Excerpt for Defining Moments by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Pencil Dropping Moment

“Why you keep dropping your pencil?”. My Mom chided me.

“What is wrong in dropping a pencil?” — I thought to myself.

This habit of dropping pencil while the teacher gets engrossed in the class continued. It was a momentary fun to escape from the world of mathematics or history to a world of solitude. Until one day when a teacher noticed me and called me for a talk.

Blaming myself for not being careful, I entered the teacher’s cabin.

“I know you love dropping pencil. But you know what happens during that time. You miss something important in the lesson. The point which you can capture and keep it in your mind forever whiskers away and you toil yourself to get that point grilled into your mind”.

Teacher made her point. I realised the mistake only when the marks were out. Pencil dropping stopped. or at least I thought so.

Last week, My wife attended District Annual Toastmasters Conference in Bahrain. I went to pick her after the conference. She was jubilantly describing the events to me, when I noticed my son doing some tricks in the car. My attention got distracted and I told my son to stop doing that.

He got upset. But that was not the only thing that happened. My wife got upset.

“You always do this whenever I talk. If you are not interested in the first place, why pretend listening”

“No, I am still listening to you”

“I cannot speak now as you spoiled the conversation” She shut down the conversation.

Is this a pencil dropping moment. Yes, it is.

How many times we do come across such pencil dropping moments in our daily life. Some of the pencil dropping moments that I have experienced (Actually, I am the culprit in few cases)

People playing with mobile phones while having conversation .

People checking emails while having a discussion.

People leaving the conversation in the middle to have another chat with someone else.

People answering mobile phones while in a conversation without even bothering to apologize.

When we submit ourselves to our mind wandering in some place else while someone else is intently and intensely engaged in a meaningful conversation with us. Are we adding meaning to the conversation and the relationship or do we allow the pencil dropping moment to rob us the joy of engaging relationship.

I do have this habit of checking mails while attending phone calls. One of my colleague commented “Something interesting happened or is there a new mail that has disturbed you”. It hit me straight in my face. I stopped reading mails while answering phone calls from then on.

What are the Pencil Dropping Moments that keeps repeating in your life and what action you want to take to avoid these moments.


That day started as usual. Great expectations, hopes and aspirations like every other day. I got ready for my morning ritual - walking. Listening to the audio book stored in my mobile with the headphones, I took the shoes.As I wore the shoes I noticed something strange..new shoe (ok..it is 5 months old but for an Indian anything less than 5 years is considered new) suddenly appeared rugged. Few scratches on the shoe making it appear old. I started wondering how this happened. I used it two days back when it rained. The shoe became muddy. I remember having kept in the washing room to clean.Oops..it should be the maid. She has washed the shoes and cleaned it using the brush.

How do you feel when you realise someone has scratched your new shoes? or Having spent considerable money to buy , it was spoiled by an inadvertent or ignorant action of the maid. First emotion that sprang in me was anger. I moved on to complete my ritual - walking. When I returned home, to discover that the anger had evaporated. However, still I made sure the message is sternly passed on to the maid not to carry out such misadventures in future.

This episode left me pondering about how emotions determine our actions and decide the course of our lives. If the scratch has happened because of my action, I would feel guilty. But because the scratch is the outcome of someone’s ignorance or inefficiency, evokes anger and the scratch due to a superior force like boss, would leave me with suppressed emotion, fuming inside. In all three emotions will leave me broken.

Anger not only consumes the power inside me but also creates a ripple effect. It engulfs the other person in hurt and accelerate the anger in that person. Anger creates more anger. It becomes a relay race in anger.

Guilt is a pernicious disease. It will steadily and gradually kills the individuals internally by annihilating the self-respect.

On the other hand, helpless feeling leaves one with anger that eats internal peace gradually. It is like a Pressure cooker. The Pressure manifests itself at an unwanted time spewing anger. This leaves the closer ones vulnerable to the unexpected outbursts.

Watch the emotion that springs inside. Are these emotions helpful or hurtful.

I am reminded of a fantastic speech by my friend Aditya Maheswaran, a Champion Speaker and Management Consultant . He spoke about scratch. A glimpse of his speech is produced in the below video.

The scratches are inevitable and we end up creating scratches. But like Aditya mentioned the scratches will only remain until we polish it. I believe that only a yogi of some sort can lead life without creating scratches. The magnitude of the scratches and the magnanimity of the person involved, determine the effort required to polish it. The effort varies from smooth and subtle to mammoth and mountainous. Every scratch can be polished, every scratch leaves us with valuable lesson. Check out the quote by Mater in cars movie. I love this quote.

Every dent bears the beauty of grace and redemption

What is the scratch in your life that is stirring up some emotion inside you. Are you going to vent up your anger or drown in guilt. Neither will help.

Show your emotion with grace if you got scratched by someone.

Redeem yourself from guilt by polishing the scratch,if you are the one who scratched.

Some scratch may vanish over time. Like the scratch in the shoe. It faded away in two weeks.

Scratch vanished

If the Scratch will get healed anyway over time, Do we really need to vent our emotions and create a relay race of scratches?

A Small lamp that made a big difference

What is your excuse?

“We could have scored more runs with the kind of bat the opponents had”

“Sophisticated sports equipment would have made sure that we won the match”

“Mom, I feel terrible to carry these old books. It was used at least by 10 students before it came to me. It does not even have place for me write my name. I get a foul smell from this book which makes it difficult for me to concentrate”

Definition of Life at that point in time would be :

Life = Excuses.

I was hailed as a champion cricket player. Yes. You read it right. Champion. Though it was in the street cricket that we played. When I moved to play in the leather ball in a proper cricket ground, I failed miserably. Our team was outplayed by the opponents. Major reason — we were under-prepared. However, Human mind can create wonders. We prepared well to defend our defeat. I used to create wonderful reasons for not playing properly. Easy one is to blame the opponent teams “Sophisticated kit”.

I have never failed in my studies. I have also never came out in flying colours either. I managed to stay with the crowd, in the average performance criteria. I call it the safe zone.

However, I used the best of grey matters to scuttle out reasons. One of the reasons being that the books are old. My parents could not afford to buy new books for me or for my brother. We did our studies by borrowing books from senior students known to us.

I was good at finding excuses to escape reality.

The mind produces wonderful results in the areas where it could maintain focus. To quote famous author Robin Sharma “What you focus, grows”. My imagination grew in multitude to produce reason for lackluster performance.

The imagination expanded with my age to produce innovative excuses while performance keep dropping and then this happened.

I was in Grade 8. The term was about to end. The last day of the term was kept for bidding adieu from the teachers. All the teachers churns out advice after advice. We in turn give them a token gift from our side.

While we as a class remained more or less happy with all the teachers except for Mr. Kuzhandaivelu-our tamil teacher. He was great in teaching and instilling disciple but brutal in punishing. He was determined to produce tamil scholars out of each one of us. Leaving a few students, the rest of us have taken a vow to redefine the low standards in studies. So, he has ended up as an enemy for the majority in the class. We made a plan to teach him a lesson by humiliating him in front of other teachers. We bought standard gifts for all the teachers except for Mr. Kuzhandaivelu. We got a small traditional indian oil lamp (see picture ) but packed it in multi-layered paper.

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