It was on my way to the airport for my 2019 QuiltCon trip that I met Shilpa at my uncle's home and a new experience began. Shilpa had tried to reach out to me earlier, but somehow we never connected. After the unveiling of my Shivarjayabhishek quilt, she stayed in touch with me and we arranged to meet at my uncle's home in Mumbai. She was the twin sister of his son-in-law so it would be the perfect place to meet up. At that time I never imagined what was in store for me. The chat with Shilpa ended with an assurance from me to meet up after I come back and discuss the possibility of me speaking at a future Swayam event.

The event actually happened on July 2019 and it was an absolutely memorable one.



In May I met up with the content team of Swayam and they helped me prepare my talk. I was used to speaking in English. And though it is my mother tongue, I realized I did not speak fluent Marathi on stage. But Navin, Shilpa and Bhagyashree patiently helped me put in words what I meant to say. My first draft script was 30 pages! And I had about 20 minutes to speak. It was a tough job to edit it down without loosing important content. But the team was just brilliant..

As the date was nearing, we were constantly speaking on the phone. The week before the event, they even finalized my attire! That is how much seriously hard they work! On the day of the event itself, I felt confident and composed because I had prepared well. I usually speak extempore in my talks. This was the first time I was following a script.

There was another aspect that I was slightly nervous about. The talk was followed by a short Q&A session with Dr Uday Nirgudkar. For those who are not aware he is one of the senior journalists in India. And intelligent, learned (and always in the learning mode) he has studied a huge range of subjects that include, but are not limited to, IT , Infrastructure , education technology , finance , BPO and global marketing and politics. He has keen interest in arts and literature. Facing him was the biggest fear in my mind.



Another thing I was excited about was the presence of Padmavibhooshan Dr Raghunath Mashelkar as the chief guest. To get the blessings of a man who is so innovative and inspiring was just brilliant.



The first speaker was Dr Ujjwala Sahane. She told us her heart touching story of despair, gut and sheer bravery! Mother to a child who suffered a hearing impairment after a stroke at the age of 9 months, she took us with her on the journey of her deaf and mute daughter to become a well renowned Bharatnatyam Dancer. We witnessed the performance by Prerana (she was named Priyanka at birth, but her parents  changed her name to Prerana - meaning inspiration - because they wanted her to inspire others like she inspired them). Had I not known earlier that she cannot hear, I would have never believed it! She did not miss a single beat!


I was  set to speak after that. I was so touched by the story of Dr Ujjwala and Prerana that it took me a few moments to find my zone when I started speaking. You will see me fumbling for words in my talk in the beginning. But after a few minutes, I was more comfortable and later even enjoyed the talk myself.


After me was this energetic young guy - Amrut Deshmukh - known to Indians as the Booklet Guy! He made the app Booklet where he publishes a summary of one book every week! His story too was simply amazing! The way he started - by sending out broadcast messages on  WhatsApp - and then WhatsApp actually banning him for spamming - to now having a dedicated app for his service! He is such an inspiring person. I love books, but I made sure I concentrated on 'what' I was reading after listening to him!


The audience was amazing. A lot of them came to meet me after the event. It was truly humbling to see the love pouring from so many of them!


This was all the speakers, sponsors, Dr Nirgudkar and Dr Mashelkar at the end of the event.


Apart from the wonderful opportunity they also gave us each a wonderful personalized trophy to take home. I know I'm going to cherish it all my life.

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1o8qSKMmjrBl3N1Vt7eoaIQ6VfXpPpG1u


But the main heroes of this wonderful event were the members of the organization team - The Swayam crew. These guys worked tirelessly to make it a seamless experience for everyone - speakers  as well as the visitors. The program began on time AND also ended on time! It is an almost impossible feat when there are at least 5 people giving a total of 8 talks! But these guys are known for doing it with perfection.



We all left the auditorium that day taking home much more than what we expected to get.

Here's the video of my talk at Swayam. Though I'm speaking in Marathi, the video has English subtitles for all my non-Marathi speaking friends.


And here's the video of my interview with Dr Nirgudkar. He asked questions that I had never expected and maybe I gave him an answer or two that he never expected either!!! At the end of it I realized, there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of.


Here is a link to the Swayam YouTube Channel. I really recommend you watch a few  of their videos. They are all really inspiring stories of grit, talent and wish to be someone different! Each speaker has been chosen for what they offer to the society. And it is a treat to listen to them all.

You can find them on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter. You can also visit their website to know more about what they do.



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