It was a cool Saturday in the month of July. I was not feeling well that day, wanted to take some time off. However, I had committed meeting Sachin at 9.30 in the morning. He was coming from Deharadun for some meeting. His friend Jai Prakash had e-mailed the meeting agenda to me, but frankly I had not paid attention. The meeting was in the campus of world known IT company, which was another attraction. So, finally I decided to go.
The moment my auto rickshaw stopped, a young smiling man came forward to receive me. “Are you Savita?” he asked, and when I smiled affirmatively, he pleasantly said “I am Jai”. I was astonished to find such a young man to be friend of Sachin. I could not get the connection at that moment. The other young man M too introduced himself. I started wondering what this meeting was all about.
After all the formalities of security check, photo pass for the day, leaving pen drive at the reception counter etc, I entered the classroom. Sachin was talking to some people. Everything was still hazy.
After a good breakfast (thanks to Jai), we had a round of introduction. There were about 20 people, mostly young, all well educated, enthusiastic and smart. They were meeting for last few months, but it was their first day-long meeting, with some new faces.
We watched a movie ‘UNSPEAKABLE’ – a Canadian documentary based on the interviews of People Who Stammer (PWS). The documentary touched the hearts of all participants. Everybody came forward to share what s/he felt about the documentary and in the process opened up a life canvas which till then was unknown to me.
Who can imagine that someone chooses only that food from the menu card, which s/he can utter easily without stammering? One man shared that he could not eat the famous ‘Baby Medu Vada’ in his canteen just because he feared that he would definitely stammer while uttering that word. Who can imagine that people chose certain career even when they did not like – just because it required almost no talking? Someone talked about the fear of pronouncing his name, so he always shied away from strangers. Many people shared how they could not instantly say ‘Yes Sir/Madam’ when the teacher was taking attendance, and they had to go and meet the teacher after the class to register presence.
I was observing all the speakers and sometimes I felt that the speaker changed the statement in the midst of talking. One participant explained it. He said, “Whenever a difficult word comes, I try to avoid it and say something else (easy) than what I had planned to say”. One man, a father of two kids, shared how he feels when his kids do no want him to place order when they visit a restaurant – fearing that the father would stammer. One woman explained how her friend is getting lonelier because of stammering. Some participants shared that: they speak in a hurry because they fear that they may stammer at any (next) moment.
Listening to all those experiences was touching. Because, I had never known this side of life. I had come across some people who stammered but had not given much thought to it. Sometimes I tried to ‘help’ stammering person by providing the right word – now I understand that this does not help him/her but rather makes him/her more conscious about stammering. Sometimes I had ‘helped’ such persons by taking charge of the situation and did all the talking myself – now I understand that by such action I did not really help the stammering person. I could understand the struggle this group (and many more people like them) goes through life, and I was motivated by their determination to overcome the situation and bring change. It was really an energizing and educative experience for me.
I was also feeling a bit awkward. I was a total stranger to them and they shared their heart’s concern with me, they had shown a great trust in me. I was not expected to be sympathetic and I was not supposed to support – I was to just understand. I was not sure whether my responses hurt them or whether I was unintentionally insensitive to them. I was not like them and still the group accommodated me with ease. Thanks, Pune PWS SHG.
How different God (Nature) has made all of us! How different challenges God (Nature) puts in front of us. We need to support each other so that everyone blooms and everyone has a good life. We need to form a group of ‘People Who Support’ (PWS) – irrespective of the similarities and differences. I am sure the PWS SHG is becoming a People Who Support group through their continuous interaction.
If you know anyone who stammers, motivate him/her to be associated with TISA (The Indian Stammering Association). For more information please visit