amitbhatnagar on May 14, 2008

Well, this is in continuity of my post “Break the chain”, a post directed against useless chain mails. I very strongly believe that all of us should behave like educated, responsible netizens and must cross-verify the contents of any mail before forwarding it. I admit that at times I too have fallen prey to these and have sent such mails, but still I won’t ever mind sending a damage-control mail before anybody tries to use the “information” contained in the original mail.

But often I feel that not all people feel this way. At times, I’ve got chain mails of “Forward this mail else…” from total strangers and by the time, I type down a stern reply to that guy, my inbox already shows 2-3 more mails (the same mail forwarded as a “reply-all”) from people, who felt scared enough of the mentioned consequences, but didn’t wish to bother their friends.

Though I agree that the most irritating types of forwards are the ones mentioned above (forward else..), still I feel that the most dangerous type of chain-mails are the ones which seek to (mis)inform. This is because many users take the contents too seriously and may actually try to implement those suggestions. In case the information is misleading or grossly wrong (as is often the case), this can prove harmful.

So about a month back, I got a forward from Mr. AA, the moderator of the yahoo group for our society. The forward provided some deep knowledge about things that a number of things about “Mobile phone emergency usage”. The mail claimed to tell us a number of things we never knew about our mobile phones. The content of the mail can be located at this link. The best part was that Mr. AA had specifically added in the end: “This is the kind of information people don’t mind receiving.” 😀

I dutifully replied on the group citing the above link and mentioning that anybody would actually mind receiving a mail with any misleading info. (i.e. if he gets to know that the mail is misleading). I also pointed him to the link to my original blog-post on chain-mails and requested him to cross-verify things before forwarding.

From my past experience with such mail-forwarders, I was almost sure that the Mr AA (being the mod) would exercise his discretion in filtering out my mail and it won’t actually reach the intended audience. Not many people can afford to lose their face publicly after dispensing immense gyan on a subject. ( I don’t feel that correcting oneself is loss of face, but unfortunately most people do.)

So as my blog statistics show, Mr. AA did see my mail and visited my blog as well. But as expected my mail never appeared on the group. But surprise, surprise!! There was something unexpected in store for me. As it suddenly struck me a couple of days back, I’m not receiving any mails from the group. I got curious and checked that I’ve got no mails from the group from the time I sent that erring mail. I visited the group homepage to confirm what was quite obvious to me now: I was no longer the part of the group!!! I was thrown out for correcting wrong information!!

Thinking of it, I’d surely like to know the reasons why Mr. Mod decided to throw me out. Is it because of fear of “loss of face”? But think of it: Would people have minded if he had approved my mail to be sent to the group? I don’t think so.. But even if one person tries to apply any of the mentioned tricks and fails to get the results (Or may be get inverse results), that would be real loss of face.. What say, Mr AA??

I’m not terribly interested in being the part of the mentioned group. “The group is not for discussing society grievances”: Mr AA had once clarified when I had sent some issues with the working of the society. So I had assumed that the group was primarily for forwarded messages and thus, my interest in continuing with the group had dropped. But yup, there were some real good messages like the ones from a very experienced professor in our society. Would have liked to see some stuff like that. But this is not what concerns me.Primarily what hurts me is to see how man behaves even when he gets least of the powers. 🙁 Rightly said: “Power corrupts, Absolute power corrupts absolutely”

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amitbhatnagar on April 20, 2008

” hello chacha……..a bad news…….PRASAD SIR PASSED AWAY YESTERDAY AT 10P.M”

Got this scrap from my niece yesterday… I won’t say that I was shocked or devastated at this. In any case, I knew that he was terminally ill for some months now.. But still there was this feeling of something missing.. CM Prasad: One of the best teachers to have taught us in the school days is no more.. 🙁

I still remember that when I got admitted to Class XI in Asha Modern School, I was in a dilemma over choosing my 5th subject.. Physics, Chemistry was fixed for science students, English for every student. Between Biology and Mathematics, my love for the latter made sure that it was my 4th subject. Of the limited choices for 5th subject, for sure,I wasn’t going to pick Biology (PCMB is considered a deadly combo). Heard that Computer Science staff and facilities were not that good. Finally, it was a choice between two last options: low-scoring Hindi and boring economics. My father voted for the latter thinking that this may prove useful in Civil Sevices examination that I was planning to appear for some years later. I found that reasoning good and went ahead with picking economics as my 5th subject.

But did I say “boring economics” ?? It surely used to be boring when I studied it in Class IX and X ( for a paltry sum total of 30 marks for two years) Under the guidance of Prasad Sir, Economics was no longer boring. It was surely not about cramming bulky texts as I had thought. It was more about deeper understanding of human behavior when faced with limited resources (as the definition of economics says) It was quite interesting to study things like how psychology of a single customer affects that of a market as a whole.

Best thing about Mr. Prasad’s teaching was: instead of telling things straight forward, he made us reach the answer. He made us think by asking questions and leading us to the answers. Further he had such a well-disciplined approach of taking regular tests after each chapter.. These styles not only made us ace the exams, but also help us develop deep, deep understanding of the concepts. Even years after taking his classes, I still remembered all the fundas when we had elementary economics as a part of my engineering third year curriculum.

His sense of humor was good too. Nobody, who has studies once in his class, can forget his inimitable style of saying “On the chair!!” ( This was the only punishment that he used for any act of indiscipline: You were asked to stand on chair for 5-6 minutes. 🙂 ) But something was there in this that even the guys, who didn’t fear getting caned or thrown out of the class, strove hard not to face this..

I really miss the chance of meeting him even once after I left AMS. Somehow i felt guilty of betraying his trust in me.. He had expected me to get 97.. (For a professional teacher like him, it was too big a thing to have said this personally to a student. ) Blame it on my hand-writing, bad evaluation or bad luck, but I could manage only 71 even after performing to the max.

But no matter what marks I got in my boards, nobody can take away the knowledge that he imparted and the indelible impression that he has made on me in the two years that I took his classes.
May his soul rest in peace and may we get thousands of teachers like him..

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And Here’s my Project #5

Project#5 is titled:: Your body speaks” As is quite clear from the title, it expects you to use body-language effectively to reinforce your content. This includes (but is not limited to) gestures, posture and stage-coverage. You need to choose a topic that allows you to achieve these objectives successfully. So here is my project #5 speech. As always, comments invited!

Are you concentrating too much on the road?

One of my old friends recently appeared for a driving test in San Jose. After he cleared the test, the officer on duty congratulated him and remarked that he was known for disqualifying Indians in the test.My friend was bewildered and wanted to know the reasons for the same. The officer assured him that he finds most of the Indians concentrating too much on the road. At times, they’re not exactly aware of the fact they can look at places beyond the straight line of traffic. He often finds them not enjoying the journey, but rather going along the traffic.
Let us ignore whether it has anything to do with clearing the test; I’d just like to ask you people how many of you feel that he was correct? Are not most of us just keeping flowing along the traffic? Well, not sure what you think, but I personally feel that he was right, at least to some extent.

We keep flowing along the traffic, barely realizing where we need to go. I’d go further to say: at times, we’re not even willing to stop for refueling, even when we’re running out of fuel. We fail to realize that our car is not exactly in the best shape and perhaps it seriously requires servicing to cope up with the demands of traffic. Of course, we’d love if the fuel tanker is full and the car is in best shape possible, but we just don’t have time for all this. Right??

Now you may think that I am exaggerating a bit, but actually I’m not.

Friends, it’s the journey of life I’m talking about. Life’s a journey, the mundane tasks that we keep on doing daily are the road, you’re the car and you’re the driver as well. . What I personally feel is that we’re concentrating so much on the road that we’ve forgotten to enjoy the journey or even to try to know where the road is taking us.

Now think of it again:
Are we not just going along the traffic? Most of us picked science, because this is what the toppers opt for. Then picked engineering because this is what Science students go for. Then, opted for Software jobs because this is where the money is. And yeah, many, many of us wrote CAT because this is what the best of the engineering students. Just go back and think, at which point you chose your lane yourself? Oh right, some of us actually did, but most of us, just chose to follow them, flowing along the traffic has become a second nature to us.

Okay, now you followed the herd and are in a lane, which you try to call as your own. Not a problem, as long as you know how to enjoy the journey. Frankly speaking, I don’t, but I’m trying hard for it. But even for those who do feel that they’re enjoying the life to the max, I sometimes feel that the enjoyment has become too mechanical, having a drink or two with people, having a lunch at a mall, seeing a movie at a multiplex are typical ideas of enjoying life for most of us. But what we miss in this fast pace of life are the small joys of life. The small joys, when you see a smile on someone’s face and know that a little appreciation from your side is the reason for this. The small joys, which come along when you do something meaningful without expecting anything in return. And if you try for it, the opportunities are plentiful. Try doing something for your alma-mater for instance. You may not yet be in a position to sponsor a college-fest, but sometimes just calling up your juniors and saying “Good job, guys” is all you need to do. A pat on the back can do wonders to them and the joy in their voice may be the joy that you may be looking for yourself.

I’ve just started my journey and at times, I find myself running out of fuel. But it’s these small joys that provide me the fuel to keep going. Enjoying the journey can be real hard if you don’t take regular time off to refuel yourself.
And well, even if you choose the right lane and get the fuel regularly, our cars do wear out with time. May be you’re no longer happy about the way the car’s doing. It may be time that it needs some servicing or may be a complete overhauling. And what do I mean by that in real life? Simply that, may be your current skills or life-style are not sufficient for you to move forward or to keep you happy. Try to keep learning. Join a music class, start a quiz club, think of learning a foreign language, write a blog.. Keep doing something that helps you polish your mind and makes sure that you’re simply vegetating away. Well, I need not tell this to anybody here; everybody sitting here surely realizes the value of maintenance. But remember, even for the best of the cars, timely and regular service is mandatory.

So just remember, if you’re the car, you’re the driver as well. The journey can be meaningful only if it’s you who’re driving your car to the right path, get the fuel regularly and get it serviced at regular intervals. Wish you all a very Happy, successful and meaningful journey!!

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I delivered my project #4 on December 3 last year . Yup, I’m a bit late for posting this, but I wished to have at least one non-toastmasters post b4 I start copy-pasting my speeches again.. 😀

Project#4 is titled :How to say it” It expects you to eliminate jargon, use right words and sentence structure and use rhetorical devices and questions to emphasize your ideas and to communicate ideas accurately and vividly. In addition, you’re also expected to incorporate the learnings of the first three projects.
So here is my project #4 speech (Comments invited 🙂 )

You’re what you eat for your breakfast

The topic may have sent some wrong signals, but I’m not here to preach about vegetarianism or to talk about carbohydrates and proteins. I’ll talk about something else. But first here’s a little incident that happened some days back.

I was coming to office with my friend Rahul. At the traffic signal before the office, Rahul pointed to a pretty girl sitting in the car next to us. She was holding a bowlful of cut fruits and enjoying it while the signal was ticking down to zero. Spontaneously I started blabbering about how fast the life has become that a person doesn’t even has time to properly relish his meal. At this my consciousness, ever so ready to catch me off-guard reminded me that just two days back, I had skipped my breakfast as I had to finish off some stuff before our weekly status meeting and this wasn’t a one-off incident; this has been happening every now and then for some time.

Suddenly, I was reminded of this quote that I read some time back “You are what u eat for your breakfast” Going by it, perhaps I, who am not having any breakfast, am nothing, Yes, at those times, I am a nobody, a person who doesn’t have any life of his own. Anyways, the fact that I had a sumptuous breakfast that day made me feel a bit better.
Coming back to the topic, I really like this quote. I find this to mean much more than a quote about your eating habits. How? Let us see.

Breakfast is the first meal of the day, something that lays foundation for the day to come. Dieticians have proved that the breakfast provides you the necessary jump-start after 6-8 hours of sleep. Those who skip breakfast often feel tired, restless or irritable in the morning. Having a healthy breakfast helps you get ready for the tensions, the physical challenges that wait for you in the next few hours.
Isn’t then this quote true for every other aspect of life as well?

A good start is an important ingredient of the success to come. Psychologists have proved that childhood experiences of a person have a bearing on his whole life. Good education, for instance, is the starting of a great career. And that’s why you find parents queuing up for the admissions of their kids in the best of the schools. Extend this example to the corporate world and you’ll find that companies, which started with a bang, continue to hold that advantage for years to come. When Srilanka won the World Cup Cricket in 1996, it was largely due to the flying start that Jayasurya provided them in the first 15 overs in most of the matches. Rightly said, the greatest buildings are the ones, which have strongest foundations.

But is a good start in itself sufficient to guarantee you success? No way!! Your breakfast, however nutritious it may be, can’t see you through the day by itself. You need to supplement that with a balanced lunch and a healthy dinner later in the day. I bet every one of us must be having stories of some schoolmates, who were quite promising in studies or some other field in those days, but managed to ruin their careers by not following up to the great start that they had. To succeed, you do need an Arvinda de-Silva in the middle order to cash on the great start that Jayasurya provides because after a great start, it’s all the more your responsibility to make sure that you live up to the opportunities that your great start has paved for you.

And what to do if you fail to get a good start. What if the situations that dictated your start were beyond your control? I remember many of my batchmates who kept ruing about their lack of schooling in English medium and they really faced a lot of problems in campus interviews. So can a bad start have an impact on your entire life? Can missing your breakfast spoil your entire day??

Yes, surely it can, but only as long as you allow it to. I talked about my batch-mates, who didn’t have English medium schooling, but still there were others, who had a similar academic background, but they worked hard over their weaknesses the next four years and they were among the first ones to get placed in the campus recruitment. On similar lines, not all of us got opportunities and environment for public speaking in our school-days, but all of us are having delicious toasts of great speeches as our breakfast right here at Toastmasters. So every time you feel that you’ve missed your breakfast, just remember the girl at the traffic signal I mentioned in the beginning. You can have your breakfast when you need it and are ready for it.

So a great start is really, really important. Whenever you can, work hard, make your plans meticulously, have the required training and education before you delve into that dream venture so that you have a great start. Follow it up with more hard work, more planning, but if you fail to get a great start, never mind; you still can be a winner if you want to. As they say, no-one can go back and make a brand new start; anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.

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amitbhatnagar on April 17, 2008

The first time I thought of having my own blog, I wasn’t sure of what I’d write there, but I was very clear about the URL that I want for that.. It had to have amitbhatnagar in it.. Luckily it wasn’t taken at blogger and I got my first blog : amitbhatnagar.blogspot.com

I wasn’t very regular there, but still I was quite frustrated when Blogger managed to miss the handle for my blog while switching from old version to new version. Having a fancy blog title (Spartan’s home, Racing towards Infinity etc) is different, but as far as the URL is concerned, I wished to have a personalised URL for my blog. Anything else was almost unacceptable to me. So moving to some other blog-publishing service was the only available option and that’s how this blog came into being. I feel that the URL should be crisp and easy to remember. And this was reflected in blogs of some of friends too (sandeepchandna.blogspot.com, anunaygupta.blogspot.com)

But it appears not all people think this way. Sample this:: cornucopiaofgobbledygook.blogspot.com: blog of one of my colleagues. It took me more than a minute to figure out that it’s actually not a randomly generated string of characters!!
And if this were not enough another of my friends (Akash) actually came up with a blog name formed of randomly-generated characters!! (http://nbqpprak.blogspot.com 😀 )
He wanted to have a title that represented his confused state of mind!! confusedsoul, confused, hotchpotch all were already taken..Suddenly the CAPTCHA string (word image used for verification) on the blog-registration form caught his eye and he came up with the worst blog-name that I’ve ever seen!! But yup,that successfully portrays what he wanted to use: confusion!!

Anyways, what’s in a name!! Having a personalized blog and not writing anything for months (That’s what I’m doing 🙁 ) is worse than having a bad blog name.  Welcome to the blogger community Akash.  Hope you’ll be regular on nbqpprak and keep on inspiring me to write here too..

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amitbhatnagar on December 14, 2007

I delivered my project #3 on November 6.
The title for Project #3 is “Get to the point” The expectations from this are that the project must have a General purpose (To entertain, to inform etc) and a specific purpose (something like to inform about ill-effects of procrastination). The entire speech should gel in well to support these purposes. And of-course No notes!!

Here’s the content of my speech:

Break the Chain!!

Did you know that if you’re being forced to withdraw money from ATM at gunpoint, you can inform the police by entering your pin in reverse?
Or that Coca-cola logo is a secret message directed against a particular religion and the blasphemous message is clear if you hold the logo in front of a mirror?
And off-course, you know that Bill Gates is sharing his fortune and you can be a beneficiary if you choose to forward a certain mail?

All of these seemingly unrelated examples are: appealing, interesting and informative; But the biggest connection is: Source of all of these are chain-mails and at the same time each of them is incorrect.

Mr. Toastmaster and fellow toastmasters,
My speech today is to urge you to break-the-chain:: to stop being part of chain-mails
Well, not all chain-mails are bad. My grudge is against the mails that seek to lure or threaten the recipient into forcefully continuing the chain: the ones, which are meant to spread hatred, superstitions or misinformation or simply to continue the chain. Yes, I’ve even seen a chain saying: let’s see how far it can get; just add your name to the list and forward it to your friends. Can it get any dumber than this??

At this juncture, many of you may be feeling what harm an innocuous forwarded mail can do even if it’s factually incorrect? This is what many of my friends argue. But believe me it’s more dangerous than it looks.

To start with, it can make you look like an idiot. Sample this: I got a mail from one of my juniors asking me to forward it to 10 guys and then press F6 five times. The mail claimed that after this, the name of my Secret admirer will appear on the screen. Such garbage coming from a software engineer!! I stopped reading his mails after that.

Many of us, who normally do not forward unsolicited mails, often give in to the emotional appeals and consider our job to the society done after forwarding such mails. I believe that most of us must have at some time received a mail regarding Red-Cross donating a cent for a cancer-struck child or for some 9/11 victim. What we don’t realize is the fact that we’re in fact causing more harm to the reputation and work of such organizations by forwarding unverified information about them. And then, they need to spend hundreds of man-hours for refuting the contents of the mail.

Coming to more serious effects:
Remember: often the original context of the mail is often lost in a chain and if some legal issue crops up and the mail is traced back to you, then you can be considered the author of that mail. Are you prepared to take that risk? Let us take a fictional scenario of Mr X, working for Microsoft, India, who gets a hoax-mail regarding a new virus attacking Windows XP. Mr. X forwards it to some of his friends thinking what’s wrong with being cautious. His friends forward it claiming “This comes from one of friends, who is working for Microsoft.” It won’t take more than two-three steps of the chain for that to become “This comes from officially from Microsoft” Very soon, MS is contacted for verification and when they trace the mail to their own employee, do you think it’s going to be easy for Mr X. I’ve read about employees losing their jobs on similar grounds.
Things can get worse for people who fall for such imaginary ideas. Think what can happen if you try the ATM trick and the tech-savvy robber gets to know that you were actually trying to inform the police.

Now that I believe I’ve managed to convince you against the dangers that this menace poses, here are some ideas to counter it.
The minimum we can do is not to be the source of any such message. A 2-minute search can reveal its falsehood. There’re sites like Break-the-chain and Hoax-slayer dedicated to the cause and they’ll give you scientific reasons why the particular message is hoax. But don’t stop at just ignoring the mail. If you’re able to establish the fakeness of the mail, do attack the source. Reply to the sender, mention the links and request him to write a damage control mail to recipients of this mail as well as the person from whom he got the mail. I know this may create a kind of reverse-chain, but this surely is worth it.
Further if you really like to forward something, ask yourself if you’re ready to be identified as the original source of message. Such simple steps and you’ve done your bit against this menace.

Dear Toastmasters, the e-mail is one of the best things to have happened to mankind in the field of communication. Let’s be responsible users and not abuse this great communication tool. We just need to use some common sense and follow some simple steps to Break-the-chain every time we encounter one!!

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amitbhatnagar on November 7, 2007

I conducted a quiz with my colleague Prajal within the print group some time back.
There was a decent turn-out with 13 teams (of three members each) turning up for the event. Five teams moved to the Finals on the basis of a written elimination round. The finals were won comfortably by the trio of Sugato, Reena and Akhilesh. Here are the questions (and Answers) from the elimination round of the Quiz. Most of the Qs are workable if you give them a little time.
As I had commented earlier too, the level of Quizzing even among the non-regular quizzers here is really impressive.
I really enjoyed conducting this quiz. Hopefully, I’ll be be back with another Quiz very soon.

The Print Technology Group Quiz

Elimination round Questions

  1. Shinshu Seiki launched an electronic printer named EP-101. Which brand gets its name from the next generation of printers termed as “Son of electronic printer”
  2. How many planets are there in the Solar System?
  3. (visual) His second name is Buyukkokten. His first name is something which is a rage world over. Give us his first name.
  4. Whose punchline “Life is our life’s work”?
  5. In 1276, a ruling was passed in England applying this term to events that occurred prior to 1189, the year in which Richard I ascended the throne. In 1832, this definition was abandoned as a legal term, but common use has prevailed. What term?
  6. How do you refer to an event that has a frequency of 1.16699016 × 10-8 Hertz?
  7. Identify the logo.. (Visual)
  8. Stanford University Network lends its name to something very well known in the IT world.. What’s that?
  9. IBM engineer David Bradley is credited with the invention of something called as “Three Finger Salute”. What exactly is TFS?
  10. In 1988, to commemorate the birth centenary of Pt Nehru, what was launched by Indian government?
  11. (Visual)Connect the dots by drawing four straight, continuous lines, and never lifting the pencil from the paper. The puzzle is difficult because people tend to confine their thinking to the square area defined by the nine dots. Once you get the catch, the puzzle is easy. Which English phrase originated from the solution?
  12. If Land of five waters (rivers) is Punjab, what is the term for “water of mischief”?
  13. What is the name of this great work of art (Visual)
  14. For what purpose is Snellen Chart used?
  15. Which brand of Indian TV set takes its name from a WWII rocket launcher?
  16. What does a cruciverbalist do?
  17. Eunoia is a rarely used term denoting a normal mental state. Root words: Eu + nous = good thinking. What’s special about this word?
  18. (visual) This is the hand of a person called Douglas Engelbart. He’s credited with invention of X and in this pic, he’s holding the first X that he created. What is X?
  19. What is claim to fame of a businessman named Bernard Weber?
  20. According to the Dilbert strip, this invention has freed more employees from work than any other. Prior to this, people answered the phone personally and found themselves doing more work because of it. Which invention?
  21. Anyone who has shopped online using a credit-card must enter something called CVV to complete the transaction. Expand CVV.
  22. (Visual) First names are Frank and Tony.Connection: Cricket.
    Give us their last names.
  23. Expand ICICI.
  24. Carob seeds were used as weights on precision scales because of their reputation for having a uniform weight. Which unit derives its name from these seeds?
  25. (Visual) Name him.

 

 

ANSWERS

  1. Epson
  2. Eight (Pluto is no longer a planet!!)
  3. Orkut
  4. Pfizer
  5. Time-immemorial
  6. Once in a blue moon
  7. Bank of Baroda
  8. SUN Microsystems
  9. Ctrl-Alt-Del
  10. Shatabdi Express
  11. Out-of-box Thinking
  12. Sharaab
  13. Vitruvian man
  14. Eye-sight testing
  15. Bazooka
  16. Creates (or solves) crosswords.
  17. Smallest word with all the five vowels
  18. The first computer mouse
  19. Seven New Wonders
  20. Voice Mail
  21. Card Validation Value
  22. Duckworth Lewis
  23. Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India
  24. Carat
  25. John Warnock

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amitbhatnagar on November 7, 2007

I delivered my project #2 on Sept 18,2007.

Following are the expectations from a Project #2 speech:

  • Select an appropriate outline which allows listeners to easily follow and understand your speech.
  • Make your message clear, with supporting material directly contributing to that message.
  • Use appropriate transitions when moving from one idea to another.
  • Create a strong opening and conclusion.

Time-limit:: 5-7 minutes.
And here’s what I spoke::

What’s in a name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Fellow Toastmasters, Mr. Toastmaster and Dear Guests

This was what Shakespeare said in Romeo and Juliet many years back.
Is really a name that unimportant? Or does it actually matter what name do you have? Let us see both sides of the names: names of persons, names of brands and names of places: we’ll explore them all.

If the names were really unimportant, why do companies spend billions searching for that key brand name? Why would politicians create such hullabaloo about changing the names of the cities and states? Why would parents go on surfing name databases endlessly before naming their children? Come on Mr. Shakespeare, even the name Rose has got an identity of its own. And you can find many sweet girls named as Rose after the beautiful flower. Not all girls named Rose are necessarily sweet-natured, but given a choice for a blind date, you’d surely like to meet a girl named Rose as compared to someone named let us say chickenpox. I know no one names her daughter that way, but if it were not for the name, why would you make that negative impression of the sweet girl named chickenpox even before meeting her? So isn’t it the name that’s driving the entire world?

After all, your name is your face to the rest of the world, it’s your first point of contact with a stranger; it’s your identity!!!
Well, not if you’re named something like Michael in the United States or Amit in India; In that case instead of being your identity, your name can give you a severe identity crisis. Just for the benefit of those who missed my ice-breaker, I’d like to mention again that there are 29 Amits working in Adobe, out of which six are in my team alone. We often have official mail interactions, in which the Developer Amit writes to the Quality Engineer Amit and the program manager Amit is marked a copy and it sometimes is confusing to figure out which Amit’ s Action items are stated in the mail.

Anyways, coming back to the original discussion; whatever your name may be, it is in fact your prime identity. And in case of a common first name, it’s your full name or even at times nickname that’ll provide you that identity.

In the corporate world, perhaps the names have become all the more important. The choice of a good brand name is considered critical for the success of a project. There are names which are taken as ambassadors of quality and even a new product from an established brand is in high demand even before the quality of the product is known.

A new height is reached when the name starts making the transition from being a Proper noun to a verb. The speech I’m delivering right now is supported by something known as Googling. Why to go any further when we’ve an example of the same here in Adobe itself? I believe everyone must be aware of the mantra in digital photography: Click it and then “Photoshop” it. The name has become a verb here!!! And it sells!!

So does it appear that the names are in fact the only things that matter? Was Shakespeare totally off-track when he made that remark? Are names really sufficient to take you to the path of success all on their own?

This may sound crazy, but there actually are people who believe that they can change their destinies by just changing their names. Recently a major bank not really popular for its services changed its name claiming “Nothing has changed except the name” I can almost hear the customers screaming: this was the only change we could have lived without.

And if the names were really that powerful, why are almost unimaginative company names like the ones named after the founders still popular? Hewlett-Packard and Bajaj are just few of such examples. Why would the two “Ritu Aroras” as mentioned in Ritu’s speech that day have two distinct destinies? Did you know that the Google brand, which we were discussing just now, is actually the result of a misspelling of Googol, the word for 10 raised to the power of 100? So if it were not misspelled initially, we could all have been happy Googoling stuff out whenever needed.

So what does all this lead us to? I still am confused: Do names matter or not? Digging a bit deep into it, we get to know that perhaps Shakespeare was at least a bit right.

I personally feel it works both ways. First you need to do your job, make your name and then onwards your name will make you out. So let us assume Google starts something new: let us say a new web browser: Google explorer. It’ll have a definite advantage over any non-existent name in the market: even over the Googol explorer if it ever comes up.

So Mr. Shakespeare, it wouldn’t have mattered if the flower were named something else in the first place itself, but now that the Rose has marked its name by becoming a symbol of Sweetness, love and beauty, calling someone/something as Rose does carry some weight and calling a Rose by any other name simply doesn’t make any practical sense.

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amitbhatnagar on November 1, 2007

Toastmasters

Starting today, I’ll be posting my prepared speeches for the Toastmasters Competent Communicator projects on this page. The purpose of posting here is not only to archive all my speeches at one place, but also to get inputs on the content from the visitors. (We do get oral and written evaluations in the TM meetings themselves, but additional evaluations don’t hurt. 🙂 )Further, The postings can also provide some inputs to new toastmasters googling for some ideas.

First project is titled: The Ice-breaker. The expectations from this one are quite simple: Just start speaking before an audience, learn what skills you already have and get the audience to know you better.

So here goes my project #1 speech. Titled: Racing towards Infinity. Delivered on June 26,2007

Do you remember that thin bespectacled guy in your class, ever so shy, ever so reserved, interested mostly in academic stuff? This was what I was when I was in my school.
Madam Toastmaster and fellow Toastmasters,
I am here to walk you through the journey of my life from that thin, geeky, reserved bespectacled student in my school days to…… well a thin geeky reserved bespectacled software engineer at Adobe.

I’ve titled this journey “Racing towards Infinity” Partly because it reflects my attitude to life. That life doesn’t have anything called as final destination. You’ve to keep achieving your mini-targets and keep on aiming for the higher ones. Another reason for the title is that I never miss a chance to publicize my blog. Google for this phrase and the first link that you get is mine.

Anyways, my life has many facets: an ardent reader, a passionate quizzer, a pathetic player of cricket or for that matter any other game. But I’ve decided to focus on one major aspect: me and public speaking, with glimpses of other events in my life.

The journey started about 25 years back and in yet another example of that generation’s obsession with Mr. Bachchan, my parents decided me to name me “Amit” Can you imagine I was one of 5 Amits in my branch and in first year, three out of four in my room were “Amits” Even presently, I am one of the 6 Amits in my team and the 29 Amits in Adobe India.

Carrying on, in my school days, I used to be good student. But when it came to public speaking, I always developed cold feet. But I never cared enough for that. I never thought that there’s anything in life that can not be attained by topping the class. First time I realized this seriously enough was in Class IX, when we were bidding farewell to our seniors. I had written a childish poem wishing good luck to the parting class. The program organizer really liked the effort and asked me to recite that in front of my classmates. I faltered and finally the organizer had to ask me if I’d mind if the poem in the main program is recited by anybody else. I hardly had any option left after my dismal performance.

Well.. schooldays got over and the next was the golden period of my life:: engineering at MNNIT, Allahabad. College-days!! Even a mention of those makes me nostalgic. Surely, those were the best days of life. Even for a geeky soul like me, the college-life represents four years of undiluted fun, life-long bonds of friendship, lots of learning and yes, if time permits, some studies.

It was towards the end of my first year, when I discussed with my close fiend Abhishek about the need to develop our communication skills. That was the beginning of “The beautiful minds”- a group of six guys and two gals formed with a common objective of learning to speak better. TBM was surely one of the best things that happened to me in my college life. We met every Sunday and held Group discussions and debates. TBM helped me find my voice. Right, the voice was quivery, the legs still shaky. Still I could muster courage to stand up and speak, when forced to do so. The initiative part was still missing.

Through campus interviews, I landed up a job at Computer Associates. Among other things, I found time for another geeky taste of mine: Quizzing. On meeting Sundar,a guy who had represented CA in a couple of quizzes, I told him that I’d love to start a Quiz Club at CA, but I don’t dare to do so because I’m a terrible speaker. Sundar told me about this great organization called Toastmasters International. He had been to the meeting once or twice and told me about how it functions. Particularly he stressed the importance of taking initiative alone and suggested that often taking initiative can give you the needed confidence. I could not start the Toastmasters @ CA, but I did organize one quiz at CA with acceptable level of success in term of public speaking.

After a year-long stint at CA, I decided to switch and landed up my dream job: the one at Adobe. Well… the dreams can be eye-opener at times. Just kidding, the last one year has really been a good learning experience for me. So once I was settled in my “dream job”, I asked myself “What next?” I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a better speaker and Toastmasters was the best option available. Fortunately many others shared this dream and Adobe management cooperated. The result is in front of you.

So finally here I am delivering my icebreaker and I know there are many things that I need to improve. I do target getting to the CC and CL levels next, but I’ve not marked any final target at which I’ll be satisfied with my communication skills. Because as they say, the race for perfection has no finish line

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amitbhatnagar on October 17, 2007

ToastmastersIt was about two years back that I first heard about Toastmasters.. I had just joined CA and was looking forward to participate in the Tata Crucible Corporate Quiz, The HR redirected me to Sundar, the only active quizzer she knew in CA. Sundar and I met in the cafeteria to discuss some “strategies” for preparation. I told him that I like quizzing and would love to start a quiz club at CA. But my problem with public speaking makes sure that I never take such initiatives. It was then that he mentioned Toastmasters and how it can be useful in overcoming stage fright. The quiz came and went and we never got a chance to go to a quiz together, but the idea of Toastmasters that Sundar mentioned was left in some corner of mind.

Some months later I joined Adobe, Noida. It took another quiz as a quizmaster to remind me of the Toastmasters. I was planning to host a quiz on Jan 26, 2007. Before taking the idea further, I started analyzing whether I’ll be able to do a decent job. At that time, I was again reminded of TM.. I wrote to Toastmasters International and also contacted HR department with this idea and initial support of 8 people interested.

I got a positive nod from HR and after a demo-meeting on April 10, 2007; we were in a position to charter for a Toastmasters Club at Adobe. Again I was apprehensive about the impression that I’ll be leaving as the organizer on the prospective members of this special interest group on public speaking, when I myself am not that good on this front. But I believe I did a fairly tolerable job at that because just after the demo-meeting, I got mails from a number of people indicating their interest in the club.

We got chartered on May 21, 2007. And it has been an amazing journey so far. In the words of a fellow toastmaster, Toastmasters Club is platform for falling, practicing and growing. There’s no failure, only feedbacks. Nobody here criticizes you for what you didn’t do correctly. Initially you’re applauded just for you effort. In your first prepared speech project, nobody expects you to display voice-modulation, good body-language or great eye-contact. The expectations are very simple: just start speaking before an audience.
At each of your performance, you are commended for all the good things that you did, then those things are pointed out which you could have done better. Please note that this is different from pointing out things that you didn’t do correctly. Essentially covers the same things, but the slight change in approach marks the Toastmaster difference. The difference that helps you grow gradually and then it’s time that you are applauded for your performance, not just for the effort.

The results of this conducive environment are already visible in the meetings of our club. We have had 18 meetings so far and have grown from initial 27 to 42 now. Members who initially struggled with even elementary roles like that of a Timer and a word-master have grown into confident speakers. Some members, who were already good speakers, have improved and become tremendous speakers, even for the table topics session, in which each participant is required to speak on a topic on his feet. I can even find the change in myself and I do believe that I am surely much, much better speaker as compared to what I was 4-5 months back. Off-course there’s always scope of improvement and I know I’ve miles to cover before I can call myself a good communicator and leader. But I’m sure that Toastmasters will see me through that journey.

We surely could not have grown so well without the regular support of our mentors Deepak Menon and Dr. Ritu Arora. They have been instrumental in everything that has happened with Adobe Toastmasters: the demo-meeting, the chartering of the club, the growth of the club, the improvements in the members and everything else that club has achieved. Thanks Deepak, Thanks Ritu!! I’m sure very soon, we’re going to attain another achievement under you:: the status of a Select Distinguished Club in the Toastmasters hierarchy.

Note::
Dear Visitor
If the above post, inspires you to know more about Toastmasters program, feel free to drop me a mail or leave a comment here.

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