Imagine waking up to find you have lost a limb. Or that you have lost your voice. Or that you can no longer speak a single sentence without someone laughing at you.
It is not easy. It is specially difficult if you are merely 10 years old and eager to reach out to the world around you.
Somewhere around that age I started to stutter. So, because of this stutter thing, I lived a part of my young growing years “fighting” an inconsiderate world. This fight shaped me forever. That I could not care less about societal norms, that I will always fight for what I believe in, that I will be able to forgive anyone, that I will be gifted with empathy, and that I can love unconditionally are all in part born out of and/or nutured by this fight.
You have to go through fire once to know what it means to be burnt. And once you are burnt there are only two things that can happen to you. Either you will shrivel and die or you will come out brighter and purer. For reasons I do not fully understand and surely do not take credit for, I happened to emerge talking nineteen to the dozen from my state of speechlessness. I would open my mouth and incoherence would emanate. People around me would become uncomfortable. They would get embarrased as if I have dropped my pants. Some would hide their emotion and keep a straight face. Some would step away. Some would laugh. Right there. Right in my face. It is to the latter that I partly owe my triumph.
Two incidents remain etched like yesterday in my mind. No matter they happend more than 20 years ago. I was in grade six, and stood up to answer something the teacher asked. I knew the answer. I just did not know how to get it out of my lungs. But I started anyhow. And then Sunita*, a classmate, started laughing. And then another classmate laughed. And then another. It no longer mattered if I knew the answer. It no longer mattered if I did finally get it out. For all you would have heard in that classroom was laughter.
The other memory is of playtime outside my house. Probably a summer evening. My neighbours Madhu* and Nisha* and I were enagaged in small talk. Both a few years elder to me. I had this joke to tell which I thought was very funny. So I said I have a joke to tell. Nisha started laughing and said “well, we will know the end before you have finished”. I do not remember the moment exactly after she said this, but I do remember running home, burying myself in my mother’s lap, and crying my heart out. It seemed the joke was on me. I also remember Nisha running in a few moments later, filled with remorse for her words, and crying.
So, unlike most of you, I did not get my speech without a fight. And fight I did. Tooth and nail. Sweat and blood. I just did not stop talking. My teachers had only this complaint all my school life – “he is talkative”. I was obedient, polite, clean, on time, and sharp. They just did not understand why I would want to talk and sometimes get punished for it. But someone did. This half educated, barely five feet tall, and tough as a nail woman I call mother understood exactly what it was all about. No, she had no idea what was the cause of her son’s infliction. I think she did not give two hoots for the cause. But she did know something no other person knew. She never asked me to shut up. She never laughed at me. She never got embarassed if it took me ages to tell her what I wanted to tell her. She would just wait, like an angel, for me to finish. I am sure she would have waited for an eternity if I had lost my voice completely. Mothers are made entirely of the world’s most precious element. They are made purely of love.
So, riding on her love and some perseverance, I managed to come far enough to talk fluently. I still think faster than I can talk, and I can talk faster than some people can think. But once in a while I would find the disability reappear for an odd second or two and the words would jam up. People still get embarassed when that rare slip happens. And I still get “You are talkative”. But I laugh it off. For I have earned my voice.
* names changed to protect identities.
I have cried enough G, but this brought tears I dont mind shedding.
If there was any way, that those moments could be relived. you would have had one child (maybe a little older than you 🙂 ) in that class who would have waited patiently for all that laughter to subside down and asked you to continue with your answer, and would have done that over and over.
I am a mother as well as a terrible fighter. I know what it is to go through fire and emerge out only stronger and purer. I learnt since I was 8 years old, to look through a soul and forgive all no matter who, no matter what they do…! Maybe someday i too will have the courage to write about what made me what i am today!
I wont comment on how well written this is, you know that…all I can say is I got a glimpse of the 10 yr old Gurdas and the loving mother who could have waited patiently for her son till eternity to finish talking….and I am so happy that I did. 🙂
J, thank you for hearing me out. On the phone! You have the courage and the words; so when will I get your tell-all post?
Thanks for sharing this post with me. It is very touching and very motivational. I congratulate you on working hard to overcome your stuttering and mothers like your mother make a real differnce in any child’s life.
I wish I could express like you . You really have a flair for writing. I am truly impressed.
I would love to read your blogs, so keep me posted whenever you post a new one. Thanks again for sharing.
Nandini, Yes, mothers shape any generation. Pity our society fails to grasp the significance.
I think almost any one with high school education can write. All you need is to get into the shoes of the subject. And for that you need only a sensitive heart. So, when are you going to treat us with your fantastic blog? 🙂
At the bottom of the green column (towards the right) is a “sign me up” feature. Please use that to get notification for new posts. I am not very regular though, but average a post every fortnight or month.
My twin sister also stuttered as a child. People would tease her so much, it got to the point that when she’d get stuck and the words would pour out at a rapid clip, I would have to translate whatever she said. It was so embarrassing for her, and admittedly hard for me too. But she went to speech therapy, and the only lingering part of her stutter is the way she still fires off those words at a rate too fast for most people to understand. 🙂
You didn’t just fight and win, Gurdas. You fought your fight and came out as one of the most eloquent and poignant speakers I know. Your diction is spot-on, and your vocabulary is impressive. (and as a word-addict, that’s a big deal to me)
thank you for sharing your story.
Carrie, my favourite Okie ever! Thank you for your kind words. You paint my life green 🙂
Quite a piece, this one. Sometimes children are cruel. I loved your mother. She’s just like mine, protective, patient and loving… I’m not sorry you’ve been through that during your childhood only beacause you have come out triumphant despite of it. You are a good person, even one of the best. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your writing has been an inspiration.
Happy New Year! 🙂
New Year greetings, Lori! How have you been?
I am not sorry either 🙂 We are shaped by our hardships, and so I’d rather be thankful for the struggle and the strength God put in me to overcome the struggle.
Mothers are the closest we come to God in living form. I am wondering if you have a blog post that gives me a peek at your angel? Send me the link if there is one.
And thank you for your kind words. Really, you are too generous.
Now that you have mentioned it, I do see a pattern in your irreverence during our school days. Your group consisted of others who were equally indifferent to others’ views about you all. I now realize that it is important to be impervious to others’ sarcasm/ ridicule to be able succeed in life.
And yes, you are bang on when you say that mothers are made of pure love. Am sure, your mom must be very proud of your achievements.
I read your other posts as well. They are good. Have registered for updates.
Srinivas, I will not shy from accepting that I was part irreverent part iconoclast. And the same goes for my group; we were headstrong and hard to contain or compartmentalise! At the same time, we were never casual about our studies or showing respect where it was due (Ms. Nupur, Mrs. Dua, Prakash Sir). This reminds me of a long due post – the Diwali cracker blasts during classes 🙂
Yes, I believe my mom is happy with what I have grown into. I have never let her down when it came to morals and ethics, though we have our fair share of disagreements.
And thank you for registering for updates. I hope to keep your readership.
I guess every batch has one Diwali blast to boast of. Unfortunately, I was not involved in the one that happened during the time that I was in the 12th std. Our teachers did try the dirty old trick of “divide and rule” but, alas, the idealism of youth prevailed over their machinations. “One for all, all for one” policy held us in good stead and no one was “caught”. I think over this issue sometimes … was it merely puerility or was it the brashness of new found youth ? were we being dishonest by not telling the truth or were we simply showing our solidarity with the “culprits” ? Who knows ? I think it was an act of defiance (against whom or for what I know not) or it may have been just our desire to be different from all the others.
And yes, the list of teachers who commanded respect would be incomplete without the mention of Krishnan Sir and Mrs. Vasudevan. I was in complete of awe of Krishnan Sir. It is amazing that we were blessed with the best of teachers. Just that I was not cognizant of the same at that time. When I look back and reflect, something bothers me. Maybe, I should have been more respectful (not that I was not) and less demanding. But then, I was being myself.