Each of the six to eight young men who meet under one of the shelters in Cubbon Park every Sunday morning are regular techies with interests in regular matters. What compels them to come together every week though, is not a sudden, sharpened interest in fitness or bird-watching, but the need to overcome a small disorder, which has a significant impact on their lives.
The Bangalore group of The Indian Stammering Association (TISA) meets once a week hoping to share - and implement collectively - techniques to avoid stammering, so that it is easier to face “the world outside”. All the members have been to speech therapists, and bring their individual experiences to a single table under the banner of TISA.
The process was set into motion when Amitabh, who was seeking company and a support group for those who stammer, wrote to Satyendra Srivastava in Dehradun, the founder of TISA ( www.stammer.in). “Since there was no group of this kind in Bangalore, Dr. Srivastava suggested that I become coordinator,” says Mr. Amitabh. Once his name was up on the website, e-mails started pouring in with requests to be part of this group. And only just five months ago, the first meeting was held.
Says Dr. Srivastava: “I was working as a community health consultant talking about every health issue under the sun, except stammering, when I realised I couldn’t discuss it because I was ashamed of it,” he says. He decided to tackle this social disorder in a social setting and began TISA, hoping that self-help groups would sprout subsequently. And sure enough, they did. Members of TISA in Bangalore say their lives outside of the self-help group has changed, making them more confident, and also making them more comfortable in social situations. Sudheendran, Karthik, Subhash, Sharan, Kanyakumar, Pavan and Shanmugha are happier talking about their day-to-day encounters with people within the group, seeking advice and helping each other. “We practice breathing, prolonging, and bouncing,” says Mr. Sudheendran, referring to the techniques used by them to reduce stammering. While these are therapist-subscribed techniques, it is far more useful to apply them in a group because “those who stammer also know how to listen best.” The group doesn’t have any women as yet.
The members think this could be because it is harder for women to come out and deal with a problem like stammering, given the social pressures they have to deal with, including the prospect of marriage. Dr. Srivastava says that worldwide statistics show that for every four men who stammer, there is one woman.
The one thing common to all experiences of the members of TISA, and perhaps every person who stammers, is the ordeal of going through our education system, which almost certainly intensifies their disorder.
Sharan, an engineering student says that had teachers at school been more understanding, the extent of his stammering would have reduced tremendously. Mr. Amitabh says that while in college, a professor thought he was a drug addict. “I was comfortable talking to girls and didn’t stammer as much, but under stressful situations with the principal it would get pretty bad. The principal thought I was playing the fool,” he says. From having missed interviews to being yelled at by their employers, because phone conversations are perhaps the hardest to have, the members of the TISA group say they have been in almost every kind of problematic social situation.
Adds Mr. Subhash with a grin: “I never stammer when I have to yell at someone on the road for riding recklessly.”