“When a confident, bright, nine-year old is made to stand in a crowd of over 600 students, it is overwhelming. That day, I was dressed as a boy, playing Martin Luther King“ I could hear the girls and boys in the crowd giggling and making jokes even before I got on stage, but I had decided that nothing was going to break my confidence down. I felt sketchy about my script, couldn’t remember my lines, felt nauseous and more. I was contestant number 10, although I was shaking in my shoes, I got up there with everything I had. Call it stage fright, lack of self-confidence, or immense self-doubt after having watched my brilliant peers before me, something told me it was all going to go south. I went on stage twice, my house captain did her best to stand behind the judges and prompt my speech to me but my world was crashing down, my words were getting entangled by the second and my head was spinning. I was asked to step aside and all the students looked at me with disappointment. My house lost all its points because of my bad performance, we came last, and I knew it was all on me. Even today, I know the first paragraph of my speech by-heart and nothing more.
While I was giving this horrid speech, I made a new friend one who has stayed with me for what has been 15 whole years and hasn’t left. My friend does get busy sometimes and forgets to visit me, other times it feels pity for me and doesn’t show up at all. Yes, meet my friend, the one who has always made everything harder, my companion for (hopefully not) my life - my stammering. After that day, I never participated in any house events and tried to stay away from all public speaking events. From a child with amazing diction to one with mental conversations only, I practised my Martin Luther King speech for years hoping I would overcome it someday, someday has still not arrived. When you go to a school with a lot of unkind, partial teachers being a student who stammers is not the best journey. I used to get berated for not knowing and answer and raising my hand anyway; little did the teacher know I was only struggling to speak.
Over the years, I was asked to analyse feelings, words, the letters before or because of which I stammered. My parents and friends would help me scrutinize my state of mind in the specific moments of stammering. I would stamp my feet, pinch my skin, slap my thigh and clench my teeth amongst other neurotic gestures to spit the words out.From speech therapists to linguistic programmers, from hypnotherapists to psychiatrists from homeopathy to Bach therapy, there is nothing I haven’t tried or experienced to bid my friend goodbye. Being older makes you smarter, gestures become subtle, the face shows less strain and you’re able to cover up better but not much has changed. From altering words mid-conversation to digging my nails, it all exists, all day every day. It’s something I have chosen to live with and even though I know it doesn’t define who I am, it has by default become a very big part of my personality."