A few days ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a disparaging remark at IIT Roorkee about dyslexia. A student had revealed how she developed a system that would aid students with dyslexia, to which PM Modi replied: ‘would it help a 40-year-old?’, making an apparent jab at his political opponent. The remark was in bad taste and has drawn ire from parents and students alike. If you don’t get what the fuss is about, or have very little understanding of what living with a learning disability is like–let me tell you, how it has shaped me. How it affected me, every step of the way…
Let’s begin at the beginning
I grew up in the 90s and finished school in the early 2000s. A millennial who remembers the last decade of the 20th century vividly–I’ve seen dial-up internet and cellphones the size of bricks, which were only owned by men in suits. While I didn’t have dyslexia (a disorder where you can’t read letters properly and the words all seem jumbled up), I suffered at the hands of dyscalculia–an inability to carry out basic mathematics.
Ever since I could remember, my report cards always bore a big red F when it came to maths. At the end of the year, an additional stamp of “condone and passed’’ would grace it. While I excelled in social studies and English, often scoring high marks, it was maths that always brought me down. Open days would often fill me up with dread. Hell, one time my report card reached the principal’s office, where I received a tongue lashing about my results. I even entertained thoughts of running away from home, scared shitless of what my parents would say. After all, additional tuitions and extra-coaching classes had also not been able to fix my problem with the subject.
I was kept back in the sixth grade, and I still remember how much shame that brought me. I dreaded going back to school, and the words ‘failure’ would jump out at me whenever I would read books or newspapers. I still remember walking into the classroom to hushed voices and sceptical looks. My face was hot, and I just couldn’t look up. I hid out during lunch hour, and ate alone in a far corner of the school. This affected my confidence–I felt ashamed and didn’t want to interact with anyone in my extended family, who during the summer holidays would always ask, “Which class are you in?” All this at the age of 10!