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Finding my Shangri-la

Ankur Bora

Based on a true story

I grew up in an extended family, we had several families living under the same roof in our grandmother’s house. Our house was like the mini residential complex we see today. It had a huge front yard, a big pond and a lot of kids and playmates; each related to another in some way. Running barefoot, playing games, climbing trees to pluck mangoes, all of these that come to my mind when I think of my childhood. The most memorable part of my childhood was listening to grandma’s stories of a faraway, imaginary world. She spoke of a wonderful place , called Shangri-la - a place of complete bliss and delight, where everything is joyful.

Artwork by Hirak Medhi

I and all of my cousins used to walk to our neighborhood school. These walks were quite an adventure, full of fun and frolic. There were a few occasions, however, when fun turned to fear and apprehension. My cousin Bobby had seizers. They would occur out of nowhere and at anytime. Once we even found Bobby lying on the roadside after a seizure. It was the eighties. Most people were painfully unaware of this disorder epilepsy. Bobby was, of course , stigmatized by his classmates, and ridiculed mercilessly. Even adults joined in the ridicule whispering in hushed derision behind his back . They blamed Bobby’s suffering on his parents, on bad Karma - a consequence of their bad deeds.

Later, there was a period of several months when he was free of the seizers. Bobby was leading a normal life and we forgot about his disorder altogether. When he turned sixteen, we were invited to his birthday party . His parents made every effort and spared no expense– they decorated the house, Bobby mother prepared a fist, Spiced Cauliflower and Potato Casserole , relishing corn, pink cotton candy, and, and my favorite mango ice cream. Everyone was happy ! But then, the unthinkable happened. As Bobby was cutting his birthday cake, suddenly he began shaking head to toe . He lost consciousness and fell to the floor. His seizure was quite severe, the candles and the cake tumbled to the ground. Fortunately it lasted only a few seconds and Bobby recovered quickly, but the celebration turned sour. To his parents dismay , everyone left unceremoniously. Bobby’s mother was in tears; it was the first time I ever saw her cry. – Through her sobs she said - My son has no future. As she was crying, Grandma came to console her. Holding her close she said –Bobby will find his Shangri-la.

A few days later , a stray dog appeared in the compound. She was an old, skinny and almost hairless. No one paid any attention to this poor little wretch. But Bobby instantly connected with her. He identified with her and named her Tobby – to rhyme with Bobby!! Tobby quickly bonded with him as well. Every morning Tobby would escort Bobby to school. In the afternoon, she could be seen patiently waiting at school to escort her friend home. She would bark and jump around and make a big fuss until Bobby kneeled to say hello! Over time, Tobby learned to alert us when Bobby was going to have a seizure. This had a miraculous effect on us. Bobby slept with the comfort of knowing that Tobby was there to protect him. Friends, it was a blessing for all us to see Bobby living a normal life. For me it was my happiest memory watching these two outcasts bond and live a happy life.

Tobby was quite old and her time with Bobby was very short. They supported and loved each other until Tobby closed her eyes for the last time. In this short period however, she created the most loving place, a place breaming with unconditional love, peace, and support for her master.

Friends, Shangri-la lies within the heart and soul of each and every one of us. Shangri-la does not exist “out there”. It is not found in some idyllic places. We can all create our own personal space of contentment, love, and a living paradise on earth, right here right now. Just as Bobby and Tobby created their Shangri-la on their way home from school.

Toastmaster Evaluation by Thomas Goodwin

General Comments

You excelled at:

Your enthusiasm was palatable. You just jumped right into your presentation. You exuded confidence. You enunciated some nice words: 'stigmatized', and 'mercilessly' You set up a stage with your opening as you started your story.

You may want to work on:

With a little bit more rehearsal you won't go over time. I would recommend doing a recording of your presentation. While we are our own worse critics, you can see what the audience sees, and adjust from there

To challenge yourself:

To get to the time limit you are going to want to rehearse. then rehearse. and rehearse again. If You can get comfortable that you can present without notes, that would be terrific. With a little refinement, this could be a contest speech.

Toastmaster Evaluation by Bob Turel

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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