Unless you change what is in you, nothing will change.
That’s an absolute, your teacher tells you. But sometimes you need a generalisation. Sometimes there has to be an invariant point. I want this to be true, that’s why I’m going to put it there in bold. Well if not bold then just up there, somewhere.
I know what you’re thinking.
She’s 17. So incredibly naive.
My back hurt so I asked permission, right there up on stage, to sit down. There was a general consent and I tucked my abaya underneath, perched myself on the edge of the stage and then recited what I written some time ago. It was the outcome of revisiting the whole van experience, something I had grown used to but had to let go of once the family moved from there to here.
To the bully who loves to hate me,
I know I annoy you. I am loud and noisy when you enter the school van clearly exhausted from another tiring day at school. I know that I am not as well-versed with books as you are and that I have not been taught all that you have learned. I know I care too much about things you have discarded a long time ago.
From everything I have seen and heard you do, I have no choice but to question why it is you who gets to beat me up, to ridicule me when I have done you no harm.
I have not uttered a string of bad words as you have. I have not punched you, nor pulled out my leg causing you to trip, nor thrown spit balls at you, nor put gum on your uniform (which hasn’t even properly washed off yet), nor snatched your lunchbox from you, nor chanted names against you, nor pushed you out of the way when you accidently crossed my path. I have not hurled your bag across the school courtyard, nor hidden your shoelaces on the rooftop, nor lied to the teacher when she asked how they landed there. I have not made fun of the way you talk, nor looked you in the eyes when you were crying and laughed in your face.
Why do you do it?
I know sometimes all you want is “some harmless fun”, but this is no fun. Fun is when I am laughing alongside you. Fun is when we are talking to each other, not you talking bad about me as if I am invisible or simply not important enough. Fun is when we’re discussing sports and other cool stuff, not when you make me your football and kick me around as if I am padded and protected from your blows. Fun is when you make a funny cartoon for me, not of me. Fun is when you throw a note at me with an invitation for a football match, not a note telling me how everyone hates me.
I do not want to be afraid of you. I want to respect you because you are older, wiser and stronger. Your burdens are greater than mine and I know I will have to shoulder my own some day. Except what hurts so much is that you make me despise you. You make me want to grow up quickly so I can protect my friends from you. I am shocked when you do not even spare the girls. You ridicule them with words, calling them fat when you know it isn’t a bad thing. You pull their braids and make them cry out for their moms and then laugh over them as though you have no hearts or no little sisters to protect and cherish.
When my parents ask me why I no longer want to go to school, I know telling them your name will do no good. I know you will come after me again. And that you will threaten me or hit me.
It makes me sad when I realise that even when you leave school, you still stay the same kind of mean. You still abuse your power, neglect the good in you and look away when little children cry.
Let me come to you when I need advice, let me look up to you, admire you. Let me learn from you. Let me come running to you and not away from you. Let me know who to count on when others bully me.
I am a child and I know you are one too.
Let me be.
I do not know if what I have written will end up in a magazine or not so I have put it up here in hope that somewhere out there will see what I have seen.
Our psychology campaign “Words can Hurt, Heal, Inspire” ended sometime back- well, at least that is what we are told. For now the session “is in high demand” but our teacher is happy, proud of us, and we have managed to help one person at least.
It’s a comfort knowing that amidst all those eyes there was at least one pair which had tears because of what you said, there was one heart who found truth in your words and there was one soul that found peace.