back: Journey of a seeker..
Gupta was born in Hyderabad yet left India at the ripe age of 10
months! He lived his early years in Bangkok, Manila, Hong Kong. It
was in Hong Kong in grade 3 where he first began to notice his
stammer. Then, he moved again to Kobe in Japan where stammering began
to control period of his life in the classroom – while raising his
hand to answer question and talking to friends. However, he always
tried his best to focus on school work and did very well in school.
Over the school years, he tried everything he could to avoid
stammering – not raising his hand in class, switching words, avoiding
talking – which were socially and academically hurtful decisions. In
Grade 8, he decided to challenge himself by signing up for a speech
class. The class was probably the toughest class for him, and he
remembers feeling hurt after one speech and making a promise to
himself that he will do all he can to help other people who stammer –
no one should ever go through the pain that he is going through. Keep
in mind he still had not meant anyone who stammered and did not even
really know what to call this different way of speaking.
received speech therapy in Mumbai one summer which probably changed
his life. The speech therapist suggested that the main problem was
speaking too fast and that if Dhruv wanted he could speak fluently.
This led to a strongly incorrect self-belief that stammering is
wrong, and that it his fault that he is still stammering. This pushed
Dhruv to hide his stammering even more and try every method possible
to speak ‘fluently’.
end of 10th grade, Dhruv moved to Guangzhou, China, where he tried to
have a fresh start. He believed that nobody here knew he stammered,
so he would just try his best to hide it. He would try to speak fast
so as to get all words out, speak when he knew he could be ‘fluent’,
change words and avoid situations. This worked for him for awhile,
and he soon made a new group of friends. However, avoiding situations
played on his self-confidence and belief system that there were
somethings he couldn’t do.
graduated and attended the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign. Here he continued to hide his stammering and do all
he could to prove that he was ‘fluent’ & confident. He soon
made a group of friends who stuck with him throughout his university
life. After a fun-filled freshman year, he began to feel the pressure
of classes and specifically class-room presentations. He did all he
could to avoid presentations & group projects but there were some
projects he just could not avoid. He decided to take a speech class
in his second semester of sophomore year. He had a tough time in the
class and found it difficult again to give speeches. Still at this
point, he had not met anyone else who stammered, so he believed he
was the only one with this problem and he still could not
specifically name it. He had no clue why he would get stuck on some
words as he did.
through a very rough path his sophomore year into this junior year
where he felt like he wasn’t good enough. He became very reserved
and would hardly speak to his roommates. Everyone saw that he had
changed, but he did not share with anyone expect one very close
friend, what he was going through. All his friends thought that maybe
he didn’t like them anymore or his personality had changed into
being a rude person as he was secretly afraid to speak in front of
junior year, he met a friend who he saw had a similar difficulty
while speaking. He would block on a certain word. He instantly felt a
connection with this person and they became life-long friends. He
tried to attend speech therapy at the University of Illinois and went
to a group session. However, after attending just the one group
session he rejected the idea of returning harnessing a self-belief
that he did not have the same problem as them.
senior year, he scrambled to attend career fairs and attend job
interviews. However, partially because of the economic downturn in
2009 and his chosen major of Corporate Finance, and his
self-belief that he was unable/not good enough to work anywhere – he
found it hard to find a job.
returned home in May 2009 after graduating with a B.S. in Finance,
and began to search for a job in Guangzhou, China. At this time, his
father had opened up a Vaastu, an Indian restaurant in Guangzhou. He
had helped with the design and construction of the restaurant during
his summer vacation in 2008. His father was having troubles with
their then manager and asked Dhruv if he would like to join in the
business. Dhruv at first hesitated, as this was not his dream
(although at that point he wasn’t very clear of his dream) yet
after considering it he felt he would feel proud to help his father.
He joined Vaastu at the General Manager in July 2009 and underwent 1
month of training under the GM who was about to leave. From August
’09 – March ’11 he put his heart into the restaurant and it won
Guangzhou’s Best Indian Restaurant award in 2009 & 2010.
However, in March 2011 the restaurant was forced to shut down because
the Chinese landlord had decided to reinterpret the contract and they
began a legal battle.
was convinced that he had to open Vaastu again as soon possible.
After it became clear that the restaurant in it’s current location
would be unable to open, he began to search for new restaurant
venues. In June 2011 he found a new venue, and by mid-August 2011 the
new restaurant opened. It was a smaller venue, but he tried to retain
the Vaastu characteristic through decoration and quality service &
food. The restaurant ran from August ‘11 – July ’13 and again won
Guangzhou’s Best Indian Restaurant award in 2012.
the end of 2012 he was having difficulties with his speech, as he had
been having throughout the years being in the service business, and
he decided to finally Google to find an answer. In January ’13 he
attended an intensive speech therapy program in New York. In this
program he did desensitization activities, that helped make him more
comfortable with his stammering, like voluntary stammering and
self-advertising. Then he learned tools like light-contact
prolongation, cancellations, pull-outs, and planning what tool to use
in your sentence to help make him feel more in control of his
stammering. This program helped me feel like he was in control of his
speech, which helped him realize that he was in control of his life.
decided that he wanted to pursue passions beyond business,
particularly in food security. He had seen the grotesque amount of
food being wasted everyday in the restaurant and learned that more
people were dying each day of hunger than any other disease. He
decided to dedicate his life to working on food security issues. He
sold the restaurant in July ’13, and moved to Mumbai.
original plan was to attend graduate school and do a Master’s
program in New York in Food Policy. However, after a conversation
with a dean at his dream school, he realized he should get some
experience first. During this time he began to work with the
Postharvest Education Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated
to reducing food loss. Through the organization he got a chance to
attend a United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization
conference in Rome, Italy in December 2013. This opened his eyes to
type of work being done in the field. Most importantly, he learned it
wasn’t a food loss or food waste issue, but more an economic issue.
In big cities, there is enough distribution of food, however, people
cannot afford to purchase food. Therefore, he learned the issue is
rather economic policy, job creation, socioeconomic balance issues.
in Mumbai he joined TISA. He attended a self-help group in Mumbai and
was grateful to meet other people in Mumbai who stammered. He then
attended his first TISA National Conference in October 2013 and was
ecstatic to have met so many people who stammered from all over the
country. He felt part of a long-lost family and was eating parathas
in Delhi’s paratha-vali-gali like a Delhite in no time.
returning from the NC, he got more involved with the SHG and decided
to search for a permanent venue where they could meet. Through a
fellow TISA member Gaurav Dubey, currently Mumbai SHG president, who
found the YMCA Ghatkopar, he approached them and sealed a deal to use
the YMCA venue for a year at no cost. Then he worked on structuring
the SHG agenda to merge stammering self-help with the Toastmaster’s
organized format. This resulted in a weekly meeting with extempore
speeches, prepared speeches and a fun learning session. The design of
the format was finalized after consultation with Harish Usgaonker,
leader of the Goa SHG and Dr. Sachin.
his connections at Bombay Connect, information on stammering and TISA
was published in Mumbai Mid-Day
), a local newspaper read by over 40% of the city’s population.
This was a huge win for stammering awareness in Mumbai and India.
Further, many people who stammer saw the article and contacted Dhruv
to attend the SHG meetings. This helped surge the growth of the SHG.
decided he would dedicate his life to helping people who stammer. He
researched online and found several organizations that work
exclusively to help children, teenagers and adults who stammer. He
decided to work with them to understand what programs they offer and
how he can bring such programs back to India. In June 2014 he
traveled to the US to learn about these programs, primarily the
Stuttering Association for the Young, the American Institute for
Stuttering and the National Stuttering Association. He is excited to
be back in India and apply his learnings from the west with the
Indian philosophy that everything we need to know is already inside
us, we just need the right perspective and a caring community to