A couple of weeks back listening to a motivational speaker at an educational merit award function in the city the American bard Robert Frost’s quote,” playing tennis without a net” popped out of my memory bank.
Frost was perhaps lamenting upon the increasing number of Poetasters’, “Free Verse “poetry without formal structure, like a rhyme scheme,” was like, “playing tennis without a net”.
This motivational speaker akin to Frost’s analogy stood his ground for almost an hour testing the patience of the helpless guests giving “Gyaan” (knowledge) far and wide from education, pedagogic shortfalls, to lack of aptitude for excellence by youths, complexities of modern life, the wretched mobile’ phones, the rat race for riches and comforts, to negligence in board room excellence, selfishness, vanishing family values, a return to faith-based daily life chores and a call for deeper and deeper filiopietistic values.
Picking on mundane examples of dedication and commitments of the blue-white collared to their work he was taking the audience on a roller coaster ride. It leaves one to wonder if the message was taken in by the audience, which in this case were the award winners, their parents, teachers, fellow students and sponsors seated on the stage and an assortment of guests. And at the end of the programme, a guest quipped “what was he trying to say”.
Long talks turn “Gyaan” (knowledge/wisdom) into “Bayaan” (narrative) making the listeners lose “Dhiyaan” (attention). The faculty of listening is brittle it brakes apart, if taxed beyond capacity, unless one has a rich repertoire to animate the interest of the audience. The main objective of motivational talks is to leave a maximum impact on the listeners and to avoid vapidity. Established and skilled motivational speakers make it “shorter the better”, peppered with interesting anecdotes.
“Playing tennis without a net” kind of motivational speakers seem to be on the rise among the faithful and increasingly attributing modern technical and scientific developments as “Western science”, urging their young listeners to take a “leap of faith” challenging the diverse and sometimes debilitating influences of western cultures and market excellence unaware that the scientific developments drew substantially on work done earlier by the Arabs and Indians.
There is this clip making rounds on social media of one such speaker. The man lacking the minimum King’s English (The Queen is dead, and our former colonial lords have a king after 70 years) speaking with a blend of Urdu and English is lamenting and coaxing his audience to take over the pharmaceutical industry from the Jews who he claimed without a blink, had hijacked it from the Christians putting their own medical insignia of Moses staff with two snakes entwined at the top( referring to the caduceus )over the Cross, with the Islamic insignia of the Crescent and Star.
Unpardonable bumbling idiocy. The Red Cross has nothing to do with pharmaceutical production. It is a Geneva-based global humanitarian network that provides A-Z help to people and nations suffering from calamities and disasters, like its counterpart the Red Crescent.
His, “Moses staff and entwined snakes”, is the caduceus, the traditional symbol of the medical profession used by doctors, clinics, hospitals and ambulances, very common in the West. And seen on medical and health shop billboards at home. It in fact is one of the many Greek and Roman mythological icons, carried by Greek God Hermes. And there are several myths about the caduceus.
Correspondingly, there is a noteworthy qualitative improvement among Friday Pulpit speakers (Khateebs). Unlike the common lot who pontificate, look down upon sinners, harangue over the proverbial mote, assuring hell fire with no hope of mercy for actions and deeds the BOOK does not specifically protect and forbids, ignoring the importance of Mamalat( dealings/transactions with family, social, business affairs) of which the Prophet cautioned to keep in step with. These few in numbers are alumni of Islamic seminaries, known for producing influencer scholars. Few in numbers have managed a healthy connect with the young and the educated.
A mosque on road number 12 in Banjara Hills, known for the orderly laid out graveyard on its open land, where the traditional Memorials over graves are not allowed only gravestones with the name of the dead person and the date he died are permitted, has availed the services of such out-of-the-box Imam (prayer leader). Traditionally Friday Khutbas revolve around narrow and straight jacket do’s and don’ts of the faith.
His Friday khutbas (sermon) are the perfect balance between the demands of modern times and the protocols of the faith. Aware of the community’s prevailing shortfalls and flaws and the country’s social and political situation, he brings to the fore issues like “Time management. Will power and Islamic guidance. Avoiding misunderstanding- building trust in relations with others. Tension causes and remedies. Contributions of Muslims in country’s fight for independence. Peace and security are the Mercy of God. Personal Hygiene. Keeping environments healthy”. And stresses to look within the rich confines of Islamic civilization, history, its sciences and holy scripture, for solutions rather than adopting whatever appears to be the prevalent mood in the West.
It is not just the usual over-pitched, but a cool and calm delivery punctuated with English terms, the figure of speech, connotations and attention-grabbing vocabulary to drive home the message.