Stuttering can have severe emotional, social and even physical consequences. Ripudaman Malhotra credits overcoming the condition to the advice of a teacher.
Stuttering is a condition that affects mostly boys, sapping them of their confidence. I have painful memories of my own stuttering as a child and being mocked and teased for it. As a student, I had a lot to say, which I would, often stutteringly and with giggling all around me. That giggling stung.
One occasion in the seventh‐grade geometry class stands out. The teacher drew a wide angle on the chalkboard and then drew a line to make two angles from one. He wanted to know what the two angles were called. He spotted my raised hand and called on me. Aa ... aa ... aa ... was all I could utter. I tried repeatedly, but couldn’t get past aa ... aa … With much empathy the teacher asked, “Ripudaman, are you trying to say “adjacent?” “Yes, Sir,” I blurted to my great relief, “they are adjacent angles.”
Concerned adults told me that I would soon outgrow my stammering, yet it persisted. One day in high school I was having a hard time reading aloud a passage. Our teacher, Father Carlson, noticed that I took only shallow breaths and he instructed me to take deep breaths between sentences. That seemed to do the trick. Foremost, it slowed me down. The stammering didn’t stop, but whenever it occurred, I would pause to take a deep breath. Over time I became aware of syllables that were likely to make me stutter and I avoided them. With practice and passing of decades, stuttering is all but gone.
Even now when I sense an impending stutter, I conceal it by rephrasing my sentence. Slowing down has helped me be more mindful, and I am ever grateful to Father Carlson for that valuable advice and gift.