By Muhammad Raza Humayun
“The Remains of the Day”
I was on my way home from university with a friend, in my usual gloomy mood and we stopped at the signal and I saw a school van there too and it was right next to our car. I could see two boys and one girl tease a smaller boy, saying, ‘yeh chota kia karega?!’ (What can this small person do?!)
And that scene transported me back to my childhood and similar situations I face almost on a daily basis and that too for a really long time; situations I learned later as a term of bullying. Now bullying is of many sorts; cyber, school, verbal, physical, workplace, sexual orientation based, I’ll be talking about something that’s a mixture of it, as per experience.
It’s the first day of school for grade one and I am very excited with my new uniform, new bag and new books, all that is common for a six year old, and all the excitement died within two days. I was being called names by my class fellows and my seniors for my looks, for the way I talked which was, let’s say softer than others around me. I was called weak because I didn’t run fast enough, I was called a girl for making two female friends within the first week, I was called sissy for not being active in sports, I was mocked for the way I spoke and ate my lunch; the same lunch that would often be taken from me by seniors, and as we called them ‘the baray larkay’, I was threatened not to tell anyone about this all and this didn’t stop until a few years. And I never told anyone, ever.
I never understood the reason for it. Why is the way I talked different? Why was I being called a girl or sissy for just not wanting to play with them or for having a softer tone? And since every boy around me was different than me, I made myself think that yes, it is me who is wrong and the strange one here. With the passage of time and transition from junior school to high school, the scenarios remained the same and my mind, confidence destroyed and mouth shut. And all of this really took a toll on me and my academics. I never tried at sports thinking that if they call me names now, what would they do later? And I became extra conscious about things I did; what color clothes I would wear, how would I talk in a gathering, do I have enough knowledge about a sport I don’t even like to fit in? All of this kills you as a person. You lose your true identity; you lose your confidence, the confidence to exist temporarily outside your house. To me, my home was my only sanctuary.
The kind of person I am today is very different from who I was in college, someone who was affected by all those torturous school years with things I did not even mention in here and just gave up on things. But with age I realized things that it was never me, it was them! Their lack of empathy, their lack of success or satisfaction for things to make others miserable, their complexes to make others feel lower than them and their parents’ failure to transcend ethics and ‘tameez’ or just their poor skills to pick those ethics up.
As I reflect back on those experiences in my 20s, I get a rush of emotions and questions. Why did I react in the way I did? Why didn’t I stand up to them? Why those nobodies got to shape up my personality? Most importantly, why weren’t those people educated and told that what they do is beyond wrong? It is too late for me, but it would break me to see another person go through these things during school years – the years that literally shape you and who you are to be, how you act and react.
Bullies are everywhere, but my experience with the school ones makes me say that it should be stopped. How? Well, first get the parents in. They should:
a) Really tell them and educate them how to treat people who are like, not like them, different in any other way. No one has the right to make fun of or mock or bully someone just on the basis of an attribute that is not at par with their (little) minds.
b) Talk to their children to share their experiences with them. If their child is going through something or has something bothering him/her, they should know and deal with it. Ensure their child’s confidence, guide them where need to be guided and stand their ground where they are right.
Rather than sticking to the norms, the people should embrace themselves as they wish to be. I can say happily that I never became what I thought of becoming during those bullying years, I stayed as I wished to and I have a great deal of peace for that. But that’s just me, and now, years after those experiences. I worry for the children, who will go through this and who will not understand what is happening and why is it happening. This really is a great issue at hand, an issue that ruins a child’s, our future’s confidence, moral, personality and identity and there won’t be many like me, who get over it and then, it is too late, the damage is done and the remains of the day is all that is left with the child and the family and the remains are merely as harmful as shards of glass.
So, if my message reaches any parents and teachers, please, take action and save a beautiful mind from destruction.