Speaking was never my cup of tea for the last fifteen years of my life.
My earliest recollection of a speech impediment was an out of control struggle during a poem recitation in the fifth grade and since then stuttering had become an inextricable part of my personality that had impacted every aspect of my life: my profession, my relationships and my socialising skills. The countless visits to the speech therapist's office and the interminable fluency moulding sessions yielded little result. I was exhorted to use the techniques in real-life situations which I found invariably, in the ensuing panic, impossible to do and would stutter uncontrollably. Eventually, I became a chronic backslider and over the years I grew weary of my struggle which was only proving to be futile notwithstanding the long hours of reading practice and tedious voice modulation exercises. I even convinced myself to put on a brave face in speaking situations, a will o' the wisp that only hurt me more and
reminded strongly of my inability to speak what I really wanted to speak. What started as an innocuous tussle with words fifteen years ago had since metamorphosed itself into a sinister beast, bringing with itself the facial contortions, grimaces, foot tapping, slapping the thighs, shrugging the shoulders, jerking the arms and a myriad of unpleasant emotions that run through the mind when caught in the vice grip of a speech block.
Being a stutterer is extremely distressful and being a doctor didn't make my condition any better. I was on the receiving end of innuendos and snide remarks from my colleagues and teachers. Stuttering had completely derailed my plans of pursuing a higher education in the field of General Surgery, a field that would require the best speaking skills given the potential challenges that I may be faced with. To add to my woes, I was receiving unsolicited career guidance from my professors who asked me to take up a career that would suit me best in view of my speech impediment. I was lost and had given up all hopes on ever surmounting my stutter. In January 2014, I graduated with a basic degree in Medicine with a bleak outlook on my future and dwindling hopes of ever making it successful in a profession where something akin to a stammer is easily stigmatised.
In April 2014, I chanced upon the McGuire Programme through a Youtube video on British Singer, Gareth Gates who had controlled his stutter and was helping others overcome theirs. As bad luck would have it, I had no idea that the first intensive course in India was due next month in Bangalore. I also missed the winter sessions of the course in New Delhi and Mumbai.My friend, also a PWS, called up one day that the 3rd intensive course would be conducted in New Delhi in the month of May. Without missing a beat, I filled up the online application form and received a phone call two days later from Kaushik Valluri, RD India, who patiently answered my queries and put me at ease over some of my niggling doubts.
The three and a half days of the course were absolutely transformational and changed my perspective on stuttering and the dynamics that drive its pernicious nature. What sets the program apart from the others that claim to "cure" stuttering is the emphasis on understanding the physical and the psychological aspects of stuttering and also the ultimate goal of articulate eloquence as against increased fluency or a definite cure. Things have looked up since and I have done things that I would have given anything to elude like saying my name, making phone calls, talking to patients, going so far as looking for more challenging speaking situations and above all saying what I really want to say without having to search for tricks and easy words.
Three months on, I look back to those delectable four days, feeling grateful for all that the McGuire programme has given me. Undoubtedly the programme has restored my dignity and the long-lost confidence and faith in my abilities as a speaker and as a person as a whole. Now I feel complete.
In the last three months, I have put myself in difficult speaking situations and have conquered them. I have a ball using my techniques to speak difficult words and allay my fears around them. But I know I cannot yet rest on my laurels as the path to articulate eloquence is ever-evolving with newer challenges and fears to face and conquer every day. I can now go on to live my dreams of becoming a Liver Surgeon!