Early years in India and now in school in the US

by Balaji Krishnamurthy

I am basically from India and have been stuttering for quite some time (from early childhood) I guess. Unfortunately, in India in those days (late 70's and early 80's), stuttering was not a very well known disability. It probably is not even now. My parents, I guess, basically did not know how to handle the disability. They tried training my speech themselves.

Later on, I met a speech therapist. My guess, was, that he did not even know the rudimentary facts of stuttering. He convinced my parents that they should just forget it and it would go away. Well, it didn't and I continued stuttering. Those early days were pretty traumatic. Once you reach a certain age, people are mature enough to react to stuttering and you are mature enough to handle adverse reactions to a disability.

School days are different. Insensitive colleagues, insensitive teachers made life miserable for me. I still remember one of the teachers who handled Tamil, my regional language, which incidentally was my second language. He knew I was a stutterer. He used to call me to read aloud in class. I probably used to stutter on every word. After a couple of minutes, of this torture, he used to tell me "If we go on like this, we can finish class only tomorrow." Then, he used to call on somebody else to read. The frustration and agony used to be written large on my face. I used to feel like burrowing myself into my book. I always used to feel that stuttering is one disability where people laugh at you. Nobody laughs at people who are blind or deaf. Fortunately, for me, I had good friends who really understood the difficulty I was going through and never really used to speak to me about it. To them I was pretty normal.

But early scars are difficult to heal. I probably went through lots of humiliation, teasing and frustration at school more with teachers than with students. I guess I emerged out of school as a person with a deep inferiority complex. Undergraduate years were better. People understood my problem better and I was not subjected to irrational insults. I consulted a couple of speech therapists in India who did not do me any good. Luckily, I managed to end up in the USA before long. This kind of a website is a dream come true for stutterers.

At the time of writing this article, two thoughts come of my mind. Stephen Hawking in one of his lectures said " all of us are mature enough to understand that life is extremely unfair. We just have to make the best use of what we have." How right. Coming from someone, who has ALS and who has achieved so much despite it, offers us the moral courage to succeed despite odds. One of my fellow writers on one of the mailing lists about stuttering had written that life is a gambling game, in which each of us are given a deck of cards to play with. Some of us are given a very good deck of cards. Some of us are given a bad deck of cards. I guess we just have to make the best use of the cards we have. I intend to.

added with permission of the author
December 14, 1998