Year 2001, first year in the new millennium and I was happily walking towards the terrace of my college hostel in Coimbatore along with a bunch of my friends. We were to attend the flag hoisting ceremony to mark the 54th year of Mountbatten handing over the baton of power to Nehru.
The college principal being the ex-officio warden of our hostel was the one to hoist the flag. The ceremony was done with due reverence in the presence of hundreds of hostel inmates. The hostel building which reminded me of the cellular jail in Andaman, though not exactly in terms of the structure, was capable of accommodating more than 400 students. A learned discourse followed in perfect Tamil when the principal of course highlighted the struggle our forefathers had gone through to get us this freedom which we now enjoy free of cost.
Being my first year in Tamil Nadu and not that proficient in Tamil yet, I experienced the same struggle my forefathers did to perhaps understand the emotional words of wisdom that came out from the veteran principal. Nevertheless since patriotism does not need a language to describe I could still manage to figure out the critical aspects of his speech.
It was customary for someone from the hostel to give a return address after the principal finishes his speech. I was standing right in front of the crowd who had gathered in a circle around the flag pole. I could see a whole bunch of seniors and super seniors standing right behind me and was expecting any one of them to start with their return address.
Those were the days when you were expected to be quite respectful towards your seniors lest invite their wrath which will prove to be pretty difficult to survive in the hostel later. Hence seniors used to be in the limelight for all possible functions and juniors will await a day when their turn will come for taking the centre stage. Such thoughts went through my mind and were probably even thinking of a day when I’ll step forward to give a wonderful speech filled with patriotism uplifting the spirit of the nation and reminding everyone to be thankful to our previous generations for the freedom we enjoy today!
What happened next was not even in my wildest of the dreams! All I remember was feeling a very powerful hand right on my back which pushed me to the centre of the circle where the principal was eagerly awaiting for someone to come forward to give the return address. All these happened in a flash that it took a few seconds for me regain my composure. I could suddenly feel 400 pairs of eyes directly staring at me as if an animal of prey is about to pounce on its victim! All my words that formed the soul stirring speech that was part of my day dream a moment ago seem to have gone into an eternal hiding. I could not even utter a single syllable; forget about natural flowing sentences which have to be contextual as well.
Guess times like these generate a very specific hormone in human body which initially creates an excessive amount of fear which either turns you into a zombie-like mental state or wakes up the Phoenix within you which arises from the ashes of the fear that is burned! Goddess of fortune was with me on that day and out came the very first extempore I delivered in my life till then.
The Phoenix continues its flight till date and I’m happy for that hand-of-God that pushed me to the unknown territories which I explored quite heavily afterwards...