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Finding my Shangri-la

Ankur Bora

Imagine a place where you are adored as if you are the most important person on earth ; you are welcomed eagerly and enthusiastically when you come home, and there is someone who always plays with you when you are happy and stays beside you when you are sad. This is a place where someone loves you unconditionally whether you are rich or poor, popular or lonely, able-bodied or disabled. When I was still young, I watched as my cousin found such a place which I called his Shangri-la, a heaven. This is the story not about me but about a four-footed creature named Tabby and it’s special bonding with my cousin Bobby who had epilepsy. Friends, watching my cousin finding his Shangri-la was the happiest thing that had ever happened to me, and as this story unfolds you will see how and why.

It was the early eighties. The treatment for epilepsy was in its infancy; there were no concepts like support groups and people were painfully unaware of the disease. Bobby suffered occasional seizures; however, they would strike anytime. The uncertainty caused a lot of strain upon his parents. People often found Bobby lying in the roadside after a seizure. He was even stigmatized at school by the other boys who ridiculed and made fun of him because he had seizures.

My aunt, mother of Bobby was a sweet natured lady who loved to entertain people. Once me and my cousins were all invited by her to the twelfth birthday party of Bobby. His parents made every effort – they decorated the house and even invited a popular singer from our town. But then something unthinkable happened - when Bobby was about to cut his cake, he had a seizure. He fell to the floor shaking from head to toe. His father had to cram a cloth in his mouth to prevent him from biting his tongue. The seizure was quite severe, the candles and the cake had fallen to the ground. Although it lasted only a few seconds and Bobby recovered, the celebration had turned sour and everyone was leaving unceremoniously. My aunt was in tears; it was the first time I saw her cry.

It was a hopeless situation; I wondered what the future held for Bobby. But then an amazing turn of events took place. Something magical happened. One day, a stray dog appeared in the compound where we and several other families lived. It was an elderly, emaciated, virtually hairless creature who also appeared to be partly deaf and blind. While no one noticed this poor little wretch of a dog, Bobby instantly connected to her. He identified with her and named her Tabby – to rhyme with Bobby!!

Thus Tabby, a dog with so many challenges, found her perfect home with a boy who needed her as much as she needed him. While others made fun of him, Tabby quickly bonded with him. Every morning Tabby would follow Bobby as he walked to the nearby neighborhood school, and in the afternoon, she would bark and jump around until her friend kneeled to say hello! She insisted on being cuddled by Bobby and only when she had her fill would she happily go back to napping. Tabby thus not only found her perfect home, but her perfect job, where she enriched, enlivened, encouraged, and inspired a young boy.

Over time, Bobby’s parents experienced something extraordinary. Whereas in the past they were always waiting for the next seizure to happen, they were now witnessing Bobby almost living a normal life. Through tears, my aunt told us how Bobby was no longer afraid to go to bed at night, as he had no fear of the seizures that would wake him from sleep terrified. She was relieved knowing that Tabby was in the room with Bobby to check on him. Now if Bobby wanted to go outside to play, he did not have to be shadowed by his mother constantly. Tabby was with him to protect him. My Aunt’s joy knew no bounds when from a distance she would watch, smiling, as the two indefatigable spirits played on.

Tabby was quite old and her time with Bobby was short. They supported and cared for one another until Tabby closed her eyes for the final time. But within that short period, she created the most loving place, a place thriving with unconditional love for her master.

Friends, Shangri-la – the heaven is within each of us. It’s our selfishness, our prejudice and our ego that prevent us from reaching our Shangri-la. Tabby, the little wretch of a dog, saw Bobby as he was, healed his wounds and warmed his heart. I cherish that childhood memory, her selfless nurturing of my cousin brother and how she made us realize if we love unconditionally, we have a lot to give and receive from one another and we can create our own Shangri-la.

( Based on a true story)

The Toastmasters Speech

Toastmaster Evaluation

Bob Turel is a distinguished Toastmaster who has been offering personalized speech feedback to any Toastmaster anywhere in the world.

Positives -1:

• Excellent use of camera frame - you in center with lens at parallel to your upper torso.

• I liked your use of gestures to emphasize parts of your speech "Imagine a place where you are adored ." "decorated the whole house ..."

• Nice use of the Rule of Three when outlining how Shangrila is in each of us at closing.

• You used some mobility - stepping to the right of the lectern to make a point - strategically.

Potential Opportunities:

• At times, I was distracted by the pace of speaking. It seemed you might be checking your speech notes?

o Rehearsals (using video) can assist with this, as the more you tell a story, the more you can recall your memories of the events easier.

Positives -2:

• A touching use of a personal story to make your point about unconditional love.

• Effective use of facial expressions to demonstrate emotion at times in your story.

• Your closing message had a point that I can relate to, which makes your point memorable.

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