Hubbyji and I are shopping at our local supermarket on a Saturday evening and we are in a pretty relaxed mood. We bicker about the choice of our ritual Saturday night movie, about the dinner options and agree upon flipping the coin to decide who among the both of us will be making the Sunday morning tea, the following day.
Having finished with our shopping, we head towards the billing counters and as expected it’s pretty busy because of the weekend. We spot one aisle which is about to get free and begin walking towards it. With my peripheral vision, I spot a tall young guy eyeing the same row and if he makes it before us, his heaped trolley will result in a long waiting time for us. At the same time, the guy sees us too. In a quick simultaneous motion, we all race towards the aisle and I manage to beat him with a fraction of a second. I grin at hubbyji and ignore the teen muttering remarks behind us, while we wait for our turn. As we walk a couple of steps at a time, this person unbelievably again tries to overtake us, thinking that he will somehow pull one over us. Hubbyji calmly blocks him. I am irritated by now but decide to let it go. As the moving counter empties of the last items of the person getting her billing done before us, our guy instantly starts throwing his items on the platform.
“EXCUSE ME……!!” I start angrily, but hubbyji holds my arm to calm me down.
“Listen, buddy!” hubbyji says, “We were in the line before you. Let’s not cause trouble.”
“..but you came just like that, dude!” the guy retorts “I was almost there when you shoved your way into the queue. That was not cool”
“That’s not right” hubbyji says, patiently “we made it here first and you didn’t. You are unnecessarily creating a scene.”
“Dude,” The teen comes close to hubbyji and says slowly “I don’t care what happened. I am going to get my items billed before you, get it? ”
“YOU KNOW WHAT’S NOT COOOL? DUUUUDE?” I shout, coming to stand besides hubbyji and finally losing it “THE FACT THAT YOU CAN’T BEHAVE IN A CIVILISED MANNER AT A PUBLIC PLACE. WE GOT IN THIS QUEUE BEFORE YOU FAIR AND SQUARE AND THAT MEANS YOU HAVE TO WAIT. WE WOULD HAVE DONE THE SAME. WE DIDN’T SHOVE OUR WAY IN. IT’S YOU WHO IS DOING THAT RIGHT NOW AND WASTING ALL OF OUR TIME. JUST BACK OFF.”
Everyone around us is staring at us by now. Outnumbered, the guy looks at me and then hubbyji and begins throwing his things back into his trolley.
“Whatever!” he retorts, walking away to the next billing aisle, muttering obscenities.
As everyone gets back to their business, I am still fuming and hubbyji keeps telling me to relax through the billing.
“Are you okay?” hubbyji asks, as we walk away from the billing counter.
“Yeah, I am fine” I say, “I will never get how you stay so calm in situations like this. I can’t. That guy was such a bully”
“Come on, chill!” hubbyji says, rubbing my shoulder “It was a stupid argument. He was just a kid being over-smart. He was still no match for my wife..ha ha! No harm done.”
“It’s not a laughing matter” I say, shaking my head “Bullies thrive on weakness.”
“Yeah, and you hate bullies!” hubbyji says, rolling his eyes “You say that a lot. This has started to become your favourite phrase. To be honest, I feel that many a times, you put your strong opinions on little things that are, infact, harmless. What is it with you and bullies?”
“I have told you, haven’t I? Well, not in exact words but bits and pieces about me and my friends…and the teen years….One would think it’s because I was bullied but no, that’s not it.” I take a deep breath and let it out “ As a child, I was one of the them. I too was a bully……….”
“……and the reason why I feel so strongly about it as an adult is because.. it haunts me every single day……..” I think to myself.
We make our way towards the exit and see the same guy blocking it with his trolley. My eyes are flaring as we approach the gate and as he spots us, I get ready for another unpleasant exchange. He looks at us for a second and snickering, shifts his trolley away from the gate.
Taking a deep breath, I look him in the eyes and say “Thank you!”
Taken aback, he shrugs and goes back to talking on the phone.
“So, we have discussed this in the past but never in detail.” hubbyji says, returning the trolley to its place and handing me the bags.
“Well, it’s not something I would want to gloat about, is it?” I say, with the residual irritation from the incident “It’s difficult enough to say out loud even once.”
“Who exactly is a bully? I mean what would you do back then?” he enquires.
“Well, me and my friends used to excessively tease other girls, many a times say personal things and used a great deal of sarcasm too. We never realized how humiliating it must be. Our behavior was not intentional per se. We too were kids ourselves and for us, it was just a way of passing time at school, picking on someone and making fun of them. Something to laugh about. We were high on the power of popularity and were on an endless loop of teen misbehaviour. We were classic teenagers who didn’t have a care in the world. Life was one ongoing party”
“But that happens with everyone, isn’t it?” hubbyi says, as we begin making our way towards home on foot “As kids, my friends and I too used to give each other a hard time in school but were always sporting about it.”
“Giving hard time to friends is fine,” I say “ but didn’t your class have that one kid who was a always the butt of every joke? The last kid picked in teams, never invited to parties, and pretty much shunned? Whom you always gave the hardest time to? You assume today that he was okay with it but you can’t know for sure how it impacted him, to be on receiving end of the teasing and the jokes day after day for years. A particular incident still haunts me from my old school. There was this girl whom we refused to speak with, for months on end. I don’t even remember why. It just started off one day and then became a great source of entertainment at school. One afternoon, we were playing hide and seek in a large group and she requested that we let her play with us. When we declined, she offered that she would be happy to give den endless times without complaining. She just wanted to be a part of the game. We still didn’t let her play. She left the school after enduring one year of loneliness, with no friends.”
“Hmmm…,” hubbyi states, “that is is harsh..but again, as children, we all make plenty of mistakes. No child is mature enough to think ahead about the consequences of their actions. That’s the difference between kids and grownups. Teasing is a part of growing up”
“It is and you see how that is a loophole that allows this cycle to exist at every school in the world?” I say “Teachers and parents (of both the parties) do not take this seriously enough, thinking that it’s a part of growing up and will subside. That the accidental, pardon me for use of this word, offender is a child too, so it’s not serious enough. Bullying is a hidden epidemic that we are not yet fully aware of. I mean, so many kids are committing suicide over bullying. That’s how dangerous this is. I have amazing memories of my childhood and everyone deserves the same. It breaks my heart to think of the memories the bullied kids in my class must have of their childhood. Imagine leaving a school because of this reason. How depressed the child must feel.”
“Moreover, our time was different,” hubbyji says, nodding “Today, this must be even a more of a critical issue. In this increasingly digital age where every child owns a mobile, the ability of young people to reach out and affect each other in both positive and negative ways is greatly increased. This must have taken bullying to a whole new level as well. This case about this isolated girl, it was at your old school?”
“Yeah, and when I changed schools, it was pretty much the same there. Not as bad, but still there. On my day one, I got to feel the boundary between the “popular ones” and the rest of the class. Once I got included in the former gang after some months, it was history being repeated allover again.” I say.
“Are you in touch at all with all those girls?” hubbyji asks, as we reach our complex.
“Yes, some of them. On facebook.” I reply, fishing for the house-keys in my pocket “Sometime ago, I approached a few of them to apologize too. My friends thought I had gone bonkers but I had to try. I received mixed reactions from the people I reached. Some were sporty about it, some cried as they relived those moments and received a closure from my apology and couple were still too angry to respond to me. I understand completely, of course.”
“You can apologize to me as well, you know” hubbyji says, opening the door to our apartment “I have been waiting for seven years to hear it at least once……”
“Wishful thinking” I laugh “Bullying you is my right. That doesn’t count.”
“Nothing does…” hubbyji says, rolling his eyes and I shove him, smiling for the first time in the past hour.
Teen-bullying is very real, very common and an epidemic in this world. It’s not an issue that is local to any one place, but is actually global. Millions of students are committing suicide daily and that is not much worse than a school shooting or school violence.
Mental raise of hands if this seems to be a familiar scenario from your childhood- you join a new school and immediately know that the new class is divided into two sections- the popular kids and the unpopular kids. You yearn to be part of the former group and will do anything to achieve that. If any “unpopular” kid approaches you and shows interest in being your friend, you try to go as far as possible from them lest the popular kids spot you and you become one of the losers they don’t want to speak with. When you somehow eventually make it to “the cream” of the class, you join them in snickering and teasing the other kids because it’s funny and it makes your new friends like you more. At times, you feel that a line is being crossed when the kid at the receiving end, ends up in tears or complaints to the teacher, but you can’t stop the teasing because your new friends will make fun of you. Instead, you give the loser even a harder time afterwards for being a ninny and ratting out your gang to the teacher. As the years go by and your gang gets tagged as being the coolest group in the school (in your head), harassing the other kids becomes a full day job. Your group collectively has one arch-rival and you constantly pick on her/him day after day, year after year. If that person changes schools because of the harassment, you pick up a new arch-rival and the cycle goes on.
This is my story.
We were a gang of girls who were inseparable from each other. Throughout our high-school, we hung out the whole day at school, had long chats over the phone in the evenings and went to the popular eating joints together to celebrate occasions like ‘Friendships days’ and b’days.
We fancied ourselves as the coolest girls in the school but the truth was that we were the mean girls in the school. We were senior-most too and that helped! Many teachers counseled us and even our headmistress tried to make us to be friends with the other girls but we paid no heed to it. We would just go back to square one after a couple of days. I remember my good friend who was a guy, once said to me on the bus ride back to home “When you joined the school, you were a good person but now you are not. You are mean to other girls for no reason. What have they done to you? It’s funny for you guys but not for them. Give them a break.”
As an adult, I feel immensely ashamed of how ignorant and insensitive we were as teens. I am still best friends with my childhood buddies and eventhough we all discuss how we were “a bit extreme” back then, they insist that I am an overthinker. They also state that we too were immature back then. All that may be true but that still doesn’t justify our actions.
Teenage suicide is an unfortunate reality in our world, one that is often connected to bullying in school. Bullying includes behaviors that focus on making someone else feel inadequate, or focus on belittling someone else. Bullying includes harassment, physical harm, repeatedly commenting and indulging in efforts to ostracize another person. When someone verbally bullies another, he or she often uses demeaning language to tear down another’s self-image. It aims at getting someone else to feel isolated, alone and may even easily prompt depression.
Many people retain horrible memories of high school, in large part due to the bullying they experienced. A bully was someone in school who pushed you around, told mean jokes, or laughed at you. You probably dreaded going to school because of the bully. The very friends you had hung around with and laughed, had sleepovers with and played sports on the same teams, all of a sudden refused to speak with you or sit with you in class or during lunch breaks.
Bullying can start early but it tends to take on even more power during the teenage years, when children are already facing physical and emotional changes and the social pressure that comes with them. Two of the main reasons people are bullied are because of their appearance and social status. Bullies pick on the people they think don’t fit in, maybe because of how they look, how they act , for example, kids who are shy and withdrawn. One of the most painful aspects of bullying is that it is mostly relentless. Most kids/teens can take one episode of teasing or name calling, and stretch that for ages, even years on end.
Physical bullying is more common among boys, and teenage girls often get involved in verbal and emotional bullying. Both forms are equally and extremely dangerous. The biggest issue with handling bullying in timely manner is that most of the victims are too embarrassed or scared to bring their situation to light in front of the adults. When it goes on and on, bullying can put a person in a state of constant fear.
Studies show that people who are abused by their peers often develop health issues, such as, low self-esteem, stress, depression, or anxiety. It is certainly not hard to imagine that teens who are regularly subjected to taunting, harassment and even physical abuse, may begin to exhibit the symptoms of trauma. As well as being deeply hurtful, bullying can leave anyone feeling frightened, angry, depressed, and totally undermined. They may feel trapped and helpless, fearful of going to school, unable to cope and eventually begin to think that their only solution is suicide.
School is designed to prepare children for the real world. If someone indulges in incorrect practices, they have to be corrected. Administrators should encourage good efforts to reduce bullying in school or at a workplace, and let victims see that people are involved in these efforts. Many a times, teachers or parents are unaware of how extreme the bullying is getting around them.
Bully-proofing skills should be one of the most fundamental lessons taught to children in today’s world. Make sure your child/teen knows to always keep you informed as to what’s going on at school. When a child/teen goes through a negative experience, it is important to give them the platform to talk about it. This will provide them with an essential coping tool that they can take with them into adulthood. Bully-proofing your child emotionally is more important in today’s world, even more so than preventing bullying.
Bullying will always exist, even after one is out of school and in the workforce. We should never pretend not to notice that there’s a problem. Bully-proofing skills will serve the individual at every stage of their life.
Every day thousands of teens wake up afraid to go to school. Unless you’ve directly experienced bullying, you may not realize just how devastating it can be, especially to a child or teenager. There is nothing more tragic than seeing a young life ended before it has truly begun. Bullying should never be tolerated. Ignoring the fact that a person is struggling, will not encourage them to toughen up and move on. It will only leave them feeling more alone and helpless than ever. Whether you’re the one being bullied, or you’re a teacher or parent who thinks their child is being bullied or engaged in bullying behavior, please get help. This way no parent, friend or teacher will ever have to suffer the pain of losing a child due to bullying. No innocent soul will have to feel so crushed by a bullying situation that they have no other escape.
Two days later, I am in a bus on my way back from the mall, when I see the same guy from the supermarket, boarding the bus few stops before mine. Ours is a small village and there’s one main supermarket. So, it’s not surprising that we run into the familiar faces more times than expected.
I am sitting on the very front seat of the bus, clutching my hand-bag and this blast from the recent past comes to stand right in front of me, in the empty space reserved for the prams and wheelchairs. He glances at me and I see him figuring out in his mind why I seem familiar to him. As the comprehension dawns on his face, I narrow my eyes, ready, in case he wants round two of our previous fight.
After a couple of seconds, he takes his ear-plugs out of his ears and grins at me.
“ ’Ssup!” he says, doing something like a reverse nod, from bottom to up.
“Hello!” I reply.
“Going to the supermarket?” he asks, leaning on the rail.
“No.” I say.
“Where’s the boy-friend?” he asks, making conversation.
“Husband.” I correct, “At work.”
“Shhweeet!” he says, putting his ear-plugs back in his ears and beginning to rhythmically nod his head along with the music. The music is so loud that I can hear its beats from where I sit at some distance. His dialect, piercings and the overall look makes me feel like a fossil.
As my stop approaches, I press the button to instruct the driver to stop the bus and picking up my shopping bags, I stand up. The bus comes slowly to a halt and as I head towards the door, the supermarket guy too begins to walk at the same time. As I look at him, he pauses and a couple of seconds later, extends his hand towards the exit door.
“After you!” he says, grinning.
At that, I too burst out laughing and getting down from the bus, we wave each other goodbye before heading in different directions.
Life’s short, and it’s meant to be enjoyed, valued and lived. Lived, not only in the literal sense, but in the truest sense i.e Happily. Substantially. We have to work together to ensure that anyone and everyone around us is thriving…just not surviving.