To stammer (as defined by dictionary.com) is to speak with involuntary breaks and pauses, or with spasmodic repetitions of syllables or sounds.
Any textbook definition, from any source, can only define stammering based on what is apparent to the eyes and the ears. But none of these definitions mention the serious effort it takes for a stammerer to talk, let alone the negative feelings the stammerer goes through while speaking, some of which are - embarrassment, humiliation, low self-esteem, seclusion, suppression of feelings, and the list goes on.
People tend to empathize with 'disabled' people when they are able to see the disability and how different their normal functioning is from others. And so a person who is physically handicapped or 'special' earns sympathy, compassion, patience and understanding. But such is not the case with a stammerer whose irregular speech patterns (surprisingly, stammering is not considered a disability) is looked upon with humour, further reinforced by stuttering characters in Bollywood films, placed there solely for comedy relief.
A person who stammers has no control over his/her speech. He/she may find himself/herself getting stuck at certain problem syllables, sometimes words get elongated and don't instantly come out which makes their speech patterns appear as 'funny.' But if you think it's funny for the person who stammers, here are some hard facts:-
- It's humiliating for a stammerer when someone completes his/her word or sentence.
- Stammerers use synonms instead of the words which could cause them to stammer.
- It's tough for a stammerer to find a job Some stammerers opt for careers that require minimal verbal communication.
- It takes immense bravery for a stammerer to maintain eye contact through a stammered word.
- More than 70 million people worldwide stammer. That's one in every 100.
Speaking for a stammerer is a battle, because he/she knows that the person listening would judge him/her. Why? Because we live in a world that thrives on communication and unfortunately people tend to overlook WHAT the person is saying and instead, focus on HOW he/she is saying it. The result - a stammerer finds himself/herself in a shell, choosing not to express himself/herself which results in he/she being unable to utilise his/her true potential. End result? The stammerer takes on an introverted nature, and leads a life somewhat mired in low self-esteem.
While growing up, a stammerer is told to "talk slowly" or "be confident" when they should in fact be listened to patiently and be encouraged to seek out speech therapy. Mind you, speech therapy does not cure stammering but helps one to control it. Just like there is no known cause of stammering (it is said to be genetic or caused by trauma), there is no known cure. A stammerer does not stammer out of nervousness; a stammerer doesn't have control over his/her speech patterns. In fact, sometimes a stammerer doesn't even realize that he/she is stammering.
I am M-M-Mumbai follows the journey of a protagonist (who stammers) through the city of dreams. Here's the trailer to give you a further insight into the book:-
The title of the book, I am M-M-Mumbai, has a stutter in it, which was deliberate. Another established publisher wanted to change the title to a marketable one which for me, was a deal breaker. I wanted people to stammer the title out when they spoke about the book to give them an understanding of what it feels like to stammer, which is only made evident from the reaction of the person listening. On one side, this reaction could be a smile, a smirk, a cringing of the eyebrows in irritation or even looking away in impatience. On the other side, some people are patient and maintain eye contact, rather than allowing their gaze to drop down to the stammerer's lips - which would be correct reaction as it's the way we react to a person speaking fluently. Stammerers want to be treated normally!
But even though the protagonist of the book (Rudra) stammers, this book is not just about stammering! We all have a dream but attached to that dream is a fear, an obstacle, that prevents us from attaining it. So apart from stammering and what a stammerer goes through, the book is also about the following:-
- Goodness : Despite Rudra's pessimistic view of his world and future, he is always kind and gracious to the people he comes in contact with. Despite the negativity around him, he retains his inherent goodness. And good things always happen to good people because nobody forgets a person's kindness and goodness of heart.
- Being non-judgmental : Human beings are flawed and the characters in I am M-M-Mumbai are no exception. Take Priya Kohli for example; a starlet who despite two films has made no real headway in the Hindi Film Industry. The film that she is working on (on which Rudra is an assistant director), is her last-ditch effort to make an impression on the film trade and audiences. Like many actresses with no 'godfather' in the industry, it is no secret that her being cast in this film is no stroke of luck and has little to do with her talent. Yet, Rudra doesn't judge her. For him, she is one of the 'good' people because like the few others in his life, she doesn't look at his lips while he speaks.
- Lessons : A decision made by one person can hurt someone else. That's what happens when Richa allows practicality and security to govern her life decision and ends up dumping Rudra. Yet, he doesn't hate her or speak ill of her. He comes to understand that she chose what seemed right for her and that her brief presence in his life was for a reason. He understands that there is something to learn from every person and every situation.
- The heart of the film industry : The film industry has been maligned over the years given the dirt that sporadically rises to the surface and is splashed all over the media. However, this book stays away from all those negative and glamorous aspects and instead, features it as a place where dreams are made (or broken), based solely on one's right decisions (or wrong ones).
- Effort : There is no substitute for hard work and that is highlighted in the book. Once a person steps out of his/her comfort zone and puts everything in his/her soul into that one goal, he/she will get there, one way or another, sooner or later.
- Pain : There are situations that bring us pain. And we get so consumed by that negative feeling that we wallow in it and lose touch with that inner strength that every human being possesses. Every person has the strength to surpass pain; all one needs is will and a goal.
- Family values : Rudra's father is angry at him but doesn't hate him; he just wants his son to be sensible and stand on his own feet. True family will always love you unconditionally and differences can either strengthen bonds or break them.
- Success : "The intoxication of alcohol is nothing compared to the intoxication of success." Rudra never forgets the kindness that people had showed him in his bad days as his success humbles him further. That is the effect that success should have on people, not the opposite.
- Karma : When you do good, good happens to you and the same goes for bad actions and intentions. When will people understand that?
- Mumbai : There is something truly magical about this city! And there's a reason why one hears many rags-to-riches stories from here. Mumbai is an essential character in the book. Here's an EXCERPT that further highlights that - 'This was a city where everything moved fast. In fact, it was its own nation with diversity in not only communities, cultures, and religion, but also in terms of mindsets. Those who strived to achieve, always would. And those who chose to be complacent and complain would stay where they were. Mumbai was always watching.'
The underlying message is that every person has an obstacle to his/dream. For Rudra that hurdle is his stammering. BUT:-
The book is available in bookstores,
online & kindle - https://amzn.to/2NEvpVw
Flipkart - https://bit.ly/2PS8DLI
& on the 'Readify' app - www.readify.co.in
For more information on this book or my previous books, please visit my website - www.rishivohra.com
So, I am M-M-Mumbai is not just about stammering. In fact, it takes the reader on a unique and fascinating journey through the city of dreams.
Every person has known a stammerer.
But not every person has understood one.
I am M-M-Mumbai takes you into the mind of one!