How many times have you made fun of your classmate who stammers? How many times have you interrupted him to complete the sentence to show your impatience? And when he’s wanted to express his anger, you’ve told him to shut up, because a guy who cannot complete a sentence, has no right to argue. You must have won that fight as the boy had stared at you helplessly, right?
There is hardly any one of us who doesn’t know a person who stammers. And often, we’ve mocked them out of ‘good humour’. We never ask ourselves since when did a sense of humour involve making fun of a handicap?
Stammering is usually more psychological than physical, and when people mock a person who stammers and teases him for that, it only makes the problem worse. A little more understanding from their peers would have helped cure the shortcoming by the time they become adults.
People do get cured of stammering but that involves relentless practice and a determination that can put even Sachin Tendulkar to shame. In the Hindi film industry, there is one such example. A boy who developed a speech handicap at the age of six, overcame it and has become a yardstick of perfection. His name is Hrithik Roshan.
The child who liked to hide himself
Hrithik was like any other child till he reached the age of six – talkative, playful and extremely naughty. He was gregarious, active and liked to lead the pack of boys he was playing with. But everything started changing around him when he reached the age of six. He started to stammer. It reached such a complex stage that Hrithik started skipping school. There were instances of him hurting himself because he wanted to skip his oral exams.
Here is a slide-show of images of Hrithik’s childhood. Some of the pictures are unseen. The article continues after picture gallery.
Most of his classmates, who knew that he was in pain, didn’t stop teasing him. I got to speak to one of his classmates once, who admitted that he used to tease Hrithik ‘out of fun’ when they were in Bombay Scottish School together. Unaware that he was speaking to a journalist, he let the fact slip out that he suffers from guilt pangs even today.
“There is one incident that flashes in my mind every time I see Hrithik on the screen. We were in standard six. He was sitting on the last bench and scribbling something. I went to him just to rile him. Two more boys accompanied me to watch the fun. I asked what he was scribbling in his notebook and he replied that he was completing the homework because he couldn’t find time to finish it at home. He was not aware that I was there to tease him so he didn’t stammer while saying the first sentence. I mocked him by mimicking the way he spoke and the two boys behind me sneered at him. Hrithik looked at me with sheer disgust. He just wanted me to leave him alone. He started to stammer at the very next sentence. We had a hearty laugh that day and I felt like a hero!” said the friend, adding that as fate (read God) would have it, his own daughter has developed speech problems and is undergoing therapy. Whenever he sees his child suffer from speech problems, he remembers how he made fun of his friend.
“God has taught me a lesson. If I ever meet him, I would like to say sorry to him. But I don’t know whether I would get the opportunity or not. I remember Hrithik and how I teased him in school when I see my own child cry in her room before her oral exams, My daughter lisps and her friends mock her in front of me. I see the pain in my daughter’s eyes. Mocking the way she speaks is anything but humour. It makes her cry,” he said.
Hrithik has himself admitted on a TV show hosted by Farah Khan that his whole childhood was ruined because of his stammering. “Everything seems normal till you start talking. The minute you start talking, you get stuck and you don’t know why? Right from your toes to the ends of your hair strands, you are in complete shock. Your heart palpitates, you don’t understand and you are aware of people looking at you. You can compare it to hell,” the superstar recounted.
Hrithik also admitted in that episode that all his friends used to make fun of him. “Unfortunately, it’s one of those handicaps that get made fun of. Especially among kids, you can’t blame them but they end up being mean because it looks funny! So the childhood of a person suffering from a problem like this is pure hell. From the time you wake up in the morning to night, you begin to dread some days as you have to go through an entire day when you have to use your speech and you have to go through all those little moments of hell,” he recalls.
Here is the video clip of the show where Hrithik talks about his speech handicap. The article continues after the video.
The hours of speech therapy
Hrithik used to go to Juhu beach early in the morning and practice his speech therapy for hours. According to his friends, he was determined to get over his speech handicap. When he was in college (Sydenham College, Mumbai) he never used to bother when people stared at him while he stammered.
“By the time Hrithik went to college, he was immune to the fact that people were looking at him when he stammered. He was determined to become a film star. At that time it all seemed a joke to imagine a boy, who stuttered so much while speaking, saying emotional dialogues on the big screen. But Hrithik was somehow determined to work around it. There was a speech therapist who inspired him, I can’t recall his name,” said a close friend of Hrithik.
When Hrithik started shooting for Kaho Naa Pyar Hai, he had not overcome his stammering, but years and years of practice made it obscure.
Here is Hrithik’s first ever public speech at the Filmfare Awards. Look at the proud face of his mom as she listens to her son speak on a public platform. This is where hard work and will power can take you. But after this video we will talk about one of the greatest speeches in history, made by a person who perhaps went through maximum humiliation because he stammered.
The speech that started a war
History has witnessed great struggles of people overcoming their handicaps, but the biggest ‘celebrity’ who fought stammering and conquered it was a royal, King George VI. The king of England struggled to utter even a single word when he was made to stand in front of a mike. But he is the same man who gave rousing speeches when England went to war during World War II.
A wonderful film, The King’s Speech (2010) recounted the struggles of George with his handicap, and went on to win the Oscar as the best film. It also won Colin First the best actor award at the Oscars. The last scene of the film is the most touching as George delivers a live speech to his nation without stammering over a single word. I will now play the scene out for you and as a bonus, play out the original King’s speech that George VI actually delivered.
Here is the most famous scene from the film, The King’s Speech.
As promised, here is the real speech made by George VI as Britain went to war. Note how accurately Colin Firth reproduced it on-screen. There is no visual accompanying this clip, you only have to listen to the audio.
Anybody out there who stammers or lisps, remember, when your friends make fun of you, it should only make you more determined to overcome the odds.
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