Thursday, February 26, 2009


13th May 2008...

“Akram! Darwaza khol…. Akram!” An impatient palm slapped the wooden door. “… kya so gaya kya?” Another knock and then Akram heard footsteps going down the stairs. He heard two distinct footsteps… one, a rubber soled shuffle and the other, a rather awkward descent on stilettos. Akram looked around the one room set-up; un-ironed clothes heaped on the bed, empty bottles rolling like downed pins on the mosaic floor, and at the compose strip in his hand… How many would he need, he wondered….?

Two years ago…..

Akram was one of those shy studious characters, good with books and awkward with people. Salt of the cow-belt earth, Akram, by sheer dint of effort had come to be a student of the post-graduate programme at one of the country’s premier B-schools. His family tended to their ancestral medium-sized farms in UP. But Akram was ambitious, and instead of letting his rural background hold him back, he jumped into the whirl of an urban education, first in for his graduation and then reached Delhi for his MBA.

It wasn’t going to be easy. His phenomenal ability to process objective information gave him an advantage in quantitative subjects but the high glamour events like debates and presentations would leave him feeling miserable. Though sound with grammar when writing, his spoken English was marred by errors, a thick accent and a tendency to slur… To compound matters, Akram was sensitive. Whenever his tongue would betray him in class, he would lose his bearings, start sweating and slurring… his eyes would roll and his heart would thump louder and louder until every other sound would get sucked out of his world…

Akram felt like a bird whose wings had been clipped. His high flying dreams had crashed to the ground, tripped by an upbringing that seemed decidedly coarse next to his slick and urbane classmates. Humiliated and helpless after another presentation that had gone wrong, Akram went off into an empty classroom and gave in to his frustrations… he screamed… and he screamed out loud, cursing himself, the English language and his fate. He heard knock on the classroom door… he stopped. It was Mr B, the Executive Communication faculty who’d been taking a session next door. “What’s wrong, Akram?”, asked Mr B Akram liked whatever he’d seen of Mr B in the two sessions they’d had so far, and in his desperation, he bared his soul. B smiled and told Akram to see him in the class the next day.

On the day, Akram found himself in the class with 15 other students, who, like him, seemed to find the language difficult to handle and their complexes had given birth to inner demons that hounded them. “We communicate because we want to touch lives and move minds, and that objective should never be lost” said B. “We are creatures of emotion and it’s our emotional existence that tells us, and the world that we are alive. To put a spin on what Descartes said, ‘I feel, therefore I am’. So, don’t worry about what you say… focus on how you say it and on making your audience feel it… if you speak with passion, energy, emotions and have a story, the errors will fade away”. Then B gave them an assignment. All the students were given a historical character of their choice, from Adolf Hitler to Mao Tse tung; then they were given historical situations wherein they had to address a large gathering and inspire them into action as those greats from history. The 16 of them had to build a speech around the occasion and invoke the fire of that character into it. Akram picked Sir William Wallace, the valiant Scottish hero who fought against the English…

Once all the students were ready, B wished them and said “Don’t speak to us, your audience, but speak to our hearts, for that’s what matters…” When Akram got up to speak, his big brown eyes pierced into the mass of students. He unbuttoned his jacket and pointed at his audience, and with a voice that roared like a wounded lion, he said “Children of Scotland, hear me speak….

I am William Wallace…..”. That day, the fire in Akram’s heart singed the audience’s soul. The errors were still there but Akram didn’t care, for he spoke like a man possessed… He got a standing ovation and Mr B and his friends hugged him. Then on, Akram, in spite of his limitations, became a star speaker who never failed to move and impress his audience.

The leaves changed colour and the trimester drew to a close. Akram lost touch with Mr B as he got busy with his specialisation. And then a big presentation came up. Akram was sure he’d do well but when the big day came up, he forgot his lines, and worse, he seemed uninvolved. His teachers and friends were disappointed but Akram didn’t care. It’ll be ok the next time, he felt. But it wasn’t ok… again, he botched his lines and was as limp as a wet cracker… But Akram didn’t care, it’ll be ok, he told himself. But how could it be ok, for hubris had set in. He’d become lazy, complacent and cocky. Living in denial, the once shy Akram, who had become the champion and inspiration for all underdogs had now hit a reckless downward spiral. He drowned himself in alcohol, missed classes, spent all he had to buy sex and smoke pot. Soon enough, it was placement season and Akram got rejected by all comers. His early track record and laurels got him to the interview table but he was such a wreck by then that he found no takers… That was December 2007. There was a deluge of companies coming in for placements. January, February, March, April and then May… Almost all his friends were placed in the organisations of their dreams, and yet their hero Akram lay alone in a room. Broke, jobless and perennially drunk… And that’s where we found him at the top of the page, on the 13th of May, alone in his room with a bunch of sleeping pills in his hand… feeling like a loser who wanted to end it all…

Maybe you should hear the rest of the story in his own words….

“ …then I cried like a baby… I cried and cried till I could cry no more… I looked at the pills and I looked at the walls around me. These walls had been my only friend for the last six months… they had seen me rise, they had seen me fall… and then I saw those big bold words I had scribbled on the wall… words I’d been blind to for all these months… words that had once inspired me to become the Akram who everybody admired… words that said – I AM WILLIAM WALLACE! I read those words again and again and something in me moved… I stood up, shakily at first and then with conviction… I looked up at the fan and at the walls, thumped my chest and screamed “I AM WILLIAM WALLACE!” I said those long forgotten words again and memories of that day came flooding back… the thunderous applause, the hugs, the tears of joy… it all came rushing back… I saw my eyes in the mirror and saw a spark flicker. I threw the pills and the bottles away, clearing the cobwebs in my room and my life, chasing the old fire that once burned within me…

On May 16th, I sat for an interview with one of the biggest banks in the country. I was selected. The same with interviews on the 21st and 27th… then on May 31st, I got through an interview that found me a job in the Emirates. Today, I live in a penthouse, drive a nice car and draw a salary that is comparable with the best from my country…

And it all turned around for me in one day, in that one hour on the 13th of May, when I went from being a man without hope, a man who wanted to end his life, to a man who believed he still had it in him to beat the odds and live his dreams…

Sometimes, life can seem so knotted and wretched, or our own sins so shameful that one can’t bear to take another breath. But all one has to do is look back on that one day in your life when you had found meaning and love. Then that dusty memory, and not our current misery, will magically become the axis of our future. It happened to me… it can happen to anyone… thanks for being there - Akram”

How do I know all this? Just the other day I received an e-mail… the subject said – ‘Mr B, I am William Wallace!’



  1. hii sir
    Such a inspiring story,and i think this should reach to each and every youngsters..


    Do Indians have it in them to implement & materialize paperless Office Dream before any other nation of the world?Or Not?

    On an average, every worthwhile literate/educated Indian spends about 1/2 an hour to 1 hour filling a form.
    Another 1 Hour to make a Demand Draft (DD).
    Another 1/2 an hour to post it.
    Also dont forget to add cost of Travelling (logistic cost) at all these stages.

    ==> 2 - 2+(1/2) hours of one's life + Petrol Cost,
    Just to apply for a post whose (chances of selection is Nil (0.0001%))

    That's the bloody hell life in India.

    Do Indians have it in them (the technological prowess) to start printing Demand Drafts (DDs) from all ATM machines of all banks in India?

    Or are they enjoying the so called stupid bureaucratic babugiri syndrome treatment meted out to them by the bank staff?

    Do Indians have it in them to implement & materialize paperless Office Dream before any other nation of the world?

    By the way, when is a nation wide Unified Identity Management System coming in place?
    No more need to run like dogs for attesting your truth (your documents)
    And disturbing your lecturers & professors from their Research Work in Progress in Indian Interests?

    Is it a circus going on or what?

  3. hey such an inspiring stry tht was....really shook me banerji i came to know of ur blog through ur column in "the sunday indian" and i must say i really admire your stories.keep up the gud work
    swati dheer