Ten years ago, it was impossible for me to even imagine speaking to more than one person at a time. Even that one person should be either my close friend or a relative. And coming to the stage fear, although I won multiple prizes in Sports, Art and Quizzing during my school days, receiving the prizes on stage was the scariest part! Then how did I end up being a quiz master and owning a quizzing & content creation company?
1. Solo Travel
With very less friends and even lesser friends who share a similar frequency as mine, I always enjoyed my companionship. Books and nature were my best friends. I started to travel solo to almost every place I can. I did not have a smartphone; those were the days of the 2G/3G era with unreliable internet connectivity. So Google baba and the forty other internet solutions were not an option to me.
I had to keep my introverted personality aside and talk to the people on the journey to know the place I'm going to visit. That's how I learned to talk to people without being shy. Am I an extrovert now? Never, I still have very few friends and even fewer matching my frequencies. But now I can talk to new people with ease.
2. Books and Newspaper
No, I did not read any self-help books to overcome my fear. By books and newspapers, I mean the knowledge and the confidence they impart to you. Knowledge about a topic gives you the confidence to speak about it anywhere and to anyone.
Since my childhood, I always had this habit of reading the newspaper every day. Later on, I caught up with the books as well. The habit made me knowledgeable and my mother used to take me to participate in quizzes and competitions whenever there was an announcement in the newspaper. But, all of these never took away my fear of stage.
Once during my college days, I attended a three-day spiritual program organised by Ramakrishna Math - Hyderabad. During the induction session, the director of the program Swami Bodhamayanada recited this sloka from Ramayana:
धिक बलं क्षत्रिय बलं, ब्रह्म तेजो बलं बलं।
(Dhik Balam Kshatriya Balam, Brahma Tejo Balam Balam!)
He said, "These words were spoken by Kaushika, does anyone here know who Kaushika is?"
All the 300+ people in the hall stayed calm. I knew who Kaushika was and also understood what the sloka was about, although I'm listening to the sloka for the very first time. But I did not raise my hand immediately, I was afraid to do so. But after a few seconds I raised my hand, I don't know what triggered me to do that... A volunteer came to me and handed over a mic. That was the first ever time in my life to hold a mic.
Then the Swami asked, "Tell me, who is Kaushika?"
I said, "Kaushika is Vishwamitra." (My hands shivering as the entire hall was looking at me)
Swami: Why is he called Kaushika if he is Vishwamitra? And do you know the meaning of this Shloka?
Me: Kaushika was a Raghuvamsha King who challenges Vasishta Muni to take over the Kamadhenu. But the mighty army of Kaushika was defeated by Vashista all alone. After that defeat, Kaushika says "Power of muscle is useless in front of a learned person with all the wisdom."
He then renunciates his kingdom in search of knowledge and came to be known as Vishwamitra.
Swami asked my name and said my answer is correct. The entire hall was still staring at me and started to clap. I calmly settled down and later some people asked me how I knew about it. As usual, I smiled and stayed calm. (To be honest, I only knew about Kaushika and his story. I simply linked it to the sloka.)
The next day we were divided into 3 groups for a debate program. Due to the show-off I did the previous evening by telling about Kaushika, members of my group picked me to represent on the stage. I initially resisted but others convinced me by saying I'm the best person because I know about the topic well(I do not remember what the topic was).
I couldn't even tell them that I'm afraid to go on stage. Finally, I went, I spoke while my hands were trembling and drenched in my sweat. Everyone clapped, I came down and our group won the debate program!
That's all, my fear of stage was gone forever.
3. Hobby To Business
Quizzing was never my passion. I never dreamed of being a quiz master or making a business out of quizzing and content creation. I used to make fun of my friends who wanted to intern at some quiz company. But how did I end up doing this?
After my graduation, I started preparing for the Civil Services Examination of UPSC. From my college days, I used to post questions on a Facebook Page named 'TackOn Quiz Club'. It was a club created by myself and my friend at our college. The club did not continue after we graduated but the page and the name remained with me.
Looking at some of the questions, I was invited by a few organisations to host quizzes. I did, and more started to come in. And then more... I decided to incorporate the company and do what I love the most. I was never passionate about quizzing but I was always impressed by art and simplicity. That's what makes TackOn stand apart from others. We give equal importance to the content and also the way it is presented. I'm particularly obsessed with the font, size of the font, the colour of the font and the slide and whatnot!
For us what we do is not work, but something we love to do. It never feels like work. If I'm an artist, my partner in crime has a very good eye for the best art and our team is a group of some of the best artists in content creation.
After all, quiz-making is an art. TackOn is a company that educates people through art!
No matter what, off stage, I still sit alone in a corner even in a room of 100 people and enjoy my companionship. Thankfully, now we all have smartphones. I still am the same introvert who does not talk much to people, but if a person matches my frequency I can talk about anything non-stop and forever!
What if I never raised my hand about Kaushika? I can’t say about my career but for sure I wouldn’t have written this blog post!