It all started in March of 1997, on a beautiful spring day in Pakistan. When my 6-year-old younger sister stood on a chair, behind a lectern, with her head barely visible, as she gave a thunderous speech to an audience of 1000 at our school. I was sitting where all the geeks sit. In the last row. I was impressed. And just like every impressed older brother, I told myself, that next time I will also give a speech and it will be better than hers.
Few months later I got an opportunity. Speech contest at our Independence Day. I enthusiastically signed up. But now I had to write a speech. I did the only reasonable thing an 8 year old could do. “Dad, can you write me a speech”, I begged my father. Two days before the event as I sat in classroom with my speech in my bag pack, Miss Kiran, with her short hair and bright smile entered the room and announced "Everyone who is going to give a speech, follow me, we are going to rehearse it". Few of my classmates left. She asked one last time. Anyone else. Khurram left, Miss Kiran left.. I never moved.
On that day, I told myself, no one cares what I say. Why should I speak? I started to speak less and less at school, less and less at home, I hid my self in my own shell like a turtle. Shell made of self doubt. With time this shell only grew stronger.
Years passed, I moved from school, to university. Started a job, moved to Poland yet the real me remained hidden in my own shell.
It all started to change on 13th July 2016, when I visited a toastmasters club. On my first meeting, I was encouraged to go on stage and given 4 words to create a fictional story as 2 min improvised speech. I told the most absurd story of my life. Something changed. I actually enjoyed doing it. The shell started to crack a bit. I joined the club. I gave many speeches. But I always had this nagging thought, no one really cares what I say. They clap at my speeches, because, well they are toastmasters. That is what they are supposed to do.
That was until 24th of August 2017, when I went to Lodz (Poland) to give a speech at a joint toastmasters meeting before a conference. Theme of the meeting. My city, my home. So, I talked about “A Pakistani in Poland”. My experience of living in my city as foreigner for 5 years. I told everything. All the good, the bad and the ugly. I spoke from my heart. Everyone Clapped. As toastmasters do. Two days later, Roy, a bored looking Irish guy living in Lodz for many years came to me during the conference and said.
Zain thanks for sharing your story. You put into words what I have been feeling as a foreigner living in Poland. That was not just your story, but story of all of us foreigners.
I was shocked. He cared about what I said. He related to what I said. That was the moment, my shell finally broke and the real me was born.
Now, not only I speak, I teach others how to find their voice and I love it. This blog is just a continuation of the story that started two years ago. With it, I am hoping to reach even more people, to share my knowledge, my thoughts and to have a conversation on topics that I deeply care about.