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I have always been in awe of people who can go up on stage and give a speech, extempore or otherwise. As for me, I’d rather be on the other side of the stage and be one among those in the audience.

I must have been twelve or thirteen when mother tried to interest me in giving a speech for a school competition. Give a speech? I was horrified. No way. Drawing? Yes. Painting? Yes. Dance, solo or group? Yes. Solo singing? No. Give a speech? No. No. NO. Not ever doing that. Mother rolled her eyes at my vehement denial. I can’t believe you were born of me, she exclaimed that day.

I had to agree with her. Our outlook to life differed by a wide margin. Being on stage brought her joy, but it reduced me to a jittery bundle of nerves.

Mother thrived on the attention from an audience. In her student days she gave speeches and also sang on stage. She still is up for spiritual discourses and classes. My sister took part in speech and recitation competitions among other things in school much to my admiration.

The only time anyone in school/college saw me on stage was for dance (the Indian classical and folk variety), or on some rare occasions for group songs (where I’d be the one standing to one edge trying to look inconspicuous, in the front row though on account of my being one of the shortest) and also for doing plays.

Things haven’t changed much. Or rather they have gotten worse. I’d rather sit behind the screen and type out my ‘speeches’ than stand in front of a live audience and try to dazzle them. It has been a long fight against my true nature, a fight in many instances forced by necessity on many occasions to perform the duties of my role. Perhaps I won some, but mostly I underwent a lot of stress.

Finally, one fine day, I stopped fighting and accepted this is who I am. Better be me and be stress free than tie myself into knots and be miserable. Besides everyone cannot and need not be on the stage facing an audience. You need people in the audience too, right? The ones who clap and show appreciation. That is where I belong, and where I shall remain, happily so.

© Shail Mohan 2022