Mary hated going to school. Every day, she hoped that the teachers would not ask her any questions in class. It wasn’t that she didn’t know the answers because she always did. It also wasn’t because she had a soft voice. The problem was her stammering. Whenever Mary tried to speak, her sentences turned out to be long because she took so long to sound out most of the words.
If the teacher asked her to read from a book, Mary dreaded the giggles from her classmates. She wanted to sound like everyone else but the speech counselor had said that things would take time. The other day, when Mary was asked to read one paragraph
from their English book, she heard herself and turned red with shame as she did every time. She wished she would stop stuttering.
“Pl-pl-place a c-c-comma be-be-tween each i-item in the the list,” she read out loud. There was one boy who sat behind her and imitated her. Mary did not fight with him. Nor did she tell the teacher. “Even I know that I’m strange,” she thought sadly, tears welling up in her eyes.
At home, her mother patted her head and told her to have patience. “You are going to speak with no problem soon,” she promised. But Mary was not ready to wait. She
was tired of having no friends except for Joya, who talked to her only because she felt sorry for her.
Many times at school, Mary had said, “Joya, please leave me alone. You don’t have to pretend to be nice to me.” Every time this happened, her friend would become upset.
“But who said that I pretend?” Joya’s eyes became round in confusion. She ran after Mary but couldn’t catch her before she hopped onto the school bus.
The next day at school, Mrs Chatterjee, the principal, announced, “Our annual talent competition will take place next Friday.” Joya immediately knew what she’d do. She
would play a song on her harmonica. Her father too played the harmonica. Mary’s classmates were excited.
Even the quietest boy, Neil, was already planning his performance. They started discussing their plans excitedly. “I will do a special dance,” said Ria. “I am
going to juggle three balls,” said Raja. Mary smiled silently. There was only one thing that she could do well.
She went home and started practising. She sang all the songs from The Sound of Music in front of her mother. Then she sang the folk songs that her grandmother had taught her during her last visit to Calcutta. Mary used a thin pencil box as her microphone. It made
her feel like a star, holding it while she closed her eyes and sang for hours. She sang and sang until she was ready.
On the day of the competition, Mary was nervous. She had never sung in front of her teachers and classmates.
“I wonder what they’ll think,” she thought, biting her nails. When Mary’s turn came, she
stood on the stage and felt like running away. She then closed her eyes and imagined herself floating around on a flying carpet. She raised her arms and began to sing her favourite song from Aladdin. Her eyes were not open so she did not see the shocked looks around her. When Mary sang her words came out perfectly!
Joya stood up to clap even before Mary was done with her song. The other students and teachers did the same. The minute the song ended, Joya and Mrs Chatterjee ran up to the stage to hug Mary, who had forgotten about her stuttering. “Did I sing well, Joya?” She was worried and her words were broken up into many syllables.
That day, Mary won first prize and many fans too.
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)