When I wake up in the morning, go to the washbasin, I see a face, a familiar one. A face, that knows me well, as no other face in the world would know. I stare into its eyes and say- “however you are I accept it! You are the best person I want to be, and I can be!”
So, here’s sharing the story of this very person who I see every day in the mirror. That’s me! Known to fellow beings as Harish Usgaonker, a master’s in IT, a Software Engineer, Technology enthusiast, a son, brother, husband, father, and a person with a secret lucky charm!. I have a passion for writing and music. I sometimes delve into mimicry as well. My role models are Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam, Dhirubhai Ambani, Sachin Tendulkar, Helen Keller, and Hrithik Roshan. I idolize them because all these personalities have built an empire of their own starting with nothing. Ah, not Hrithik Roshan, you would say- but the reason to idolize him is my lucky charm.
The story of my lucky charm began with the ugly demons as I stepped into Higher Secondary college. With the new surroundings and challenges, I began to realize that my “little stammer” which has always been there with me since I was 6, was suddenly aggravated, and was starting to affect me in a bigger way. My inhibitions, hesitation, and hidden demons showed up their ugly face during these days, sucking away all my confidence and belief. I stopped talking in class, never participated in any college activities or picnics. Outside college, I began to avoid public functions and answering the phone (the 90s were the days of dreaded landlines that forced you to say a ‘Hello’ to know who was calling). Speaking to the opposite gender was a big problem. This even affected my academics. During my undergraduate days, I joined a computer class because of my love and curiosity towards computer programming. The ugly demons returned! I had to give presentations there. I was very bad with it. I was made to feel embarrassed and humiliated when people used to go for a tea break when it was my turn to present. It again added to my isolation from social life. People often used to ask me – “Don’t you have a tongue?”. This ugly demon of stammering is the reason I began to idolize the Bollywood star, Hrithik Roshan, who is always very vocal about his stammering in public.
So, how did the ugly demons turn into the lucky charm? I had 3 turning points in my life. First, when I cleared the entrance exam and got through the admissions for Masters in Information Technology. It instilled into me some confidence. This was a chance to mend the mess. I decided to step into my master’s program by taking my problems head-on. I decided to face my fears. I knew I had to give presentations again. This time I decided to give it a fight. I did a thorough preparation of the topics I was supposed to present. Rehearsed my presentations alone in the room in front of the mirror. Prepared a list of probable questions the audience may ask, and prepared the answers. All this gave me confidence while I was actually doing the talking. During normal classes, I pushed myself and asked questions, and answered questions during lectures. I pushed myself and slowly began talking to the opposite gender. I continued this strategy even after I passed my master’s and took the plunge into my career. I volunteered for any speaking/presentation assignments. I volunteered to train the new joiners in my company.
The second turning point was when I joined the Indian Stammering Association. It taught me acceptance. It changed my attitude towards my imperfections and life as a whole. The intense resistance and social stigma I had developed with regards to my stutter were released. I began to talk about my stammering with my family, friends, relatives, and colleagues. At work, I volunteered to be on the organizing committee of games and annual days. I also began to participate in stage events. I did many things which I would have thought were impossible a year ago. Joining the Toastmasters Club is one of the ‘impossible’ things. The joy of working and contributing my bit to the stammering self-help moment had an immense level of fulfillment and as a spin-off, it instilled leadership qualities in me.
My third turning point(s), are all the adversities and setbacks I had in my life. Just like a bottle of ketchup, I had to be shaken, beaten, or broken to get the best of me out! The adversities in themselves are vast chapters, and would be in the scope of a biography!
Ambitions can be crazy! So are mine, a set of some weirdly uncommon to-dos in the bucket list! Trying my hands in cooking Biryani, a scary roller-coaster ride, the 10-day Vipassana course, a ride on the London Eye… and of course elaborate this piece into a 200 pager biography! Too much to ask for, let me start with the Biryani!