chilly evening and once it was 7 PM, went back to KFC. Once we were in, lady in the counter greeted us and gave us a menu to choose from. I tried asking her about 'happy hours after seven' and she looked surprised. She said she was earlier indicating that if we are interested to wait, then after 7 PM there would be more menu items to choose from. Well, rest I leave it to your imagination when I shared it with my colleagues, especially the reaction from the guy, who wanted to use the rest room desperately.

I shared these two incidents to explain the topic of my speech 'Meaning lost in translation'. I concluded it by sharing how most of the Indians face a cultural gap when new in US of A. Most Indians have this tendency to nod their heads more diagonally side to side,

confusing Americans, who are never sure whether we are responding with a 'yes' or a 'no' to their question. That's when they specifically ask us to nod head straight sideways if its a 'no'

or vertically up and down if its a 'yes'

This was my hot seat and second speech at PSU toastmsters club 'Organizing your speech - Meaning lost in translation'