Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Lessons from my Suresh Kalmadi Moments

In my previous post, I had given a brief on Toastmasters & mentioned about the Infosys Toastmasters Club (ITMC). Incidentally, ITMC is the longest running club at Infosys today.

My first speech below was given a month ago at the ITMC. This was before the Commonwealth Games had begun, and Suresh Kalmadi was in the news for his bumbling buffoonery & meaningless mouthfuls.

Before you get into the speech, you may want to check here for the objectives of Speech One (The Icebreaker) at Toastmasters. This speech is about introducing yourself, talking about your personal history, values & interests – all woven into a nice story. Essentially, breaking the ice. Now to the speech....


Suresh Kalmadi & I have just one thing in common. We don't think before opening our mouth. For too long, I have suffered from the perpetual foot-in-the-mouth syndrome, and it has taken me an extraordinary effort to realize that I must stop talking and start listening. However, over the course of today's speech, I will prove to you that certain Suresh Kalmadi moments are indeed fine – provided they fall under certain precise conditions.

When your father is a banker and your mom is a music teacher and you are the only child, frankly, you are screwed. There is no way you can outclass your dad when it comes to the world of finance, and you can't beat your mom when it comes to music. However, since you move from city to town every three years due to your dad's transferable job, you realize you must adapt. You realize that if you don't go out of your way to make new friends, you will be left behind at school. You realize that if your neighborhood has no kids your age, the best way to kill time is to start playing games against yourself. (Of course, doing so has its advantages. You always win in chess even if the rulebook says that a rook can never travel diagonally. :-)). But you also realize to give people the cold shoulder. “Oh, you are the only child. What is it that you want to do when you grow up?” Until today, I have never understood the connection between being the only child and my life plans. And more importantly, you don't appreciate such personal questions when you stand 35th in a class of 37 :D.

Luckily, I found my interest. Initially, it was Biology in general, and Genetics in particular. However, while completing my B.Sc in Genetics from Hyderabad and an MBA in Marketing & Finance, I developed a passion towards software and computers. It dawned upon me that Logic was my calling.

That, Ladies & Gentlemen, is my first Suresh Kalmadi lesson for the day. Only if your father is a banker and you are the only child and you somehow want to create academic linkages between the world of Genetics, the world of Management and the world of Computers.... don't think, just do it, you will be fine.

Baan Company in 1996 was my first employer. From then on until I joined Infosys a few weeks ago as a Principal Consultant with the Supply Chain Practice, life has been one professional blur. Software engineer, support analyst, business analyst, implementation consultant, delivery manager, project manager.... the roles have been diverse & enriching. Excellence & integrity are what I hold dear, and reading – and occasional blogging – are my interests. But what I remember the most of my professional years is something else. A few days after the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, my client indicated that there was no budget to continue with me on the project, but asked if I was willing to travel to Chicago. Loading everything I had in the backseat of my Camry and with no cell phone, I drove the 2200 miles alone from California to Chicago in 3.5 days. For those of you who have never done a long roadtrip before and contemplating one, I would say “Do it”. There is so much you learn from the kindness of strangers and fellow road travelers.

That, Toastmasters & Guests, is my second Suresh Kalmadi lesson for the day. Only if your father is a banker and you are the only child and you want to create academic linkages and want to take up varied roles in your career.... don't think, just do it, you will be fine.

But every kahani has a twist, that lurking danger, that roadside bomb you must watch for. Here is mine and it happened several years ago. A few months after getting married, my wife asked me just what is it about her that made me decide to marry her. It was a loaded question – and I completely missed it. I looked at her, I looked to the ground, I looked at her and I looked to the ground. I talked, and talked, and blabbered, and talked. My verbal diarrhea lasted a full 10 minutes. Until today, I don't remember a single word of what I said. Until today, she remembers every word of what I said.

That, Ladies & Gentlemen, is my final Suresh Kalmadi lesson for the day. Even if your father is a banker and you are the only child and you want to do so many things in life.... if you can't give your wife a romantic answer on why you are marrying her.... please think, don't just do it because you will not be fine.

Thank you.


AparnaRK said...

Amazing! I loved yr 3rd Kalmadi moment! I had given a few of those myself! ;)

Narayanan said...

Very Nice Arun. My wife asked me 'if a bell rang when I saw her for the first time' & I was like 'what bell'. Thats called 'Kalmadied' - have to create a word like that.

vishy65 said...


Good stuff ...I am the victim of same syndrome and more

Arun Kumar said...

@Aparna: I am not surprised. We poor dudes carry this cross for the rest of our lives.

@Narayanan: Good one :-). Bell eh? I want to say that bells and whistles come only with cars.... and yes, that makes Priya mad as well :-).... Kalmadied indeed....

@Vishal: Good to hear from you. Yup - as I mentioned earlier, we carry that cross :-)

Hari said...

Awesome!!! I wish I heard this speech in person :-)

magiceye said...


cheers to that!

Pete Dubaka said...

Hilarious! Read at office, everyone was looking at me like I had gone nuts!

Arun Kumar said...

Thanks Prabodh. :)

Arun Kumar said...

Thanks Prabodh. :)

Preeti said...

Glamour!! I haven't laughed out loud at a blog post in a long time!! I wish I had heard this in person! Superb:-)