Mountain climbs lead to stellar views

If you are expecting this post to be a blow by blow account of my mountain trekking experience, then I’m sorry to burst your bubble.  My post is about climbing mountains but they are very different from the rocky ones.

Mountain climbing needs a lot of training, practice, self-discipline, determination, patience and above all a belief that you can do it. The day you make use of all these skills and climb a mountain you realise that although the journey was tough- it was totally worth it because nothing comes close to that heart- tingling, mind –numbing feeling you get while standing atop a mountain and looking at the gorgeous view below.

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I believe every challenge is like scaling a mountain and if you have the right attitude then you are bound to succeed, but we often forget to appreciate the people who helped us get there in the first place. When I was in school I had to scale one particularly difficult mountain but I managed to reach the top and a big reason for that was my principal…..

February, 2008

As I walked down my school steps, I felt butterflies in my stomach. I was going to meet the principal and I knew that she wanted to talk to me about the inter-school Hindi elocution competition. It was indeed an honour to be the ‘chosen one’ and represent my school at the prestigious competition but I was a bit anxious, after all it was a huge responsibility.  I was asked to prepare a speech on one of the freedom fighters who had sacrificed their life for India’s independence. I chose to narrate the valiant struggles of Bhagat Singh.

I knocked softy on the door and asked, “May I come in?”

“Yes, come in,” said Dr Janki Ananthakrishnan.

Dr. Ananthakrishnan was a tough woman, with a Ph.D. in economics. At just five feet, she was quite short, but that did nothing to dispel her aura and personality as a strict and intimidating principal. Always swathed in kanjivaram sarees, she was known for her stern demeanour and no-nonsense attitude.

“So, are you done preparing for your speech?” she inquired, looking at me with her glasses perched precariously low on her nose.

“Yes ma’am!”

“Good, then I would like to listen to it, please start.”

I was slightly taken aback by her request as I had not anticipated this but nonetheless I gave my speech.

After I was done, she gave a slight nod and said, “You need more practice. Meet me again tomorrow and work on you voice modulation.”

After that, every day I would go to her office and rehearse my speech in front of her. She would patiently listen to me, but somehow she never seemed to be satisfied, always giving more pointers and suggestions on how to improve my public speaking skills. Not even once did she appreciate my efforts or say any encouraging words to motivate me. I worked day and night to perfect my speech but it seemed to me that it was never enough for my principal. Every day I would depart with the same advice- ‘you can do better’. This stoic behaviour often left me feeling discouraged and dejected.

Whenever I complained about this to my mother she would console me, saying that I musn’t give up and should gracefully accept my principal’s criticism. So I practiced my speech every day with the sole motive of giving my best.

On the day of the competition, I reached the venue- Jamnabai School early in the morning. The school hall was packed with students, teachers and parents. At first I was a little nervous, since this was the first time I was participating in an inter- school competition but the moment I stood on stage and started giving my speech, my nervousness melted away like ice in hot weather.

When I finished, the hall was filled with the sound of applause. I felt relieved and happy that my speech had gone well. I didn’t know whether I would win the competition or not, but I was satisfied because I had given it my best.

During the time of results, my mouth went dry and my heart hammered in my chest as I saw the judges go up on the stage to announce the winners. After the third and second prize winners were announced, the entire hall lapsed into silence. Everyone waited with baited breath for the winner’s name.

“And the first prize goes to………Kinjal Barchha from Walsingham House School! Congratulations!”

It felt surreal to hear my name amidst thunderous applause. My hard work and dedication had finally paid off. Giddy with happiness, I went up on the stage to collect my trophy. It was beyond doubt a very special moment for me.

The next day, my principal announced during the morning assembly that I had won the inter-school competition and handed the trophy to me in front of the entire school. When I looked up at her, I was surprised to see my formidable principal flash a big smile at me. That was probably the first time I saw her smile.

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I cannot take full credit for my success because I wouldn’t have won the trophy without my principal who gave me the right tips and guidance to scale that particularly gargantuan mountain. While I detested her generous criticism and need for exacting precision while delivering my speech, I have to admit that her constant nudging prevented me from becoming complacent and for that I’m eternally grateful to my Principal. It’s always the tough coach that produces a winner. So friends… go climb mountains, enjoy the stunning view but don’t forget to look back and thank the coach who made it all possible!

 

 

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