Got Inspiring Words?

‪Yesterday was a very hectic day. I had a noon appointment for a Chartering ceremony and I was to give a speech. I was a tad nervous mulling about what my message should be.

On my way to work, one of my ‪mentees‬ (whom I haven’t seen in a while) texted and emailed me feverishly.

After I parked, I pulled over my phone to see the subject-line as, “Got Inspiring Words?” And the body of his text (and email) went along these lines: “Hi Rex. I’m delivering a presentation virtually to very large group of people. Including my boss. Hey I just got extremely ‪nervous‬. Do you have any ‪‎inspiring‬ ‪words‬? Just wanted to talk with you for a few minutes.

Walking my way into my building, I called this gentleman. I did nothing more — just some simple words of ‪encouragement‬ (not advice, just encouragement on his possibilities and how he will do well. I did add one ‪tip to do his webcast by ‪standing‬ up ‬). After 5 minutes of pep-talk, this gentleman said, “Thanks Rex. That’s all I needed. Now I am ready.

I told him to call/text me after it’s over. Later during the day, his text came: “It was as smooth as a babies (sic) butt. Thank you for the time, the standing up definitely helped.

I texted him back, “don’t forget to attend our meeting next week ” 😉😊.

Last week, I had shared a similar experience with the kids at the contest. What this incident reinforced in me yesterday was that there’s always somebody, who needs just that “5 minutes” of pep-up.

In that sense, I am blessed for being able to do just that simple thing.

Happiness and Joy — A Moment of Epiphany

Today, I experienced a moment of epiphany at work.

It made me rue on a simple fact: how happiness is experienced by different people in capacities that can easily dwarf those that of the high and mighty.


About 10 days ago, one of our janitors, who always wishes and talks to me whenever she passes by, hollered this time.

“Hello Mr. Rex can you do me a big favor?”

“Sure, Miss ___. What’s up?”

“Mr. Rex, can you write and give me a sentence in your language so that I can give it to Mr. ___ as a note of thanks? I would really appreciate it.”

“But, Miss ____, he is from _____ (a country close to Middle East in location). They don’t speak the language I speak. I am originally from India and I don’t know who else speaks his language here.”

Her glowing face almost instantaneously turned pale. Seeing her obvious disappointment, I continued talking.

“Don’t worry Miss ____, I will have a solution to your problem and give me a few days time.”

“Are you sure, Mr. Rex?”

“I am. Don’t worry. I can get you something in Persian. By the way, what do you want to be written?”

“‘Thank you very much. God bless you.’ That’s what I want to be written, Mr. Rex,” she said. This time, I saw a 440-volt glow on her face once again.

“Consider it done. Will get you that soon.”


About two days later, thanks to my subconscious mind, a thought flashed across that reminded me of exactly one other friend, whom I knew could be of possible help. I asked this friend, who had Persian roots, but didn’t know the language himself.


But, his Mom knew.

I thanked God and asked him, if he would mind getting the message handwritten in Persian from his Mom. He grew more interested and intrigued, when he realized that I was not asking this for myself, but, for somebody different.


3 days later, he gave me a simple card and a simple sheet that had this message written in impeccable calligraphic style. I was very impressed.

I profoundly thanked him and kept this for the janitor on my desk.


Today, it was one of the most hectic days with a slew of meetings one after the other.

During a break, I saw the janitor, whom I didn’t see in the past few days after that incident.

So, I rushed to my seat and picked up the handwritten note covered within an envelope, which my friend had given me earlier and I ran up to her.

“Hello Miss ____. Look what I have got for you.”

“Hello Mr. Rex. What is it?”

I opened the cover and showed her the Persian message. For a moment, she wasn’t able to speak. Raising her head, she asked in her feebly effervescent tone:

“What’s this Mr. Rex?”

“Miss ___, this is the message you asked me to be written in Mr. ___’s language. This is it. Here you go!”

Her face started to light up all the more now. With disbelief, she asked me again:

“What is written on it Mr. Rex?”

“Miss ___, just the same message you wanted it to be written: ‘Thank you very much. God bless you.'”

That’s it. Before I could finish it, she reached out to me and gave such a powerful hug, profoundly thanking me throughout.

After a full minute, she relaxed and retreated and looked straight into my eyes and said:

“Mr. Rex, you have no idea what you have done to me today. I can never forget what you did today. You have no idea how much this means to me. Mr. ____ is such a nice and kind person and I wanted to thank him with a note written in his own language although I never knew what language he spoke. I didn’t know you’ll be able to get me this for me to give this to him. This means so much to me. Thank you so much Mr. Rex. This is precious…this is precious…”

Tears of joy started rolling down her cheeks like a stream. I turned speechless.

And then again she gave me a very tight hug for another full minute. This time thanking her Creator and me in words peppered with tears.

“God bless you, Miss ___. You have a big heart. Go in peace,” I said.

Saying that, I left for the next meeting, wondering how different people live their lives very intensely.

Truly the tears of joy that this poor janitor shed over a simple act of having a “thank you” note written in a Persian language that she wanted to give to a person who helped her, is equivalent to (if not superabundant than) a millionaire or billionaire clinching his much-awaited million-dollar deal!

In what way this janitor’s joy at this abjectly simple ‘note of thanks’ inferior or different than the ‘crumpled dollar notes’ of the Exchequer?

This was one of the most intense, mindful experiences at work that I have ever had.

Perhaps this is the “poverty of spirit” that is talked about in the sacred scriptures!

Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes” (Luke 10:21)

A Maiden Area Governor Visit

I made my maiden Area Governor visit to a Toastmasters club in my area. It was a corporate club.

So, what is a corporate club?

Generally, Toastmasters clubs are of two types: closed (or) corporate clubs and open clubs.

When organizations house a Toastmasters club within their premises with the sole purpose of promoting communication and leadership skills for their employees, they may opt for the corporate club, which confines membership to its own employees. Outside members are not allowed to become members. Open clubs are just the opposite – these are clubs that are funded and run by its own members, who may belong to various organizations. This distinction is important for a guest, who might plan a visit to a local Toastmasters club.

I enjoyed my role as an Area Governor. The Club President was on PTO and so the Immediate Past President and her officers welcomed me. It was a good meeting with mostly new members. I performed the roles of a Timer and a General Evaluator. I delivered my Area Governor remarks as part of the General Evaluator’s report.

As there was an Icebreaker speaker, who also happened to be a Pastor, I ad libbed suitable imagery in my remarks to have a strong connection with my audience. I always get excited, whenever there is an Icebreaker speech as it really is the significant, first step in a new Toastmaster’s journey! I seized the moment to applaud this new member, who spoke so eloquently about her background. Besides, my goal was to simply show how speeches and roles done at every Toastmasters meeting, taps into the leadership potential within each of us. It had a good impact, as the members acknowledged at the end of the meeting.

I thanked my hosts and assured them of continued support throughout the year.

Later at 8 PM, I joined the other Division F Area Governors on a Conference Call to discuss business.

I have four more Area Governor visits, scheduled for this month.

Introductory Letters

Today evening, I started sending out introductory letters to the Club Presidents, Vice Presidents (Education), and Vice Presidents (Membership) under my area. These three officers are often called as the “Club Trio“, in an informal parlance.

Although our new terms do not start until July 1st, we have quite a few tasks to complete, in a time-bound manner.

For an Area Governor, that will be the Club visits. For the Club Trio, it may be the elections of the new officers (if not completed already) and uploading that information to Toastmasters International, as well as in getting started in chalking out the Distinguished Club Plan (DCP).

An Area Governor, will use the DCP as one of the core inputs for the club visit, so that the Area Governor’s report can be prepared and uploaded to the District.

Besides, the Club Trio will be preparing for their Fall Speech Contests, while the Area Governor will be preparing to organize the Area Speech Contests as well. The two Speech Contests in Fall are Humorous Speech and Evaluation Speech contests.

I am eager to work with my Club officers to make sure we make our Area F63, under Division F, a vibrant area within District 44.

In a nutshell, that is pretty much about it. Our work has started, even before a new Toastmasters year has.


Area Governor Training

I attended the Area Governor (AG) training at the UPS Global Headquarters from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

It was an opportunity to meet other incoming Area Governors and Division Governors, besides our District 44 Governor, Lt. Governor Marketing, Lt. Governor Education, and District 44 PRO.

There were a total of 5 sessions that were conducted, which helped me understand a gamut of issues that an Area Governor is expected to manage. They touched on issues ranging from leadership to motivation, conflict-resolution, and enhancing the team and club-performance.

It is pertinent to point out how much of what is being disseminated here at Toastmasters is applicable to workplace. Take for example, this slide on Conflict Management. These skills are required everywhere. This is why, Toastmasters lays emphasis equally on its two tracks: communication and leadership.

There was a lot of interaction and joint-workshop opportunities, which kept the participants in good humor. I raised quite a few questions, besides, contributing inputs to questions and discussions. My explanation on the DCP goals was widely appreciated.

As a Club President, I can relate to the issues faced by individual clubs. As an Area Governor, my role will be one of liaison between the Clubs and the District leadership. In addition, the Area Governor is a strong resource, who advises, cheer-leads, encourages and works with the individual Clubs through their Presidents, Vice Presidents (Education and Marketing), and other officers of the club on the one side, while working with the District officers through the Division Governor and the District trio on the other side.

Although an Area Governor is a District Officer,  at its fundamental level,  an Area Governor is a relationship-builder. An AG’s most important role will be to develop trust, bonhomie, and camaraderie with the individual clubs. That is how I am viewing this role as I am stepping into it.

As a Club-President, I was able to work with my members to accomplish our collective club goals.

I am looking forward to work with other Club Presidents to accomplish our collective area goals to make F63, a vibrant area, wherein our clubs can strive to carve a niche for themselves.

I am looking forward to work with the awesome clubs we have in Area F63, under Division F at District 44 Georgia Toastmasters.

Coimbatore Toastmasters Club Gets Its First Woman President

I learned from Mr. Narendran, the Sergeant-at-Arms of Coimbatore Toastmasters Club (CTC)  that their club-elections for 2014-2015 got over today.

CTC has elected its first woman President — Toastmaster Nivetha — who currently serves as their Vice President Education. That is a significant first and kudos to the members of CTC.  Mr. Narendran has been elected as the Vice President Education.

I expressed my sincere wishes and felicitations to the incoming officers at CTC. I also pointed out the similarity that we too at Wildwood Toastmasters will be having Toastmaster Marline Santiago-Cook as our Madam President.

I wish the current and incoming leadership of Coimbatore Toastmasters Club the very best for what they have already accomplished in 2013-2014, while hoping for more laurels in 2014-2015.

My Visit to Coimbatore Toastmasters Club, India

At Toastmasters, we encourage each other to visit different clubs to not only develop camaraderie, but, to learn from each other’s shared experiences.

With about 13,000 clubs and close to 300,000 members worldwide, Toastmasters creates a huge opportunity for us to learn from each other. To those who are not familiar with Toastmasters, it is an organization dedicated to foster leadership through public-speaking. Where leaders are made, is the slogan at Toastmasters. This is an international, voluntary organization, run by dedicated set of people, who can think and imagine beyond their everyday chores.

Each week, they challenge themselves in practicing the art of public-speaking, taking on roles, providing evaluations and mentoring new members and chartering new clubs. It is a hierarchical organization — everything starts from a local club and clubs are organized under Areas, Areas under Divisions, Divisions under Districts, so on and so forth. For example, I belong to Area F63, under Division F of District 44, which is in Georgia, USA, while Coimbatore Toastmasters Club (CTC) belongs to District 82, which includes the state of Tamil Nadu (India) and the entire country of Sri Lanka.

While many understand the public speaking aspect of Toastmasters, the value in honing the skills of listening is something that is not well-understood. In a nutshell, Toastmasters is a leadership playground of sorts because it creates a perfect field, where its members feel reassured to fail safely. What is leadership, other than that, which creates those safe fields for those who strive harder to transcend above their own failures? Right? Welcome to Toastmasters!

Only within the past year or so of my three-year stint at Toastmasters, I had this deep urge to visit Toastmasters clubs in other countries. As a President of Wildwood Toastmasters, I have visited other clubs within my Division, but not in other foreign countries. It finally happened this time, when I visited my hometown of Coimbatore, India.

It is a sort of homecoming to me as I did not realize that the City of Coimbatore in the southernmost state of Tamil Nadu in India has only one Toastmasters club — Coimbatore Toastmasters Club (CTC) —  which meets at the PSG Institute of Management (PSG is my alma mater, as I did my Engineering at PSG College of Technology). In fact, I was able to even take a picture in the very same classroom, where I began my Engineering school.

Right at the outset, when I reached out to the officers of Coimbatore Toastmasters Club, they were very enthusiastic and responsive. They were welcoming and made me very comfortable. Although, the President of the Club had gone to Goa for the Spring Conference, CTC’s Sergeant-at-Arms Mr. Narendran was regularly in touch with me.

I visited CTC twice, during my vacation. On Thursday, May 22, 2014, I went in as a visitor — to observe, how CTC’s meetings are conducted. I was asked, if I could do two roles — Speech Evaluator and General Evaluator — to which I gladly consented. CTC’s officers had also requested if I can do an educational session on cross-cultural perspectives of public-speaking, which we agreed to have it for my next visit on Saturday, May 24, 2014.

Both the meetings were themed meetings. May 22nd’s theme was Vegetables and May 24th’s theme was Friendship. 

On May 22nd, there were 3 speakers at various levels of their communication roadmap. One was an Icebreaker Speaker, giving her speech for the first time. Second was an Advanced Speaker, who was giving his speech from the humorous speech manual. Third was an Advanced Speaker too, who was giving his speech from the Communicating on Video manual, wherein his objective was to provide a Press Conference. I had to evaluate the third speaker, who happened to be a professional speaker and career-coach as well. Thus I was witnessing the energy, vigor, and professionalism of a small subset of 50+ members of CTC. Their meetings were somewhat less formal than what I have had experienced, but, not informal by any means. Many of them were young college students and working professionals. Their intellectual curiosity was infectious, I should say. Even after the meeting was over, they swarmed, greeted, and were eager to know, what they could have done different — in their speeches, evaluations, roles and just about the meeting itself in general!

As the Speech Evaluator and General Evaluator, I used the opportunity to motivate the members, by interspersing generic and specific comments for improvement, which was widely appreciated by the CTC members. During the Tabletopics Speech portion — where members are given a topic to speak off the cuff — I was called to speak on a topic titled, “If you were to give an Oscar Award to a vegetable, what would it be and why?” Without any hesitation I started, saying “drumstick“. I wove the impromptu speech with humor that tapped into the host’s cultural and humorous setting. In the mid 1980s, one of the blockbuster Tamil movies made in this part of the world, wove a humorous meme around this vegetable drumstick, which has prevailed in the peoples’ memories ever since. CTC members voted for the best speaker, tabletopic speaker, and evaluator.

While Icebreaker Speaker Ms. Priya was adjudged the best speaker, the other two awards went to me. I felt humbled and elated. What is interesting is that CTC’s convention is to restrict best speaker award to only those, who speak from the Competent Communicator manual.

Two takeaways I had from this meeting are:

  1. Members show a thumbs-up, whenever a speaker uses the Word of the Day in their speech.
  2. Members give a standing ovation to the Icebreaker Speaker, at the time awards are announced.

I personally think, both of them are great ideas, which I hope to table it before my Executive Committee for possible adoption.

On Saturday, May 24, 2014, there were two prepared speakers for this meeting.

I had to do a Speech Evaluation for the first speaker, who spoke from the Competent Communicator manual. Although, a young student, he spoke on Parenting. In brief, his theme can be summed-up in two sentences: If you intend to become a parent, parent yourself. It is better to think about Parenting, before you become a parent, instead of thinking after!  This is precisely the kind of talent, I witnessed at CTC.

The second speaker was CTC’s Vice President (Education) Ms. Nivetha. She was giving a speech from the Storytelling manual, by weaving a story that was in part inspired by the Bard’s classic Merchant of Venice.  Then came my educational session on Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Public-Speaking.  


In my educational speech, I touched on some of the favorite themes of having to speak slowly, maintaining eye-contact, using the space appropriately, paying attention to pronunciation, etc. It was widely appreciated. I felt contented. In fact, the Grammarian of the Day walked up to me, after the meeting was over and told me that he found some of the tips I gave during the previous meeting were so helpful that he had incorporated those in this very meeting. True!  He provided an excellent overview of positive aspects of English grammar and vocabulary as part of his Grammarian report.

In this meeting too, the only speaker from the CC manual, walked away with the best speaker award, while I was again adjudged as the best evaluator.

I profusely thanked the CTC officers and members for graciously hosting me in their midst.  I extended my cordial invitation to CTC members to visit my Wildwood Toastmasters Club or just about any other Club within District 44 Georgia, whenever they happen to visit Georgia.

I would encourage any Toastmaster to visit other clubs, as we can learn so much from each other. The experience is very rewarding. Each club has its own culture — besides, the cross-cultural differences that can be fascinating for us to imbibe from each other.

This is a vibrant club that teems with energies and zest. While another Toastmaster from Atlanta is planning to visit CTC in June, I am determined to do just the same in future as well.

We all need those infectious energies. Don’t we?

Check them out here: Coimbatore Toastmasters Club.

“Words And Character” – 2014 International Speech Contest

I believe in positive reinforcement. Because, that is what I have seen to work always. It calls for more emotional intelligence, patience, and farsightedness to inculcate these values in any walk of life. On the flip side, it is easy to criticize, traduce, and inveigh others as that doesn’t require any iota of ingenuity. So, naturally this formed the core theme of my speech.

It was by far the fiercest, most competitive of all contests I had faced off within the past 2 years. I emerged third, as the other two speakers gave their best on themes that ranged from not being led astray by labels to following one’s own dreams. Winner Keith had even played an original song as a prop to embellish his speech. Just too good 🙂

Here is the video of the speech. This video was made after obtaining the due clearance from the Contest Chair and the Panel of Judges, in accordance with the rules of the International Speech Contest for Division F, Georgia District 44.  Due to the constraints imposed, lighting and sound quality may be sub-optimal.


Here is some additional background.

For my speech though, Thiruvalluvar‘s Kural 100 was the motivation: இனிய உளவாக இன்னாதக் கூறல் கனியிருப்பக் காய்கவர்ந் தற்று. Loosely translated, the Tamil sage exhorts one to focus on the positive things, setting aside anything that can be negative.

In my life, I had 3 characters, who lived out this philosophy, at least through the real-life interactions, as observed from my perspective:

  1. My 1st grade class teacher Miss. Mary Desouza.
  2. My 1st year Programming Class Professor Dr. K.M. Mohanasundaram, and
  3. My 1st year University of Florida Foreign Students’ Advisor Ms. Margaretha Mitcha

I narrate real incidents, where none of the three persons had let their steam out on their subjects. Intemperance wasn’t their language; rather, they had the knack of winning others through the traits of compassion, motivation, and empathy. What makes their contributions salutary is the fact that they did it without any expectation. It is just who they are! And that is precisely why, people like me, even remember their full names “with triple or quadruple initials,” as I joke in my speech, with a straight face. We only remember those, who really impacted us for the better. I concluded my speech saying, each of these 3 characters stand for a word that reflects their character:

  1. Miss Mary Desouza — Compassion
  2. Dr. K.M Mohanasundaram – Motivation
  3. Miss. Margaretha Mitcha – Empathy.

CO-M-E: “That is the clarion call these three people are giving to you and me,” I told the audience in my concluding remarks, “….and so, when you leave this place, ask yourself, what word defines who you are?

At a time, when the cult of personality is increasingly trying to preempt the culture of genuine character, it is important to give these thoughts some due consideration. When we criticize somebody harshly — or start to take the verbal whip with which we say abominable things like, why don’t you quit your job?…, ….can’t you work out this simple problem by yourself?…, or ….girls can’t do Math or Science…, such negativity serves as a strong subliminal message, that can once and for all kill the very essence of that person, who may have otherwise been able to unlock his or her potential to the fullest.

After all, Miss. Mary Desouza’s “son” or Dr. KMM’s “we” or Ms. Margareta Mitcha’s “my love” are simplest of the words in the English lexicon that anybody can use for lasting impact. Still, what prevents us from doing that? If it is so simple , what shackles us from extending similar courtesies to others?

How about a smile instead of a grimace, for a start?

2014 International Speech Contest

Today, I am about to give my speech titled, “Words and Character” at the Division F, Toastmasters International Speech Contests, to be held at the UPS Global Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

Each year, four different contests are held at Toastmasters: two in  Spring and two in Fall. In Spring, it is Tabletopics Contest and International Speech Contest. In Fall, it is Evaluation Speech Contest and Humorous Speech Contest. Of these, Tabletopics and Evaluation Speech Contests do not require any preparation, as the topic for the speech will be known only at the time of the contest.

While Humorous Speech Contest is obviously about humor, International Speeches are pretty challenging in that they should exude motivational and inspirational value that emanates from the deep personal experiences of the speaker. Besides time constraints, originality of the content of the speech can be a premise for disqualification too!

I won 3rd place last year too — in 2013 — when I was part of Division J of District 14 Georgia Toastmasters.

Today, I have some personal challenges to overcome as the seasonal allergies and nasal congestion are totally roiling my plans for the contest.

I hope I don’t accidentally sneeze or reach out for a bottle of water, during the course of my speech 🙂