S.T.U.T.T.E.R

*Fiction

CIRCA 1991

6 pm:

I don’t like sitting down with my legs folded, my stomach interrupts the action and the other leg keeps slipping down. The fan is moving slower than usual and I can actually see the rings painted around the axis. Green, orange and blue, they were painted for my brother’s birthday.

6.45 pm:

The wind is breezy and all kids are playing outside. I hold the railings on the window stilt firm caressing the rust gently. I want to join them, but tomorrow is a big day. Mom would be here anytime soon, time to practice that speech. I kneel before the bed and pull my blue bag underneath it. It almost resists the action, echoing my unwillingness to read over the paper again and again. But I have to, my mom’s friends and others will be at the stage. I have to perform well.

7.30:

Mom is back, she is making tea in the kitchen. Dad is watching news as I swing like a Chinese Buddha trying to memorize the words. The speech is about how India is a country we all should be proud of. I don’t understand pride, I am happy that we have a rich culture. But isn’t pride a bad quality, fall comes before pride was it? Or maybe it is the other way around. Anyway I must resist asking people questions about the same. I remember our teacher saying; don’t be over smart by asking such questions. If smart is good, isn’t over smart something better? These adults confuse me.

10.15pm

I can’t sleep; I keep shuffling in the bed. I try to play hide and seek with the clock. Burying my forehead in the soft pillow I can only see the second hand. It is my favorite hand on the clock, always active. But people ignore it; I have heard there are digital clocks with numbers on them. But I won’t like it as I can’t see the second hand. Gosh, so many thoughts. I hope I don’t forget the speech it is going to be a big day.

6.00 am

Radio wakes me up with a morning prayer, which softly plays at its own pace. I hate loud alarms I want to wake up with a smile.  As my eye lids crawl apart from each other, I can see that the milkman has come and is pouring milk into the container which is kept outside. I am nervous now; I feel I might forget the speech. I get up and walk towards kitchen, lunch is almost ready. The cooker whistles as the steam cuts through the morning mist like sliver through fog. I like the word sliver, it sounds like silver but isn’t. I picked it up from an Enid Blyton’s book

6.45

I am poring over the papers now, hmmm. I don’t like some words, they are difficult to pronounce. Patriotism, ah what an awful word to write! It seems it means love of one’s country and now I understand its meaning.

8 am

The bus is almost close to the gate, I didn’t get the window seat today. Maharaj, got ahead of me and we were talking about going to the canals to see the new fishes after the rain. I want to go there now, speech can wait. People scare me. Uff, the bus has come to a stop and now everyone has to get out of the bus.

9.25

Everyone is wishing me good luck. The teachers are standing behind my mom, their eyes are widening as they spot me. I feel lost the place is too huge. One of the  PT sir comes near me and says that my number is 12 and I should wait behind number 11. I don’t know why he did not say all the best.

I am sweating, there are only three kids before me and I feel everyone is looking at us. I don’t like the videographer. The light is too bright and he is always moving. My turn now, I quote Rabindranath Tagore and I feel funny listening to my own voice. Wait now, what was the next line??

I pause and suddenly I see people waiting, checking their time, some are nodding at each other. Some are holding their chin. I see someone smiling to someone and slowly many are doing the same. However this time I feel bad when they are smiling, it seems mean. Eyes botch up and my eyelids are pregnant with tears.

There seems to be a shadow carpeting the hall and everything is slowly becoming dark. I don’t know how long I have been standing staring at the microphone. I look to my left as my teacher signals me to leave; I kind of follow her lead. Suddenly everyone is whispering to each other and then I realize that I had failed. Everyone around me looks worried and in fact, I couldn’t speak for a few minutes as I could feel a lump in my throat. It was like there was a steel ball stuck in my tongue and I could think of words but I couldn’t speak it. I just wanted to say Mom, but it came out as Ma-uh-uh-om.

2002

Eleven years and 9 failed interview calls, years of bullying and taunts throughout my graduation I still am haunted by that incident.  I developed a condition which arose from fear which affected my voice box.  I don’t know why I froze up on the stage and got scared of what others would think.

I am cured now thanks to an intensive speech therapy.

I didn’t even know them, they were such strangers. But why I did I value their two minutes of attention up so much that I let it affect me.  I look around and I see people shaping their lives around opinions of strangers. Always playing safe, wrapping a fancy name around their lifestyle and ambition-Practical.

My Stutter is my scar to remind myself not to be daunted or be scared of what others think of me, at least those who don’t matter. I have seen fathers ignoring their daughters if their boss is at the dinner table. I have seen kids leave away their maids who take care of them as soon as they reach school and don’t even say good bye as they don’t want to be embarrassed by the “Aai”(House maid) in crumpled sari’s so that their unknown friends may not make fun of them. Young graduates letting go their dreams to a career which sounds acceptable in a society. Can’t blame them much, won’t be able to rent an apartment or wouldn’t be an eligible bachelor/bachelorette if it isn’t a “stable” career.

I have been in relationships where it ended just because society *might* not deem it acceptable due to caste boundaries. Who are these societies anyway? How are our lives any of its business? Of course world and life aren’t fair by any measure. But must we seriously ignore our calling and drown them amongst the voices of the faceless?

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