When Tilak proclaimed ‘Swarajya is my birthright,’ from my school history book , I proclaimed in my mind, ‘Stutter is my birthwrong’.
I realized I had a stutter when people mocked me. ‘Stutter is in my blood,’ I thought then. It used to be a painful experience to keep shut in class when I knew an answer but couldn’t dare to venture. Naturally I became self conscious, kept mum and became an ‘average’ child.
Being introverted became a virtue. Elders cited my calm demeanor as proof of obedience. This reinforced my resolve to keep mum and remain average, for I could avoid limelight and embarrassment if asked to speak on something.
My first official tryst with the truth came in Class 3 when I was chosen for a Tamil oratorical competition. When I had qualified in a semi-final round, the teacher in charge remarked ‘Why this boy? He can’t even talk properly, leave alone give a speech.’ I began to notice sheepish grins among friends, whenever I spoke and stuttered.
I continued in my journey of being an ‘average’ boy and lived in my cocoon.
Only my language teachers found value in my writings.
All of a sudden CBSE found out that I wasn’t fit to be an average boy and declared that I had topped the nation in English in the Class-X Central Board exams. With The Hindu, Indian Express and Doordarshan coming to my door for interview, I had to open my mouth, and, declare my impediment for all the world to see.
The Hindu and Indian Express gave me scholarships. NCERT followed suit. I began to wonder, ‘Do I qualify for all these, for I have always been an ‘average’ student at school?’, the feeling of being an average performer having been instilled in my psyche.
I researched in the Neyveli Library for cure. From pebble-mouthing to deep-breathing, I tried every means known. There was even a minor tongue surgery. Nothing changed. I, a natural introvert, took to reading and writing a lot. When I had to meet Rajiv Gandhi to receive a prize, I dared not, and requested my dad to go to Delhi. He got it from Dinesh Singh, the then Union Minister.
When the 44th Jeer of Ahobila Mutt visited Neyveli, I was tasked to write a welcome address in English. I wrote but gave it to my uncle to read. The then Chairman of NLC was happy with the content and when he came to know that a Class XI student had written it, called me to congratulate. I made sure I didn’t open my mouth. I realized that my potential was not in speaking but in writing.
Things didn’t get better when I was ragged in college. But later began to change for the better. I became the leader for the least desired ‘English Literary Association’ and took to stage at every given opportunity. While the audience suffered, I gained. I took part in Tamil debating competitions as well. Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to win friends and influence people’ gave me lots of tips at that age.
Then it dawned on me – Stutter had nothing to do with genes. It was a function of the mind. When the brain rushed information to the vocal chords and tongue to deliver, and there was a traffic jam, the tongue struggled. So there I was, with an in-born speed-breaker in the road from brain to tongue, but with an above average mental faculty.
Here is the trick I used to overcome the impediment. Improve vocabulary. Having been addicted to The Hindu early in life, and having been a great fan of its ‘Know Your English’ section, my word quotient was above average. So, I trained myself to perform quick mental look-ups for any word that I knew to make me flounder. Thanks to Neyveli Library,I read more books than any other in class. My competitor was my legendary English teacher, the late T.K.Ramanujam ( better known as Bahu). But I never beat him in the number of books read per week.
Today, I am an author, banker and speaker. Yes, I speak on every given occasion. I still stutter, at times, when stressed or when angry.
Having realized that stuttering is a function of an over-active mind that gushes with more data than the traffic channels can handle, I give a damn about it. It is an occupational hazard due to deep reading since school days, I reassure myself, for some of the master orators of all times, Churchill and Demosthanes, stuttered.
Anyway, stuttering is not my problem. It is the audience’s.
Recently I saw an interview of E.M.S.Namboodiripad, the legendary leader and stutterrer.
Inteviewer: ‘ EMS, Do you always stutter?’.
EMS: ‘No, I stutter only when I speak’.
So, stutterers of the world, forget it. For, you don’t gain anything by remembering you are one. Any impediment, be it physical or mental, is compensated by an additional dose of some other faculty. That is how God ensures equilibrium.
Σx is always a constant. Deficiency is compensated, somehow. That is the design of nature.
P.S.: Pass this on to students who might need it. Ask them to call if they need help.
This post is a result reading Prof. Uthra Durairajan’s fantastic Tamil poem on https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Futhra.dorairajan%2Fposts%2F2392290920798013&width=500“>’average’ children.
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