The Ice Breaker – Kushal Ashok


I participated in the 2019 Toastmasters International Speech Contest for District 88 and delivered the following speech:

Dhishoom! Bhishoom! Dhishoom! [Punching and in the air]

Don’t worry, I was just breaking the ice between us. What, you can’t see any ice? That’s because I already broke it. But I didn’t know how to break the ice when I was in school. And so I didn’t have any friends. Until my mother told me a secret. A secret that would define my life.

Miss contest chair, fellow Toastmasters and guests, have you ever had trouble in starting a conversation with someone, have you ever had trouble breaking the ice?

I had a lot of trouble once when I saw a girl, a girl so beautiful that she took my breath away. As she walked towards me in a stunning white dress, the wind started blowing, maple leaves… flying in the air, a song started playing, “You are my fire, the one desire.” I wanted to talk to her so bad, I kept thinking of ideas to start a conversation. In Bollywood movies, the hero sings a song, but you just witnessed how bad I am at singing. In real life, the boy plays the guitar, but I don’t even know how to hold a guitar. In college, boys would just walk up to the girl and say, “Hey, how you doing?” But even the thought of saying hi to her was terrifying. I was truly and utterly terrified. Every time I tried to talk to her, my mouth went dry. Every time I tried to get her attention, my heart started beating so fast [slap the chest], pumping out of my chest. Every time she looked at me, I would start looking here and there. Even though we were in the same room, there was a huge wall of ice between us. I had a weird feeling in my stomach. 

Then I remembered the secret my mother told me, I gathered up the courage, looked at her, and I smiled. For a split second, there was no response. In my head, I was screaming, “Oh My God.” But then the corners of her mouth began to rise, it turned into a beautiful smile. Yes! She was smiling back at me.

The ice wall between us suddenly shattered into a million pieces, and we started dating. But 3 years later, I had to tell her, “Sorry, I can’t be your boyfriend anymore.” So we got… married. Yes, I am her husband now.

What happens once you become a husband, you need… more money. So I went to the senior senior manager (boss boss boss) but I couldn’t talk to him. I was so nervous that my knees started knocking and my hands became sweaty. I used that sweat to clean my face.

Then I remembered the secret my mother told me, I looked at him and smiled. The corners of his mouth began to rise, and guess what happened… no, we didn’t get married. He smiled back and the ice wall between us shattered into a million pieces. It gave me the opportunity to ask him, Boss, Boss, Boss, can you please send me on-site to another country, where I can make more money. At the end of that conversation he said, “OK, you can go to China.” I came out of the meeting room, my friend Chandragopala was waiting for me there. 

[Shaking his head] “Are you stupid? Why are you going to China? They don’t understand you, you don’t understand them, you can’t eat half the food on their menu, how will you survive?”

I packed my bags and traveled 4000km [long walk] … have patience, it’s 4000. When I reached the airport, I got into a taxi. But I couldn’t understand the driver, he couldn’t understand me. For a few seconds, we just looked at each other. Then I remembered the secret my mother told me, I smiled and the corners of his mouth began to rise. The ice wall between us shattered into a million pieces, and we started talking using body language. We even became friends on Wechat.

Today, it has been more than 3 years since I came to China. I broke the ice of inexperience and learned to use chopsticks. I broke the ice of my habits and learned to drink hot water. Hot water is good for your health. I broke the ice of ignorance and started to learn Mandarin. “Weishengjian Zai Naar?” “Where is the toilet?”

Learning something new like Mandarin can be hard. Building new relationships with people you don’t know can be a real challenge. You should all remember the secret my mother told… you don’t need to use force to break the ice, sometimes all you need is eye contact and an honest smile. An honest smile can break down the ice wall and open many doors for you.

Let’s break it together and make it shatter into a million pieces.

Miss Contest Chair.