Many Faces



Stammering has many faces. I met some of these in a recent meeting – and discovered that I had been through most of these phases in the evolution of a problem which essentially is based on perception, reaction and anticipation. For example there was X from Gwalior, in his thirties. Fluent -but too intense. His adjectives, metaphors and body language- were out to impress the world in a cold blooded fashion. If he wanted to say- food is good, he would rather say: The food is terrific, simply a-amazing- never h-had anything like this. Similarly, if he had to denounce anything, simple expression of disapproval was not enough! There was considerable emotion in his speech and body language. In fact, his entire energy made some of us uncomfortable. He is a ‘recovered’ PWS and is bent upon proving this fact to every audience he can lay his hands on.. I am not a shrink, but I guess sitting quiet (or meditation) will certainly help him- and his communication style. We all know, this great and deep urge to communicate- which, when frustrated for a long time, becomes an irrepressible drive.. But man must be in control of all drives, including this.. in order to communicate better! Then, there was Y from Delhi: Like a child with great wonder in his eyes. He had never met another PWS. He couldn’t believe that there were madcaps on this planet, who stammered and talked about st-st-stammering in a large group. What is this madness? His mind kept asking again and again. There was this young girl too, form Ghaziabad, who wondered how could people turn their most disliked quality into something like an asset, to talk about ad-infinitum! They also had a sense of regret: I wish, I had known this years ago! Yes, we repress our thoughts about our stammering, convinced that there is no help. But one day, when you find that the help is there, many years have passed and you do regret that fact. Then, there was Z from Gurgaon, fluent but talking as if he were walking on a parapet 100 feet above the ground. We all know that feeling- Not stammering but constantly anticipating doom (stutter). In our fear, we keep adding one fluent word after another- as if we are postponing that inevitable moment of a bad bad block! Neither Z not his audience was truly relaxed. In retrospect, it would have been so much better both for Z and his audience, had he stammered a little! Then, there was K from Kalka: he too is OK but he cannot understand why we are so het up about stammering. Is stammering an issue? Certainly not. He conquered it years ago. But since then, he is also trying to forget it (a paradox). So, he comes as a one man army to demolish this new fashion of starting self help group for stammering. Deep down, he knows the demon because he has wrestled with it himslef. But in public, he must trivialize the whole issue. Then, there is this young man from Gorakhpur: he is not worried so much by his daily misery of communication, finding friends, jobs etc. He is more pained by his mother and father’s sorrow on his account; their reaction to his problems. The harder he tries to assuage their feelings, the more he tenses up- the more he stammers- and the worse he feels about everything. Life seems so unfair, so hard. He wonders if this roomful of PWS can truly solve his problem..Can they? Then, there was P from Chakrata: No he does not stammer. He doesn’t understand it. But he does know discrimination. Years ago in school, whenever he would sit at the dining table, other kids would melt away. Why? Because, his father worked as a peon in the same school. Once, as a child, he even told his father- why dont you go and find work somewhere else? He remembers his father’s weak smile with pain now. He is doing a study on communication disorders, so he attended this stammering meet. There were a couple of Stuttering consultants also! After stuttering for years, they get a chakra awakening and then they write a couple of books- on the back of which they self-advertise their stammering, without any compunction. Over night they set themselves up as professional stutterers! I am told that they are in great demand in International conferences! (This is supposed to be a funny piece. No offense meant to sachin and others!)

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