18 September 2015 – Two days before
My best friend calls it “Going to get my nobel prize”. And that's how I am feeling. I am reclining in luxury in my business class seat on Emirates airlines feeling like I climbed right in to the mythical pot of gold.  I could get used to this! I drink the glass of champagne on offer and feel pleasantly light headed – although I’m sure that the dopamine flying around my brain right now is contributing. I am terrified, excited, honored and grateful. I feel as though I am living a life that I made up in a dream!

bikeDoorWhen I try to practice my talk now, I keep forgetting it! Weird. Perhaps it’s time to stop? My lovely friends have been sending mails of encouragement. Telling me things like:
‘Imagine the audience are all naked’
‘You should go and watch some TED talks and see how it’s done!’
And my favorite: ‘Don’t practice, just be natural.’

I also had absolutely no idea what went into presenting a TED talk before today. It began with an e mail I received on the 14th of March this year:

We hope this message finds you well. We're honored to invite you to speak at TEDxHyderabad, an independently organized TED event happening in September, 2015. Your work has been truly impressive and inspiring and we would be excited to have you join us at TEDxHyderabad.

I almost fainted, shrieked, danced and jumped around a bit and sent back a reply as quickly as possible before they could change their minds.


And so it began. The last 6 months have been spent designing and thinking and crafting my talk. It has been through many, many iterations. The talk is ‘curated’ by senior fellows and patrons of TEDxHyderbad with hundreds of e-mails, WhatsApp’s and Skype calls back and forth. I have a couple of ‘live’ practices with some clients and a trusted friend and many rehearsals in front of mirrors in innumerable hotel rooms. I get strange looks as I mutter my talk to myself on planes and on trains, in the car and while running. I have discovered the best places for practicing! The preparation for an 18-minute talk is rigorous and precise. What looks natural and ‘off the cuff’ is, in fact, a finely choreographed, scripted and hopefully emotive address that aims to inspire, provoke and challenge. My gratitude goes to Vipin and Viiveck. Without you, I would have been adrift!

I read books and articles and websites by the hundred. I analyse my talk, write and rewrite and send it to my curators. Gradually the pictures for the presentation are gathered from the dark corners of the 3rd story dusty loft in my home, and from the metaphorically dusty back-up devices of my computer files and from pictures begged for from friends.
Last week I messaged Viiveck (my curator, sponsor and friend) that I thought my talk was terrible and maybe we need to rethink the whole thing. He wrote back:
Not just am i confident of your talk and delivery but i am sure. You are my Guru after all !!!
I am so grateful for his constant guidance and support. Also to Vipen who sounds like a wise man! Vipin is the Senior TED Fellow in Hyderabad. Viiveck is the manifester of my dreams.

I am guided to lectures on how to deliver TED talks.

And then comes the decision of what to wear. The rules seem to change every time I investigate. What I am left with is: no black, no white, no bright colors that can interfere with the camera. No stripes, no patterns, nothing formal, no chunky jewelry or scarves – in other words practically my entire wardrobe is eliminated! To add to my despair, the day before I am leaving I am instructed that ladies may “ wear Salwar suits, saris or smart casuals”. To my dear Indian friends. This is a huuuuge ask for a westerner! I phone Abi and wail in anguish. I have 1 day to go, am working flat out and now what??? Abi throws together a pile of ideas which I pack into my suitcase and send a mail to Viiveck asking if his lovely wife Ekta would be kind enough to come to my hotel room on Saturday morning to help me select my wardrobe.

The preparation for this talk is immense – That is why my friend says its like going to collect the prize. Most TED speakers say that this event is the peak of their careers. I am hoping and praying and dreaming that it may be the beginning of mine!

There is a story within a story. In February I met another wonderful group of participants in India. I was training a Professional coaching course in Mumbai. I shared with the group that one of my dreams was to do a meditation retreat in India. With a wave of his wand, a magician by the name of Vaibhav has manifested this and I will be heading out the morning after the TEDx talk for a spiritual retreat in Rishikesh (http://brainwise.co.za/index.php/blog) . This is going to be held at  Shri Omkarananda Ganga Sadan, in Northern India in the foothills of the Himalayas. To weave yet another tale into this wonderful experience, a school friend from 30 years ago heard about the talk and the retreat and is going to join me for both. Marjorie and I didn’t like each other much at school. In fact we were 2 completely different people. We have met a few times in the last couple of years and discovered a mutual outlook on life and sense of humor. An unexpected gift.

The third story within the story is the experience of business class. One sentence: pure indulgence and how on earth do I go back to economy after this!

Monday 21 September – the day after!
It is happening – dreams come true after all.

Monday the day after - I am on a propeller plane with Vaibhav, Sumati, Marjorie and Jayant (Sir) high above Delhi, headed for Dehra Dun and then onto Rishikesh. We flew from Hyderabad this morning at dawn after grabbing only a few hours of sleep.  How to capture the exhilaration of the cerebral and emotive discourse of the past 48 hours?

Reflecting back to the day before…
After an early morning arrival on Saturday and a few hours sleep, I head out to the reception hall of the majestic Hyatt hotel to meet some of my fellow speakers. We are whisked off to CMC Gatchibowlii – the first IT building built in the whole of India. It is like a cross between the Lost City and a building out of Asterix comics. I am delighted to find a bicycle and a door – symbols of the TEDxHyderabad event – Unfolding Journeys. I may borrow this as my theme for my next year.

rehersalLooking back on the the day before – the rehearsal.

The theatre is majestic and dark  – the stage striking a regal pose – crimson, black and white – and at last I see the ubiquitous RED DOT!
Introductions are made – almost impossible for me to remember the names, but Raman with his outrageous sense of humour (and prolific use of the word ‘shit’) has us laughing and connected within minutes. It is a gift to finally hug Viiveck (manifester of my dream) and I immediately feel connected to Ekta, his wife– a powerhouse of energy and philanthropy in a beautiful female form. The TEDx team have been working tirelessly for a year and tomorrow is the culmination of their teamwork, determination and dedication. I am inspired by Ritu Karidhal – director at ISRO and integral part of the Mars Orbiter Mission (Wow) and Joe the musician, Kshitij, photographer and Babu – oh I love his rationalist and humanist philosophies. And Zeena – from Palestine.


We, the speakers begin to practice and finally I find my small place in the big red dot. About a meter across, it represents the space you are to stay in while you speak. When it comes to my turn I am more nervous than I ever remember being. The TEDx talk is a cosmic leap out of my comfort zone.  The audience will be in the darkness, I cannot interact with them, it is a fully scripted and rehearsed talk and I am sharing a personal story instead of my expertise. I bomb. I spend the rest of the day with a heavy cloud around my head. I think my talk is awful.

We have a reception that night where we are briefed again on the procedures for Sunday and I rush off to my room as soon as I can to meditate on my intention and try to stay present and trusting. I am feeling heavy. Uninspiring. I did meet beautiful people.

In between this, I discover my lovely friend Marjorie – materialized from London and a day spent at the spa – at the ink-blue swimming pool of the Hyatt hotel. We celebrate our reunion.

TEDx DAY – Sunday 20 September

The auditorium is buzzing as we arrive, the attendees (500 chosen for the privilege out of 1400 applicants – remarkable) are registering and we are ushered inside.  Mostly I connect with Lenny the photographer. We talk about Ansel Adams and my Dad and darkrooms. His is not a polished speaker but we have a chemistry. He shows the most remarkable panoramic pictures of Hyderabad – all taken with no tripod. There are 5 generations of photographers in his family, not one has ever chosen a different profession.

The day is started by a remarkable song by Manasi, who walks us through a museum of modern Indian music in Hyderabad that she has been instrumental (a pun - smile) in conceiving and building.
The culturally reserved Indian audience clap respectfully. I admire Babu and Armstrong (I am forgetting the correct order, but am humbled by the presence of great philanthropists and activists.

Now my heart is beating. After the break I am taken back to the ‘Green Room’ which is where we wait for our turn. Anshul and I meet here. It is a gift to meet this young man, with his turbaned head. At 26 years old – an aspiring Seik, a Filmmaker, he has made remarkable films from his cell phone about the ‘missing dead’ in India that are exploited for their organs. Anshul  is a man I will watch. He is muttering his talk to himself – I tell him to practice on me. I am nervous too, but he needs the support. What a sweetheart, I want to look after him.theDay

Final after Raman generates great laughs from the audience who are slowly warming up; it’s my turn. As I walk onto the stage, my nerves begin to abate. I start: “10 years ago I discovered that I had a brain….”. I pause……

And they laugh. Whew. From there I am in full swing!

theDay2And so my talk is done. I got a response beyond my hopes. Before my talk, after the practice, I realized that my talk was not what I wanted to convey. All that work and I knew I would not deliver it with conviction or meaning. I think that I knew about 5 minutes before I walked on that stage – accompanied by the inspirational music and the respectful one-liner to introduce me - that this was an opportunity. An opportunity to make Gabriel’s life have purpose. This was the choice that took courage and control and commitment. To share my heart in 17 and a half minutes in my spiritual home of India.

The end/beginning of the journey. 29 September 2015

flutterbyThe future beckons…..
I am home. With my son and my daughter. I am sleepy and grateful. This has been an experience like no other. Thank you to every person who has been instrumental in this journey and will continue to be part of our future. Mostly to my Gabriel – you made this story. You are the lesson. I hope it is a message that the world listens to.

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