Written By Alok Kundnani (PWS & TISA Volunteer, Delhi SHG)
That was already a bad day for me as I had a lot of pending work to finish off. The awesome weather was the culprit. It was not letting me concentrate on my work. That afternoon, the sky turned red after a drizzle but who knew it’s actually an indication of a rainy evening. Usually I continue working till 6.30 PM but that day I had to leave early. I wrapped up my work at 5 PM and prepared myself for this evening.
It was a fortuitous opportunity for me to interact with someone who can actually understand a PWS. It was still tough for me to realize that I was selected to be a part of an official meeting for a campaign which can bring lot of opportunities for TISA. But before moving ahead, let me rewind the time a bit more and tell you about the people behind it and the purpose.
I was really excited after getting this opportunity to be a part of this meeting and was ready to share my thoughts, and challenges I faced while stammering at work, as I found myself one of those PWS who got bullied at work. I was eager to share my experience as a PWS working in IT industry for 10 years now that made me a better person now. We both were on same page related to sharing our experience at work.
We were preparing for this meeting since two days, that’s what a PWS have to do so that he won’t run out of words at the ShowTime. 8 PM was decided as the meeting time at The Leela hotel, Gurgaon where he was staying. We knew that it would be a long distance for us to travel but still we only proposed his place for this meeting.
3 hours to go
I got a call from Dixit at 5 PM sharp. I was still tied up with my work, and while looking at my scattered desk I was thinking of how to wrap up the work as fast as possible. With my eyes still on the scattered things, I answered the call and was daunted by his words. He told me that he is about to leave from office and I should also leave now. We both were at two different corners and we have to travel to another corner. It would take 2 hours for each one of us to reach the hotel. So the idea was to leave as early as possible so as to get some buffer before the meeting. Earlier that day, we decided to go by road before Dixit pick me up in his car, at Dhaula Kuan metro station, but rainy weather changed our plans and we both decided to take metro now.
At 5.30 PM, I was ready to leave when I got a call from Dixit again. I answered the call while my eyes were at my window glass which showed how the rain drops on glass sliding faster as the rain increased. We decided to go by car finally as that would be a better option as due to bad weather, we might have to face the scarcity of cabs at metro station in Gurgaon if we chose to go by metro. We were still in a dilemma whether we will reach on time or not due to the bad weather, so anyhow we have to leave early.
2 hours to go
In metro, I thought of re-checking the Google Maps, which showed a 40 minute drive from Dhaula kuan to the Leela. I knew I was checking this fifth time in last 15 minutes, but wanted to make sure we reach on time getting some buffer before the meeting starts. We were in sync via calls and messages while we were travelling to Dhaula Kuan.
Running downstairs after exiting at Dhaula Kuan metro station, I called Dixit to know his location, but seem the traffic jam and navigation made him take a wrong turn when he was just 1 km away from Dhaula Kuan. I was happy that rain stopped but sad at the same time as it was already 6:45 PM and we were stuck at Dhaula Kuan, me at the metro station and Dixit in the traffic jam after taking wrong turn.
1 hour to go
I breathed a sigh of relief as Dixit finally arrived at the metro station at 7 PM. We were starving badly as we ate nothing after lunch so we stopped after travelling half a kilometre at a roadside vendor to buy some biscuits. The weather which was looking awesome to me two hours ago has turned into a devil now, who is trying to stop us from moving ahead. It started drizzling again. We realized we were just crawling towards our destination that confirmed that we will not get a buffer time. We were praying that we could make it on time at least. Dixit was in sync with Mr. Stefan with text messages while we were stuck in traffic.
Amidst all the chaos, I forgot to check Google Maps. Soon we realized that we were in big trouble as the navigation showed more than 50 minutes to cover the 10 km stretch that takes to The Leela and the arrival time was 7:59 PM. We were out of our minds and could not hear even the sound of rain, the car wipers wiping the windshield and the horns beeping outside.
I remembered a quote by Mr Amitabh Bachchan from KBC “Don’t lose hope is the moral of the story”. We started calculating how much speed we need to achieve so as to decrease the time required to reach venue. In this way we regained our confidence ourselves, something that TISA has taught us.
5 minutes to go
Rains stopped after playing hide and seek with us and finally we could see the Leela building on our left. We luckily found a parking spot just near the entrance gate and we were behind it, but the guard didn’t let us park our car. So we have to take a long road to take a U-turn to enter the hotel entrance. Every minute was important for us, so we choose valet parking and rushed towards the main entrance. Being 5-6 minutes late is absolutely okay for an Indian, but could be frustrating for someone who is coming all the way from UK. And amazingly he had only one hour for this meeting as he had to leave for airport at 9 PM.
Dixit saw Stefan’s WhatsApp message explaining his looks so that we can recognize him but we can’t. We can’t contact him directly on his international number. We didn’t imagine we could face such trouble while searching him in hotel lobby. Stefan texted to meet at main entrance as that would be easier for us. We walked back towards the main entrance to find no one. We were perplexed and soon smelled that something is fishy as we were not able to trace him in a scarcely populated hotel lobby. Just then a message flashed that made us afflicted. It said “Are you in the lobby of hotel Leela Palace, Chanakyapuri Delhi?”
It took no time for us to realize that were at a wrong address. That was the most unlucky feeling I had in my life. Stefan was staying in Hotel Leela Palace which was in Delhi, not in Gurgaon. It was so unfortunate that after putting in so much we got nothing. I was getting negative thoughts that we might have to go back empty handed. But I didn’t want this, but what we can do. Dixit was trying to say something after reading Stefan’s text message, just then he got a call from home.
I was completely blank, and started looking here and there thinking I can get rid of this situation by looking away from the problem. I was looking at reception just when the receptionist met my eyes, and it was like he was saying “Better luck next time!” I turned back and found a security staff smiling at me. I was so sad that I couldn’t give him a return smile. The staff told me that this mistake happens with most of the people in Delhi NCR. I saw Dixit returning back with a calmed face. He suggested we can meet him at airport. We asked Stefan if we can do this and he agreed. Dixit was calculating how much time it will take from there to reach airport when I quickly took out the parking slip out of my pocket and started rushing towards the main gate, telling Dixit “Let’s don’t waste time and leave now”. Again the same quote coming in my mind “Don’t lose hope is the moral of the story.” We can still catch him at the airport and after all it’s just a meeting, not a proposal. Stefan’s flight was at midnight and he was ready to leave for airport from his hotel. We planned the meeting at 9 PM.
We quickly ran outside and instructed the wallet guard to bring back the car ASAP. We didn’t try to figure out whose mistake it was. But deep inside, we knew that it was our mistake. We started at 8:25 PM; Dixit drove the car like a racer. We were sure that we will reach the airport before him. Delhi airport was near to Gurgaon so it was easier for us to reach, but still the traffic was again the issue, thankfully rain was not the hurdle this time. We both knew we were food deprived but tried to cover our hunger by stuttering conversations.
Finally, we reached airport on time but couldn’t make it before Stefan. He shared his live location at the entrance gate while we were still at the parking lot. Soon we reached the entrance gate no 10 where he was standing with a smile. His smile brought us a big sigh of relief. I didn’t know what should I say about whatever happened, but I could only utter “It happens only in India”. We started laughing and proceeded towards Pizza hut stall and found a peaceful corner table to sit and discuss about the campaign. We introduced ourselves and started the meeting. It was Stefan’s first chance to interact with PWS like us. He didn’t look at us with pity, but rather felt more energized after talking to us and knowing our background and struggles related to stammering.
The meeting lasted for about 30 minutes, as he had to catch his flight back to Europe. Stefan was very happy with the meeting and signalled us that he will follow up with TISA very soon. Now we were satisfied and happy not because the meeting went well but the fact that we finally have done it. It weren’t us who won; it was the fear inside us who had actually won that day. It was the same fear that most of the PWS experience and luckily we were among some of them who had overcome this fear. Struggles and challenges are always there in life and they don’t come to scare us, but rather make us a better, a stronger person every time. And we were glad that we overcome our fear and achieved our goal.
Soon we were on our way back to home. We were searching for some outlet for dinner. It was 10 PM and we realized that there is no chance we can get a good meal on the highway. We were hungry as a wolf but what can we do besides dreaming of it. On our way back home we shared our emotions about this achievement and celebrated our victory. We skipped dinner that day. And the time came when we have to disperse at Dhaula Kuan where I had to take Metro to reach home. It was 10:30 PM and I was worried if I could get a metro at interchange or not. Before I opened the front door to exit, Dixit asked me if I am sure I can catch the last metro, I said “Do you remember a quote said by Amitabh Bachchan in KBC?”. “No” he said. “Don’t lose hope is the moral of the story”.
A note of thanks
Kudos to our team – Harish, Shilpa, Dixit and me, Alok for the dedication and wholehearted effort happening behind the scenes that made this meeting a success. After the meeting concluded that day, I saw a spark in Stefan’s eyes and he was satisfied with all the points we kept in front of him. This meeting was a success on a personal front but we are hoping this to be a super hit officially too. So after this meeting in March 2020, we connected with Iain through an online meeting explaining him the key points of our meeting with Stefan. Iain was greatly convinced and after some days we saw the good news email where Stefan virtually introduced our team to Sarbani who leads IBDN. We as a team celebrated this small success and hoping to make this tie up soon.