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Toastmasters speech one (Ice Breaker) – The Elusive Word

August 23, 2012

Just came back from my toastmaster’s speech one – Ice breaker. The objective of this speech is to give a glimpse of me by giving a few aspects of my life so that fellow members can understand me as an individual. The speech should last anywhere between 4-6mins.

The following is the text of my speech. I will give the evaluations I got in a separate post. The speech was definitely not given verbatim. There were some points I missed. The points I missed are in the strike through.

The Elusive Word

Good evening toastmaster of the day, fellow toastmasters and guests. It has been about sixteen years since I have given a speech. The last was in my high school when I was a regular at elocution competitions. Although easy as it may seem, describing oneself in a speech to last 5 minutes is tricky. As one my mentors and philosophers Alan Watts pointed out we are described by our past and our future is predicted based on it. What we are at the present moment doesn’t come into picture at all. I have to describe myself from what I am not now, described by what is non-existent! And isn’t that so confounding?

In spite of this perplexing philosophical contradiction, I will try to describe myself in the convention that we all have come to agree as to what we are.  In brief I will tell you the story of my journey through some experiences and while we are at it, I am hoping you will at least appreciate it if not enjoy hearing it.

So, here it goes. I am Yoga. No, I don’t do Yoga. I am Yoga. I grew up in Visakhapatnam, also called Vizag, a coastal city in southern India. Vizag is somewhat like Leuven, a bit laidback and intellectual. Not much of a history (I understand Leuven has lot of history) but Vizag was more of a place where people from elsewhere came and settled for the opportunities it had to offer. I had a lovely childhood, pretty carefree, and fortunate enough to have my childhood friendships survive to this day. I did my schooling and bachelors in Metallurgical engineering. 

I would say my life has been a collection of disruptive events in many ways – at least to me. After my undergrad, I moved to the USA to do my PHD in Materials Science and Engineering.  I completed my PhD in Materials Science and engineering in 2005 December. After my PhD I moved to California when I got a job in Applied Materials. Those were the days I would rate the best learning periods in my life – touched by love, friendships, ideological inclinations, developing a world view, and a time when I had very less money but abundant joy and least worries of all. It was during my undergrad and later in my grad school in the USA that I developed very deep friendships and nurture them even to this day. Around the same time, I got married – a marriage that was like Vodka on the rocks – after the initial heat fizzled out, only the rocks remained eventually leading to a divorce.

It was a time to do some soul-searching and I cut down my life into the most essential bits. I had to search for the meaning of my life. As it turns out, around the same rocky times, I had the fortune of traveling to parts of Europe and Asia, when I was in Applied on business and personal trips.

For long I always wondered why my country was poor. In an otherwise impoverished country, I was fortunate to have good health, education and all the joys that life had to offer. It was these travels that triggered an interest in finding an answer to why my country is poor which has always bothered me for long. Not until I met a development economist in the summer of 2009, July 24th was the precise date, that my thinking and life changed. It was then the answers to the question of why my country was poor dawned on me. That was the day I consider as the day that divided my life – a life before meeting my mentor and after meeting my mentor. One striking aspect that made a deep impact on me during my first conversation with him was what he said: “If you want to solve poverty problem, just strive to be the best at what you are good at, or what you are doing” and this is where my passion for doing impactful work and living the good life comes from as I wake up and start my day.

In a nutshell, my life right now revolves around my work, my goal of understanding poverty and people. My work is growth of gallium nitride by metalorganic chemical vapor deposition. Don’t worry if you don’t understand it (even I don’t!).  To understand poverty problem, I started learning basic economics which is also understanding people behavior. This is where my passion for people and interest in economics go together as economics is essentially people behavior. I like meeting people, and whenever I meet them I ask questions about themselves, what is it that they value, their background, their dreams, their work, blabla… I compulsively ask these questions when I meet some people akin to gathering information like a social networking site. In addition, I like to write poems, and now would like to venture into writing memoirs and short stories.

When my life breezes by, when my obituary is read, I would like to be remembered as simple, minimalist, a good friend who was always there (even out of facebook!), a sincere worker, a compassionate soul, and someone who dreamt of dying in a developed India.

And who am I?… I really don’t know. Mr Toastmaster of the evening, fellow toastmasters and guests: “

“I am the word that eludes me

As I try to tune my life’s song

When in agony and ecstasy my heart cries out aloud

To write it all…”



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