Breaking the iceberg

I broke the ice in my first speech. Many of us do not see or connect with the iceberg beneath. I am talking about our inner feelings, our subconscious, who we are, and how we become the people we become. These are thoughts that continue to haunt us for most of our lives. Some of us ignore those thoughts and live a seemingly normal life. Others struggle to find answers; they adopt noble ideas, model themselves after successful people, and strive to work towards their goals. Today I am going to talk about Arun who is on the path of self realization. Arun is a dear friend of mine. We grew up together. We share a lot of similarities and quite a bit of stories. His life has inspired me.

Arun grew up with his grandparents. His father had a transferable job and for the sake of education he left Arun with his grandparents at the age of two. Arun did not know what was happening and so he did not question the logic behind it. Arun told me that for a long time he did not know whether he had parents. Whenever he was invited to his friends’ birthday parties he wondered about it. He was scared to ask his imposing grandmother.

When Arun was eight his grandmother took him on a train journey that lasted two days. At the end of it, when he got on to the platform his grandmother pointed out to two people and said, “Arun, these are your parents.” Arun did not know what to make of the situation. He realized then his family had suddenly become bigger. He had a younger brother too. Life was beginning to get comfortable. For two months he played with his brother. Now it was time to go back. Arun’s heart broke. He bid goodbye to his family and returned to his grandparents.

Before long Arun was told that he had one more brother; he was now the eldest of three. He wished he had one of them to play with. That was the first time he wished for something and it was granted. His second brother was ready for school and he joined Arun at the grandparents’ house. By the time Arun was 10 his grandfather died. His father thought that Arun’s grandmother may find it difficult to manage two children on her own. So he shipped them off to an uncle’s house about 100 miles away.

Arun and his brother clung to each other in a strange place among strange people. The uncle had two sons of his own. Arun took on the role of a mother. He protected his younger brother from all elements. He fed him, clothed him. It was as if he was clinging on to something sane. The uncle found it difficult to manage four kids. Arun’s brother was taken away from him, back to live with the parents. Arun’s world fell apart again. But he never cried. He had by then learnt to control his tears. He withdrew into himself. You could find him in dark corners. He was calm outside. That was just the tip of the iceberg. I think that he had shut out many parts of his childhood even from himself. I was the only person who could get through to him.

Arun ran away twice from home. He told me that the first time he did not run away. It happened during his second summer holiday with his parents. One evening a neighbour’s son kidnapped Arun. All hell broke loose. He was returned after two hours. When he came back Arun had his head shaved and had an ice cream cone in his hand. He never talked about it.

We went through school and college together. We chased girls. After his graduation, Arun’s father wanted him to study for law and asked him to live with him. He felt he had gone to live with strangers. After a month he ran away to his uncle’s place. Later he left for Bombay where he managed to get a good job. He married and settled down.

We went our separate ways and contacted each other years later. He filled me in with the rest of his story. This person whom he married became his emotional pillar. He loved her with every fiber in his body and started putting his life back together. Till then he hardly spoke. He preferred to sit at home rather than visit family or friends.

Arun had many moments in life where he was at the cross roads. By luck or good fortune he stayed on the road that led to growth and success. He continued to search for what he wanted in life. He never lost focus. He devoured books and classics. He read autobiographies of successful people. He tried to model his life after some of them. He adopted their ideas and beliefs. Every day he read at least one chapter from his favorite motivational author. He made a list of what he wanted to become and every day he wrote it down in his journal repeating it line by line. And then he joined Toastmasters.

Toastmasters gave him a new lease of life and the self confidence he says he always lacked. The people there became a sort of extended family. He found himself peeling off layer after layer of emotional burden. A new Arun emerged. When I heard his story my eyes were wet. But he urged me to look at the positive side of things. He quoted Marcus Aurelius, ‘Our life is what our thoughts make of it.’ Every one of us has a story to tell. But how we look at it and what we learn from our experiences is what makes a person a man or a woman. Ask yourself the question every day till you get an answer. “What is my purpose in life?” We have choices. Act accordingly. Do what is right.

Arun inspired me to join Toastmasters. I am also proud to say that I consider my fellow Toastmasters as my second family.

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