Kala Ramachandran introduces her book Shouting from the summits. Her mountaineering adventures preparing to climb Mt Everest have helped her deal with her stammer.
My dad was a very structured man, a great reader and teacher, but he suffered from mental illness. He took medication throughout his life but if he missed his nap in the afternoon he became furious with us, often for no reason.
Growing up in Malaysia, I was quite an intelligent kid in my class in primary school. My primary school teachers always praised me for being top in my class.
However, one day when I was 9, a teacher - Stephen - walked into my classroom and asked me to stand up and read a passage from a text book. I started to read the passage but all of a sudden one of the words would not come out of my mouth. I paused. I perspired. I tried to move my mouth. Eventually I said the word. After that it was a fluent reading.
The same week, Dad, who was my geography teacher, asked me to read a whole passage from my geography textbook. I stood up and I started to read. Again, a word would not come out. I paused. Then, I read again. Dad raised his voice. I could hear my heart beat so loudly in my ears. This time, many words did not come out of my mouth.
One day, during geography lesson, Dad mentioned that the first woman to climb Mount Everest, which is the highest mountain in the world (8848 metres), was a Japanese lady – Junko Tabei; and that was what went into my mind. I thought to myself “I will be the next one.” That’s where my search for my life purpose began. I was still only 9 at the time.
There is a hymn I used to sing, as a mantra in my heart. It was written by a poet. It says ‘No fear, no fear even if the sky falls down on your head’. I would sing this in my heart while walking to school, so I could be fearless when talking. That’s how I used to start each and every morning, in order to give me the strength and motivation to attend school.
I would sing this in my heart while walking to school, so I could be fearless when talking.
After my stammer stopped me impressing my sweetheart in a school quiz event, I started to fight against the stammer. I made sure I studied harder so I could go to the University of Malaya.
I did not have any therapy. My parents did not know anything about stammering, and the school did not have any system to support someone like me. No one knew that I was suffering emotionally. My coping mechanism to overcome my stammer was choosing short and easy words to say! I had to give presentations, and I would write my presentation notes with easy words and short sentences which I knew I could say without stammering. I became what is known as a covert stammerer.
I started preparing for Everest… but, I had a fear of talking, and particularly of speaking to groups. My stammer made me isolated, full of anxiety in my daily life - until I started to climb mountains. It was doing this that gave me the inner confidence I needed to regain my speaking voice.
I climbed and led many mountain expeditions. The experience of leading others boosted my confidence to speak to anyone at any level.
The experience of leading others boosted my confidence to speak to anyone at any level
However, climbing Everest is not an easy task – and it’s very expensive and needs a lot of training. I came to London in 2003, got married and had 2 sons, but my marriage failed in 2014. I felt I had lost everything I had invested in my life. I needed something solid and concrete to occupy my mind whilst I was a working single mother and so I decided to chase my dream once again.
I planned to go to Everest Base Camp in May 2015, but I had to cancel my expedition as a result of Nepal’s deadliest earthquake. It was a wake-up call that I would have perished but no one would know my life journey. That’s when I started writing.
I also trained to go to Mt Aconcagua in Argentina, despite continuous childcare and health problems.
Following our dreams
I hope this book will inspire others to achieve their dreams whether they’re nine or even ninety years old - that they don’t need to feel embarrassed, distance themselves from other people or forget their own dreams and aspirations.
I am donating 20% of royalty income during the first year sales to BSA for them to support young children who stammer.
The book is published 13th September 2016, and can be ordered from online retailers including amazon.co.uk and from all good bookstores.