Once upon a time a humble fire-cracker found himself sitting among fiery explosives & earth-shaking bazookas and discussing "Media - A Mixed Blessing!" I coughed. And looking around... swallowed it!
Having registered myself for the Virtual Group Discussion conducted by TestFunda, I thought "A thousand mile journey is begun by taking the first step". And when the eventful 15 minute ended, I realized that "I definitely had thousands of miles to journey".
The GD was scheduled at 6 pm. I was defensive even before the session began. Holding an umbrella, I was waiting for the rain. The last time I had so loud a heartbeat was when I proposed to a girl and she contemptuously banged her "all-in-one" handbag on my chest. This emotional trauma outshone that physical assault any day. The hourglass showed that there were exactly 45 minutes to the start. I logged onto Skype and waited for the rain. 15 minutes later, I read the GD topic on the TestFunda forum................. I couldn't believe I had asthma! No one in my family had it.
I read aloud - "Media - A Mixed Blessing". I could hear myself. Trying to calm down, I "scrupulously" 'Googled' the topic. Luckily, no one saw this! What came up as the first link in search was the same page that I was in. The internet is smaller than TestFunda, I inferred! I tried the second link. Before I could click on it, I heard a ringing tone. I took out my mobile instinctively. Nothing! .......................................................... Oh! It’s SKYPE! Luckily, no one saw this either and I was saved the embarrassment. Some girl introduced herself as TF Support and asked if I could hear her. I felt like I was on a Mars voyage and some earthlings were trying to maintain contact with me. I replied, "Tiger calling Cobra : I am fine! Over!" Then, when they found out that I and my connectivity both were sane, I was told that I would be called in time for the GD.
20 minutes to the GD, I hadn't a word prepared. The second link took me to some journalists discussing media rights. The third link took me to an article I couldn't decipher. I realized that the internet was only good because it had Facebook. I thought and thought. I didn't know a thing about Jessica Lal apart from her name. I had heard that some Rathore had molested some Ruchika and that he was happy and she was dead. All this I knew because of media. And there is always Facebook. Media is the result of our constitutional right - the freedom of speech. I jotted these points down on a piece of paper. 7 minutes on the hourglass. I decided, I will SPEAK FIRST!
With 5 minutes to the start, I again got a call from the TF Support girl. They were playing some background music. It was good. Nowhere close to the sound of the soothing wind in horror movies. But, it was good. The girl continued, "HOLD THE LINE UNTIL ALL THE PARTICIPANTS ARE IN CONFERENCE!" I yelled, "Over!"
My legs were shaking inside my trousers. But no one could see them! I would want all GDs to be virtual. I could safely be nervous without feeling guilty about it. I could be apprehensive without imagining the feeling of rejection and hopelessness that I would be looked upon with if I failed in front of others. I can be me here.
My ears could hear my heartbeats. I admit. I couldn't stand it. But no one knew! I will be just a name on the participants' Skype screen. The time came when everyone was in. The roll-call started. The TF Administrator/Moderator , a man's voice, welcomed all of us to the session. He gave us small introductory guidelines. He also mentioned the fact that all the setting was hinged on technology, on whose failure nothing could be done. He gave us 1 minute to think and said, "START ANYTIME YOU ARE READY"
I went blank. I coughed! I shook my head, raised my hands, bulged my eyes out of my spectacles and breathed hard enough for trespassing flies to be vacuumed into my nostrils. My eardrums told me that a girl had pressed the accelerator first. I don't remember her name. But she sounded like someone who accidentally gate-crashed into her neighbor's party. She asked, "What is the topic?" Someone replied, "Media-A mixed blessing". She was silent and when I realized she was silent, she was silent no more. She spoke at a pace I have never even read an article. At the end of her vocal sprint, I realized that I too was a participant and not a mere listener. I thought of speaking when a boy took off from where the lady left. Then another participant continued. I listened to them patiently, incapable of either questioning their ideas or bringing forth my new ones. Then a girl with a squeaking tone took over. She had so eloquent a squeak that a squirrel would be made to eat a humble pie. She ruined it for me. Surely, no one will remember me. But no one knew I was there. Remember, this is a virtual GD. Still, I didn’t want to let go of this opportunity. I wanted to speak. God, give me my tongue! I wanted to speak. And you won't believe! ........... I coughed again!
Another participant spoke of Jessica Lal and Ruchika and Rathore. I realized time was defeating me. Hands on my head, eyes closed, as if drinking tasteless syrup, as if telling my parents that I loved a girl.... I spoke, "The media is a result of one of our constitutional rights - Freedom of speech and hence, it’s up to the media to draw a restriction-al line on the content it serves to its recipients". Like some legendary leader's quote, like the proverb says, "Brevity is the soul of wit".. I put forward my honest views - as a one-liner. A one-liner in a GD! Sane people will tell you there is no other cardinal sin. Even murder is pardonable.
The allowed 12 minute was over. A buzzer buzzed to indicate that it was time to summarize. After 3 minutes of summarizing, the TF Moderator individually asked each participant to speak his mind for 30 seconds apiece. To speak again? Why Lord? Why should I drink from this cup again? I was unprepared. I rolled my tongue over. Hiccups, pauses.. broken words....disjointed sentences and the moderator ended my agony with a "STOP".
When each participant was done with, a personalized feedback was given. We were asked about our feedback regarding the GD. Positive and constructive suggestions were being floated. I hid behind a "Same here". Important tips, some techniques and the art of starting a GD was spoken of in detail.
Still, no one knew I couldn't perform well. I was still a screen name. I love virtual GDs.
TestFunda is releasing the recorded audio version of the same. I am looking forward to it. The virtual GDs are a hands-on experience and it was conducted in an organized manner. And what’s the best thing about it, IT IS FREE!
Hope to see you next time. I don't want to bring the umbrella anymore. I want to enjoy the rains. God Bless!