Sir, This is Vimal… Remember? I met you in that workshop?
As I climbed this little trail uphill, near Kotabagh (Haldwani), after a 300 km drive, my first reaction to this phone call was a little irritation (Why cant people just email me?) – but then, it is always fun to catch up with old workshop participants. I always love to find out what happened to so and so after that minuscule input. So, breathing hard, I continued talking to Vimal. After initial pleasantries, he said something startling: Can you please talk to this lady and thank her? I was surprised and a little intimidated too!
As the story began to unroll, Vimal was now giving talks in morning assembly in the presence of children and staff- and he gained all this confidence thanks to a colleague, a lady teacher. She helped him a lot and he wanted me to thank her. By now, I too was getting curious about this good Samaritan. And really, the way Vimal spoke to me on phone, the improvement was obvious.
After some hitch, she was finally on phone. Without losing any time, I thanked her on behalf of TISA and all the stammerers of the world! Then I asked her, about herself: If you don’t mind, may I know more about you, because I am sure you are an unusual person… She laughed and politely declined to talk about herself.
We talked a little more as, I kept walking uphill in the valley; setting sun was at my back and everything in this broad valley had taken up a golden hue, as if my eyes were using some special magic filter from adobe photoshop… And then again, I went back to the old question- about herself! I was truly intrigued by this woman. Here is what she communicated in bits and pieces – rather, what I understood:
She was born in a poor family. Very thin and “ugly” (her statement). Very low self-esteem (“who would ever want to marry and live with me?”). She hardly finished her BA, when family married her off. Husband met with an accident (I would not/ did not ask for too many details). About this time she read a line in some book – and it changed her life; It was: Who is the most beautiful woman? Answer: Mother Teressa, because she has done beautiful work!
These lines transformed her inner landscape; changed her self-worth in her own eyes forever. She realized that she need not bother about her “looks” at all. She need to worry about what good can she do to others. She enrolled for B. Ed; In the meantime she had two kids, but she continued with her studies: MA (English), MA (Hindi), M.Phil etc. etc. A long list of academic achievements. She got a lecturer’s job in a state institution without any difficulty – where she is working now. Against all her expectations.
Having dealt with her own issues, she instinctively knew, what was holding Vimal back. She began praising him and encouraging him, as a senior colleague. She would wisely set up small challenges for Vimal and help him to overcome them. And the magic began to happen.
I have asked Vimal to come to next NC (or whatever)- so that I can send a little gift for this lady through him. I think, stammering will no more be “Stammering, the issue” – if there were couple of such colleagues available to all of us, early in life.
On another note, I was wondering, how do we react when we meet an Albino, a gay/ lesbian, a Transgender (“Hizra” in train) or someone with HIV or White skin or mental retardation? We certainly want world to understand and accept us. Do we accept the world in return? If not, are we not then acting like truly “disabled” person, who only takes but can’t return? Dont we believe in fair exchange?
I think in TISA, we have chanted enough: “Accept yourself”. Now, we should meditate on the other side of the coin: ACCEPT THE WORLD – as it is, without resenting it, without being uncomfortable with it. Exactly as we want to be treated, when we stammer in an Interview. Who knows, even we, the pws, may touch and transform somebody’s life?