To begin my blog, I thought of sharing a small story with you all. It happened to me more than three decades ago but I still have wonder and regret for what and why I did so, instead of what I should have done.
I was a third grader in a small private school in Hyderabad, India. I always kept to myself and focused on studies, as my parents’ bar was very high with regards to my scoring standards. There was a girl in my class – let’s name her Ms. Richly Spoilt and address her throughout this story as RS – whom I can’t forget even today. She was the oldest and tallest in the whole class. Probably, these characteristics gave her more edge to be bossy and overbearing toward other kids. Every day she had an agenda to target somebody in the class and put that kid through a frightful day. I want to skip narrating what she did each day to terrify the kids, otherwise the list is so long that I might forget what I wanted to say.
She used to wear mostly new and expensive looking clothes everyday to school. She also brought lots of fancy items and showed off to everyone how superior she was. There were several jaw dropping moments in the class and many kids tried to please her so that she could let them touch and use those fancy items. Once I heard her saying that her dad worked with an oil company in one of the Gulf countries and sent lot of money and gifts. Okay, that was the matter. She had vitamin M in abundance, and studies were her last priority. She just came to school to show it off and have fun.
One day, she brought an indescribably fancy pencil. The triangular pencil had three-dimensional effects and glowed heavenly when twisted. I didn’t know that my stars were traveling in a bad direction and my doomsday was nearing. That day, I guess, my teacher was absent and the class had nothing much to do. My bad luck drew my attention toward RS who was playing with her fancy pencil. I went and stood next to RS ogling the pencil.
She handed over the pencil to me in an unusually friendly manner and asked, “Do you want to write your name with this pencil?”
I nodded. She immediately thrust the pencil into my hand. Momentarily I forgot that she was the meanest kid and a bully and there was some plan brewing in her mind. I was so fascinated with the pencil that I fled to my seat and wrote my name. I think, around 10 times. I was all dreamy. As I was drawing a flower next to my name, RS came to me and grabbed the pencil and opened her mouth to hurl an abuse. But she grabbed so hard that it flew away from her hand and hit the wall and fell down. The result was a broken pencil. Just then the school bell rang and everyone rushed out of the class. RS caught me alone in the class and blamed me that I was responsible for her broken pencil. She threatened me that if I didn’t bring some Five Rupees to school the next day to repay for the loss, she would bring her brothers and uncles and take me to the principal’s office. I was so terrified that I clung to myself like a lizard on the wall. I froze. I didn’t even have the courage to fall down even though I had a feeling that I was going to faint. What am I going to do now? What if she really brings her family and takes me to the principal’s office? Five Rupees was big money and how was I going to pay? I never had a provision for allowance and my mother, if she was very happy with me, gave me 50 paise once in a while. Maybe once in a month or two.( With five children going to school, that was all my mom could afford. She gave us a lot of love, though.) How was I going to answer to my parents? Was I going to return to school? Questions and quandaries hovered in my head.
For the next few months I worked hard at home and in studies to make my mom happy so that she gave me money often. Whatever change I got from my mom I turned it to RS. I did all her homework secretly. I lugged her school bag whenever she ordered me to do so. It was a disguised slavery. I didn’t even sigh about this at home fearing that I might get into trouble. Finally, one day, God showered mercy on me and RS left the school for unknown reasons.
Now, I’m a forty-year old woman treasuring a lot of pleasures, pains, experiences, exposures, combats, convincing, within my heart and outside, but I could never forget this incident. I incessantly questioned myself: Why did I not stand up for myself? I could have gone and told my parents or teachers; after all, they knew me very well. I should have nipped the bully in the bud because I wasn’t at fault. I was punished albeit innocent. Maybe the fear of facing my parents, the fear of being bullied, the fear of being answerable, standing in front of the principal, losing privileges, being harassed, and many other unexplainable fear psychosis eclipsed my inner strength leaving me helpless.
This one incident paved a path of courage and articulation for me. I discovered the strength of speaking up and standing up for myself. Every time I had to face a situation wherein I was snubbed or became a subject to humiliation or instances that took me for granted, I reminisced this grave situation and my failure to prove my innocence. I instantly reincarnated into an invincible force against the wrong and did what I was supposed to do and spoke the truth outright.
Believe me, we play several roles in our lives to impress and satisfy others and in that process we either forget or let go our right to speak, right to defend, and the most important, right to live. To live holding heads high, one has to protect oneself, and to protect oneself one has to speak.
That’s what I’m going to do through my blog, to speak the language of my mind, heart, and my thoughts. Yes, I’m going to speak the language of courage.