Tiffin box and Public speaking

Here’s another story from my halcyon days at 10th Battalion the Bihar regiment, referred hereafter to as my Unit. I am sure all who are reading my articles would notice that a significant amount of my epistles are connected to my 6 years in one of the best organisations of India, aka Indian Armed forces. Is it because I had excellent gurus who gave me course-correcting advice, or was it at that point my mind was more open to learn and improve? I don’t know but yes, I benefitted.

In ~Oct 1992 we were camped at Bari Brahmana [meaning The Garden of Brahmins] on the way to Kashmir where we were going to be deployed in a counter terrorist role. One fine day, when I was still honing my skills in deciphering the intricacies of an infantry battalion, I was delivered a message that the Commanding Officer wanted to speak with me. 

I set off at a frenetic pace to locate my senior to decipher as to what these summons meant. He shrugged and remarked that I should go and discover it myself. I had to do some heavy-duty deep breathing to prevent paroxysms of panic from seizing me. For the uninitiated, a Commanding Officer [CO] is almost godlike and its rumoured that they can almost walk on water. For me, my days in OTA were not so far behind, so interacting with senior officers was not my top most priority. Firmly holding on to my trepidations, I knocked on his cabin, and heard his heavy baritone voice commanding me to enter. As is the norm, I saluted and stood at attention awaiting orders. After asking about my wellbeing, he inquired if I was aware of a new multi layered tiffin carrier that was being introduced into the unit. This tiffin carrier was to facilitate carriage of food for the soldiers who were normally deployed in section [for uninitiated the section consists of 10 soldiers]. I replied in the affirmative. He leans back and with a wicked smile and asks again if I was aware of a Sainik Sammellan [the Indian Army version of a Town Hall] and I again nodded yes. He then informed me that during course of the Sainik Sammellan I was to give a lecture demonstration [for non-army people – it means a presentation] on the ‘tiffin carrier’. My discipline ensured that my jaw did not hit my chest at being informed of the subject. There were no additional comments made and I was waved off. I saluted and stumbled out. I was thinking it was prank being played but the CO’s of our times did not prank green 2nd Lieutenants.

I blundered out with glazed over eyes as if I had been sentenced to death by a firing squad. I located my senior Subaltern and blurted what had transpired. He smiled and informed me to get on with the allotted task. Well, he assisted in locating a suitable Non-Commissioned Officer instructor. This gent coached me on the fine art of giving a presentation in the accepted Indian Army style. I had to speak in Hindi and the tonality had to be regulated. Thankfully, nobody gave me any patronising lecture on the task. I practiced numerous times. I was also informed that there would be no microphone provided so I had to scream my lungs out to be heard. All these additional seasonings just added to the stress of the impending event. Oops, I almost forgot to mention that an infantry battalion consists of 22 Officers, 42 JCOs and ~800 soldiers and they were going to be my target audience. I had done some public speaking but the maximum number of people standing in front of me was ~20. This was a massive increase in numbers and it added to my nerviness.

So the day dawned and I understood that no act of God would intervene and provide me a reason to not deliver the lecture. I gritted my teeth and waited my turn at the Sainik Sammellan, soon enough the time came when the Adjutant called my name for me come in front of the gathering. Funnily, I had the distinct feeling of a Christian being thrown to the Lions in Coliseum at Rome with the only difference here being a pin drop silence. So I launched into my prepared lecture. Thankfully once I started, I discovered that I could go ahead without any stumble or fumble. In 4 minutes, which seemed eternity to me, I had completed the lecture. From the initial looks, it appeared that somehow I had honourably acquitted myself. I heaved a sigh of relief that I would not be thrown to the lions and have survived the day.  

Many summers have passed and now I see wisdom in what I was pushed to doing. Because of that event, no public speaking event would ever faze me. Each time I get the opportunity to speak, I remember the tiffin carrier incident and then I am good to go.

Post this proverbial fire walking, I understood the importance of learning the art of public speaking and that no task is insurmountable with preparation. I am also eternally thankful to the CO who made me undertake the task.

PS – Did I tell you that our CO used to make us write essays when we were in the midst of intense counter terrorist operations? These essays had to be got typed out obviously mistakes were severely frowned upon. His logic being that we all must become warriors with adequate writing skills.

Let’s Talk


Know More


We believe in the philosophy To Err is Human, to Admit Divine! We are not perfect but we are trying. Keep visiting our website, you will see improvements and occasional blunders, Feel free to tell us how we can improve by writing to