I can never forget the way Manjitinder Singh Bedi, our headmaster at Punjab Public School, Nabha, honed my talent for public speaking and how he always kept my spirits high. He would repeatedly appreciate me in the morning assembly whenever I delivered a speech.
That is why I made up my mind to participate in the annual JK Kate all-India inter-public school English debate. The topic was announced months before the event and I was so eager to participate that I approached my English teacher, Mr Beant Singh, who helped me prepare the speech. I worked hard at it, at times rehearsing before a mirror and at other times catching hold of a few friends who acted as the audience.
It was still a month to go for the competition when I knocked on the door of the headmaster's office. "Sir, I want to represent the school in the debate," I said, adding that I was fully prepared. Seeing my enthusiasm, he asked me to speak on the topic. When I concluded, he smiled before saying that he was impressed but would take a final call the next day.
The teacher in-charge, Mr VS Moudgill, gave me the good news the next day. Soon, the day of reckoning arrived. It was a grand event as many leading public schools of the country were participating. It was my first big event. As my name was announced, I went to the dais. I started with confidence but as photojournalists started clicking pictures, I started trembling and went quiet for a few seconds as confidence deserted me. My fluency vanished and I was a bundle of nerves. I concluded my speech and was clearly not happy for I had wasted a golden opportunity. No wonder my name did not figure in the winners.
After the event, the headmaster came over to me and said, "Every experience is vital in life. Participating in an event of this kind is also an achievement. This is your first big chance from which you can learn a lot. Ups and downs are part of life but learning should never stop." Hearing these inspiring words lifted my spirits. Now I understand why his celebrity student, film star Salman Khan, whom he taught history at Scindia School, Gwalior, still regards him highly. We can never forget such personalities who leave an indelible mark on our lives. Thank you, Mr Bedi.