My dad was a man of few words. He said what he needed to say, when it mattered, and that was all. My mother was the exact opposite ; she was extroverted, vivacious and always engaged in life. Every day, when I returned from school, I sat down at the kitchen table with my mother. Occasionally my father joined even though he hardly spoke. The kitchen was the center of my universe; I loved to laugh and tell stories, and the kitchen was where it all happened. Friends, it was also where I truly learned to appreciate my dad – how much he loved us, and it was where I decided to run the race of my life.
When I grew up, there was not a separate middle school. From fifth until the tenth grade, we boys studied in the same schoolhouse which was the high school. There was school uniform, and everyone attended school wearing a navy-blue shirt and khaki pants – Long pants or half pants. Now, what here in America called shorts, in India they are called half pants. At that time, most boys in fifth and sixth grade wore half pants. But when we entered seventh grade some of the boys started wearing long pants. Wearing long pants meant that you were a big boy, that you were growing up, that you were a young adult but if you continued to wear half pants you were considered a little boy, a cry baby. Soon the rest of the kids followed the pack, and I was the only one left wearing half pants. There was no relief in sight, how had this happened to me? My dad always bought new clothes including school uniforms for us, but only in the month of April. April ushered in the festive season – the 14th of April was considered the beginning of the new year and in many places in India it was celebrated with food, music, song and dance. That day was like Christmas morning. We four brothers lined up to receive the gifts as my dad showered us with new shoes, shirts, and trousers. But that year I was not happy since I needed to wait months to receive the trousers and the long pants.
By end of January, the boys in my seventh-grade class started picking on me. The teasing was severe especially during the afternoon when I walked home from school. It was around a fifteen-minute walk between the schoolhouse and my house, and I had to put up with the humiliation all along. The fifteen-minute walk felt like an eternity. I was pretty upset when I arrived home. So, there I was, sitting at the kitchen table, my eyes on the verge of tears, telling my mother how all the other boys in the seventh-grade were wearing long pants. “Why can’t I? Everyone was laughing at me,” I said. My mom tried to calm me down. “You will get them.” She reassured me “you just need to wait” But I became more upset and vented my anger, “My dad doesn’t understand my humiliation” I told her. “Why can he get them for me now?” I was almost shouting. My mom was taken aback; she had never seen such defiance from me. “Do you want to know why it takes time?”
I sat there as she described the making of dad’s gift. There was a local tailor, Rahman, who was quite popular in our locality. Every year, at onset of Spring, Rahman would visit us and take the measurements of every one of us. Dad would visit the local cloth store and buy the material as per the measurements. Finally, my dad would bring the half pants, long pants, shirts – we were happy! She stood up from the kitchen table, “Your dad has been bringing these gifts since you were one year old. He loves Rahman, the local clothing store and he loves seeing you all happy. Do you want to break his heart just because of a bunch of kids at your school?” She walked out of the Kitchen before I could utter a single word. I sat there in silence. The very next morning, I got up and put on my half pants and went to school. While some of the boys continued to tease me, I tried not to let it bother me.
In the month of March , we had the high school sports week. There was lot of excitement as nearby school students also came to see us. I decided to run the 100-meter dash, the last, the most intense and the most anticipated event. I lined up for the race along with the other boys. Everyone in their long pants, everyone except me - I was wearing my half pants.
“On your marks” – I squatted down and put my hand on the ground.
“Set” - I leaned into my front right leg.
“Pow” - The gun shot was fired, I started to run
I ran as fast as I could, I just ran and ran and ran, I had a distinct advantage in my half pants over the boys who wore the long pants. My heart was pounding, my breathing was heavy; as the other boys closed in behind me I increased my speed , I ran as if there was no tomorrow, I began to hear the cheering of the crowd on the side of the field and then I passed the finished line. Friends, I won.
The race was a turning point in my life. It was thirty years ago but I continue to run the race of life. Last year I ran the BMW Dallas Marathon - it was to raise money for some of the theater artists ( https://www.shilpisewa.com/) in my home state who lost their livelihood during the pandemic. As I wore the Marathon finisher shirt and held the winner medal high, I knew my dad would be proud. My dad is no more; he passed away last year but he continues to inspire me. My dad was a man of few words, but he taught me that I need not care about being mocked for my unique views, that one person can make a difference, and, that I if I want to change the world, starting with my community, I need to be the kind of person who is willing to run the race of life in half pants.
Video of the speech
Toastmasters Evaluation by Ron Amberg
Intrigue! Your speech title "My dad and running a life's race in half pants" in concordance with your BMW Dallas Marathon attire (in half pants!) really drew your audience in! Wonderful explanation of what 'half pants' means in India as contrasted with 'shorts' in America. I loved learning that the kitchen was the center of your universe when you were growing up. I was compelled to think of lessons I learned from my own dad, as I was listening to your stories.
Less usage of an easel. I have observed many of your speeches have included an easel to hold photos as visual aids to your topics. When I evaluated you in September of 2021 for your "Life is beautiful" speech about Wally Funk, you had a photo of her on an easel. I was very impressed with your June 2022 speech with only you in your BMW Dallas Marathon attire as a much more effective visual aid.
Relate more of your India background. In your June 30th speech, we learned about 'half pants' and 'long pants'--how much that really affected you when growing up. What other India traditions have created the uniqueness of 'you' here in America?
Most notable was the kneeling down and readiness portrayed for the 100-meter dash school event. Your speech title - "... race in half pants" drew your audience in from the get-go. We wanted to hear your story. Your confidence level is improving with all of the many speeches you have presented at TNT. Your attire was very much in concordance with your narrative. Personal stories based on your own life experiences are always the easiest to relate to
Inputs by Amy Nelson
Ankur Bora brought out humor in his speech “My Dad and Running a Life’s Race in Half Pants”. This was the first time he used humor as a primary vehicle to inspire us in his story of how an experience in his youth helped shape who he is today.