Growing up, Anugrah Kallianpur always felt like he was a failure because of his consistently poor performance in school. But little did he know that his inability to read, learn and write like others his age was mainly due to his learning disorders: Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia.
While Dyslexia affected his phonological awareness as well as his verbal memory and processing speed, Dysgraphia affected his writing ability—and Dyscalculia his ability to understand numbers and learn math.
“I didn’t even know these disorders existed when I was first diagnosed with them. In fact, I never thought I had a learning issue of any sort. I just thought it was some pressure that I was going through at that particular point in time! But I did feel emotionally unstable…my bad grades made me see myself as good for nothing,” says the now 24-year-old.
Research in this field suggests that around 10% of all school children in India suffer from some type of learning disorder. While no one knows for sure what exactly causes these differences in some individuals and not others, medical practitioners believe that certain learning difficulties are caused by neurological impairments on account of genetics, problems during pregnancy and child birth, or even accidents after birth.
“When I was born I didn’t breathe for around 15 minutes because of the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. This caused me to have very poor motor skills and other kinds of issues. As a result, I completely lacked self-confidence while I was growing up. Then after being diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia, I was even more convinced that I had an extremely dull future waiting for me,” says Anugrah emotionally.
Given the country’s competitive school environment, Anugrah’s fears as a child were definitely not unfounded. Case after case shows that many children with learning disorders are often ridiculed for being different and even tagged as lazy, troublesome and incompetent.
“I was chucked out of class a couple of times and also abandoned by numerous personal tutors. These incidents discouraged me tremendously and made me doubt myself all the more,” he says.
But life changed dramatically when Anugrah decided to take up music as a hobby. “Many people think that we dyslexics are dumb. We aren’t, we might be slow but we aren’t dumb. So, I took it up as a challenge to play the guitar. My biggest motivation was the number of music instructors that abandoned me. I eventually figured out how to play the guitar on my own! I can now proudly say that I’ve stood second in the country in the Rockschool grade 4 exam, scored above 90 per cent at the True School of Music in Mumbai, and also played for advertisements and a Bollywood background score. I have even produced over 80 nursery rhymes for an album!” he says happily.
Anugrah’s journey so far has, however, not been an easy one. “I did feel like giving up at different points in time. From learning music to studying in school, I faced a lot of challenges along the way. But in all honesty, that pushed me to a point where I realised that I had much more potential than I thought I did. Soon, my passion for music not only helped me to play several instruments successfully, it also helped me to frame answers in the form of songs. I found that was a better way to learn than to simply mug up answers from my textbooks and write only 5 per cent of what I had grasped,” he reveals.
Currently pursuing a degree in Digital Marketing in Vancouver, Canada, Anugrah believes that when it comes to learning music it is the journey of the musician that matters. He believes playing music isn’t the easiest thing but the will to play is what pushed a person like him to try his hand at it. This attitude he believes is what changed even his perception of learning altogether.
“Failure has been my biggest motivator. Overcoming that same failure is my reward. I also know that God is with me,” he says profoundly.
When asked what advice he would like to offer others with learning difficulties like his, he responds: “Don’t give up. Don’t let anyone put you down. Always remember that failure is like a trampoline. The harder you jump on it, the higher you reach! Don’t pay attention to the naysayers. People may comment and laugh and also be sarcastic and rude. But use all that negativity to pursue your goals wholeheartedly and with determination. Just go for it!”