Inclusion, Public Speaking & Alan Turing

An enormously significant yet lesser known part of my life is public speaking. Even when I was sighted (which I was till my fifth grade), I was always the narrator in the play. I steadily progressed from intra-school elocution to that at the inter-school level – I vividly remember reciting the humourous Hindi poem “Kya Hamare Purvaj Bandar The?” (Were Our Ancestors Monkeys? To the encouraging but authentic laughter of the audience. After this short-lived fourth grade thrill of obtaining new poise and tasting the sweetness of speech-making success for the very first time, The speaker inside me was compelled to remain dormant for three long years.

I struggled with sight loss, accepting disability, and regaining my life. But once I was back on track, had kickstarted with the keyboard, and relearnt the computer the sightless way, I immersed myself into the more exciting elements of life – resuscitating that speaker lurking evasively inside my own self. While I promise to be more detailed and less superficial as to how I manage public speaking being totally blind at some other point in time, it would be sufficient to state that I did succeed in the resuscitation mission and resultantly have been fortunate to be part of an absolute assortment of public speaking formats – rehearsed speeches, impromptu speaking, debating, conference presentations, Model United Nations and what not. You can read about some of my successful oratory escapades in brief in the Honors & Awards section of my LinkedIn profile.
For now though, I would like to draw your attention to the most recent of these opportunities – the 14th M.R. Pai Memorial Elocution competition. 71 schools participated. Each school organized their intra-school selection round. The 71 winners from each of the 71 participating schools congregated for the inter-school selection round. 9 students broke free of this obstacle too, proceeding to the third and the ultimate frontier of this competitive elocution contest. One of the top 9 finallists was yours truly.
From the few topics available, I opted for “My role model in society” and after several intermediary rounds of intensive shortlisting and increasingly irksome yet agitated rehearsals, I was ready with my role model, my speech, my thing.

The Speech

My role model was a criminal, an outcaste in his school, a victim of bullying, and openly homosexual, but he still was and is my role model. Because if there is one thing that I have learnt from his life, then it is this – “Sometimes, it’s the very people no one ever imagines anything of, who do the things no one can even imagine.”
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Today, permit me, Bhavya Shah from Gopi Birla Memorial School, to introduce you to the man who single-handedly defeated the Nazis in the blood-spattering second World War. Allow me to tell you about the legend who sat in a hut solving the most difficult mathematical puzzle in the world thus saving about 1.5 crore lives. Let me narrate to you the untold story of an unsung hero – Alan Turing.
1912 is when Alan Turing is born in London like an ordinary newcomer to this world, because after all, every somebody was once a nobody.
1927 is when 15-year-old Alan solved advanced calculus problems in his head like a pro and condensed Einstein’s relativity theory with a swag. He didn’t waste his time playing with fidget spinners or singing Dhinchak Pooja songs.
1936 is when at Cambridge, Turing invented the first ever universal Turing machine, thus literally inventing the computer we all use and love today.
But wait.
1941 is when this prodigy’s intellect was truly put to the test. Hitler and Company used the Enigma Cipher, an encryption device, for all German military communication, that is to perpetrate the holocaust, attack the innocent, and massacre Jews. And the fact of the matter was that the British have ready access to a bunch of these Enigma machines too. But the caveat here worth pointing out, is that the Enigma had 159 million million million, that is 159 followed by 18 zeroes, different possible configurations, and these settings were reset by the Germans every 24 hours. The Americans, Russians, French, British, Polish – all considered the Enigma unbreakable – but if you can imagine anything, you can achieve the impossible – and that’s precisely what Alan Turing did. He cracked Enigma, won the Allies Word War 2, and game over.
But remember what I said earlier? This man I have been idealizing all this while was convicted as a criminal, bullied at school, and was gay.
Every tale has its end, sometimes it’s a happily ever after and sometimes not so much. In 1952, this English warhero was convicted, out of all things, of homosexuality, forced to undergo chemical castration, and his life consequently ended in 1954. This is how Alan Turing’s 41 years of selfless devotion to the society and the world at large gruesomely culminated.
Sir Alan Matison Turing, you will never realize how indebted this world is to you and you shall never hear these words I speak, but I’ll utter them nonetheless.
Thank you for teaching me the value of resilience. Thousands of kryptographical algorithms must have been tried and failed, only did one succeed. Life kept throwing stones at you, and you kept finding diamonds in them.
Thank you for teaching me the appreciation of diversity. You might like chocolate, and I might like vanilla. You might fancy Deepika Padukone, while I may be a fan of Emma Watson. But in any case, who are we to decide and judge whom one should and should not love?
Thank you for every single thing you have done for mankind. You were not a criminal, but a warhero, not a machine, but a human being with feelings just like us. You were a World War 2 peacemaker. You were a computer pioneer, the inventor of artificial intelligence, and the world’s best codebreaker.
Just like Bahubali was to the kingdom of Mahishmati, Bhagat Singh was to the Republic of India, I proclaim; Alan Turing was to world peace and the human race. Because if there is one thing that all of us must take away from the life of Alan Turing, then it is this – “Sometimes, it’s the very people no one ever imagines anything of, who do the things no one can even imagine.”
May his soul rest in peace.
Thank you.

The Result

Nothing spectacular, but I did secure third place. Having said that, the certificate, cash prize and competition result was trivial compared to the reception by the audience. It might have been my deceitful ears attempting to inflate my ego, but the applause when I concluded my speech as well as when I was declared third place winner was uncharacteristically remarkable. It is probably my self-centred brain bragging, but the number of genuine compliments I received in the break after the culmination of all speeches but before the results was also heartening. The reason why I make this statement is this – a collegian participating in the simultaneously occurring inter-collegial equivalent of this elocution competition walked up to me and said,” You spoke about your role model, but my role model is you. I am not even empathizing or sympathizing with you. You are actually one of the finest orators I have met.”
I acknowledge that I had the privilege of witnessing brilliant speeches as part of this high-quality elocution competition, performances finer and vastly superior to mine. I have returned with new learnings, lessons, and strategies which I intend to employ in my next public speaking endeavour. However, that one quote does make me feel massively better about myself. Not once did I explicitly mention my blindness to any judge, any organizer, or any fellow participant (although the same was likely worked out by most). Not once did anyone praise me simply because I did something and that something well “inspite of” my visual challenge. For once, a society of sighted strangers greeted me with the equality and inclusion persons with disabilities so feverishly desire rather than playing the game of prejudice or preferentialism. Inclusion can and must be inherent, not externally enforced.

Side Note

I will be away from the blogosphere until the 28th of March, 2018, in light of my incredibly important Board examinations for which I am so underprepared. Forgive me for any unresponsiveness, inactivity, or abnormalities on my part in the virtual world until I get done with my exams. Expect any further update to this blog no sooner than April. Wish me luck.

Author: Bhavya Shah

I am a 16-year-old techie, quizzer, debater and Potter+Musk-head from Mumbai, India, and I am Passionate about STEM, world politicss, and disability rights. When I am not burdened by school homework (which I never bother doing anyways) nor busy blogging, you might either find me programming in Python, reading a contemporary classic, or aimlessly perusing the Internet. Also, by the way, I forgot to mention something; I can't see a thing, lost all my eyesight by the age of 11, and I'm totally blind. That's me.

4 thoughts on “Inclusion, Public Speaking & Alan Turing”

  1. Awesome Bhavya! Congratulations from all @Vision-Aid! Very impressive speech and loved your choice of hero! Developing the quality of resilience is invaluable to face the inevitable vicissitudes of life…. Especially loved – “Not once did I explicitly mention my blindness to any judge, any organizer, or any fellow participant (although the same was likely worked out by most). Not once did anyone praise me simply because I did something and that something well “inspite of” my visual challenge. For once, a society of sighted strangers greeted me with the equality and inclusion persons with disabilities so feverishly desire rather than playing the game of prejudice or preferentialism. Inclusion can and must be inherent, not externally enforced.”

    Liked by 1 person

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