Together | Towards | Tomorrow

Together | Towards | Tomorrow

It has been 11 months of leading District 98, 11 months my team and me having been given an opportunity to serve all of you, and 11 themed letters transversing across my journey at Toastmasters and beyond. And now, it is almost time for me to accept that this too shall come to an end. While I do have a few more thoughts to pen down this month, this will be the last month of having this opportunity to write directly to all of you.

I graduated from high school in 2007 and on the last day of the exam we wrote several messages for each other on our shirts because we knew we would never have to wear that uniform again [I still have that in my possession for the last 17 years]. My close friends were a group of 14 boys [it was a boy’s segment of the high school] and while we gave a goodbye hug to each other; we knew we were going to meet later that day for a game of cricket or counter strike and stick around forever; or so we thought. In the next few weeks, one by one all of us started leaving the city to pursue our academic pursuits and by the time I left a few weeks later, half of the group was already in different parts of the world. We all promised to stay in touch but we all know how that works out. But whenever we meet, it always feels like home. We are not part of each other’s daily happy and sad moments, but somewhere in our hearts, we know that we are together and just a call away.

I have met many mentors in my professional pursuits and made many friends in the journey. Be it at college, corporate stints or Toastmasters for that matter. Many of them played a pivotal role in shaping me into what I have become today. In the last over 14 years of my professional career, I have given an official interview only once [for my first job] – the rest all has been through referrals and network connections. No matter where our life journey takes us, some relationships are here to stay forever and together these people have made my tomorrow better.

Sanjay and me were fellow Division Directors in 20-21 [in the online era] and went on to serve as fellow CGDs and that’s how we became friends. Our first meet was in Jaipur 2021 after more than a year of knowing each other. While, he had a child marriage and all he sent me was a Zoom invite, we have been bouncing off ideas and life journey with each other despite he not being an active Toastmasters member for a few years in the interim. And when, I needed a friend and confidant to join my team mid-term – all he did was bat a few eyelids and come on board. A few days back, when he won the Public Speaking Championship at the Asia Pacific Region, he gave me a video call to show off his trophy. Over the years, that is the kind of friendships and relationships I have made with fellow Toastmasters. 

Back in July 2023, when the term started, I felt I had a year to make a difference and the only mandate I had for myself was to leave the District stronger than what I had got, and the rule of thumb for each officer was simple – let’s make a difference in the lives of one club/ one member. And hence began the campaign – #BeyondTheDashboard. We are always told to focus on the District Mission and rest everything is ancillary. I wanted to change the narrative – let’s focus on the club and members, rest everything will find its way. And today, I am proud that District 98 is already a President’s Distinguished District. This is the highest recognition our District has achieved in the last 5 program years and we are not done yet. It’s a simple testimony of the fact that we have been fairly successful in making the lives of our clubs and members a little better during the year and that matters a lot.

Yes, I had a vision to make the District, Smedley Distinguished this year just like I was part of the teams in the last three program years that started off with a similar goal. The failures are equally mine as much as the success this year but I believe all that I learnt over the years in my Toastmasters journey was put to practice this year. Some ideas work and some do not but we kept moving forward and built upon the foundations and journeys of the past. I was fortunate to have the complete support of my TRIO members who ensured that all that we planned for the members and for the District saw it being executed as well.

The District recently elected its future torchbearers led by Ankit Dasgupta [who served as my co Division Director a few years back and a member of my previous TRIO]. The District has commenced its transition process to the future leaders. Which is again a gentle nudge to us that the term is about to end. 

I know I am not going anywhere, will stay around as a member building our tomorrow, together. You wonder what makes me so confident that we are still going to be around? We recently had the annual District Conference – Eloquence 24 at Silvassa. Many of you travelled across cities, using different modes of Transportation, arrived and left at odd hours just to spend 3 days Together with the community. I have been humbled by the love, admiration and respect that the District Leadership Team got this year at Eloquence which ensured we have laid a strong foundation for #TogetherTowardsTomorrow. Some bonds are beyond titles and name tags.

Phir Milenge, Chalte Chalte !!!


Hardik Shah

District Director | District 98 | Toastmasters International

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