Tag Archives: school

Bully

That’s me. In school. Shorter than your average kid but with twice the sass. And the unshakeable belief that the sun rose from my ass. I was in an all boys boarding school. Yup. That comes with its own set of challenges. Most of which, they tell you, “build character”, “turn you into a real man”, “foster relationships which last a lifetime”. Well, yes. And no.

 

There wasn’t much you could do if a senior wanted your new sneakers. They’d just take them. You couldn’t say no if they wanted you to wash their dirty socks, everyday. Or eat your share of food.

I’ve always had a problem with authority. And initially, these little ego tussles always bothered me. Being physically dwarfed by most kids, it was almost impossible to protest. I remember vividly, wringing my hands together behind my back and clenching my teeth when I was being yelled at for something really stupid. The senior stopped yelling, walked behind me and seeing my hands, red and perspiring, he said “This is your problem. You have a very large ego. Don’t worry. We’ll break it.”

Eventually, most kids end up shedding who they really are and guard themselves the best way they can. Some become aggressive, some become introverts. The defense mechanisms, inevitably, always stay in place. Long after the attacks have stopped.

As time went by, I learnt to be shrewd. I learnt to pander to their ego so as to get away with I really wanted to do. It was a small compromise.

It surprises me now, after all these years how easily we got used to this way of life.

Sometimes though, someone would cross the line. And for me, it wasn’t an act of physical violence inflicted upon me. It was something seemingly harmless that has stayed with me all my life.

I was in the eight grade. I was called to the twelfth grade dorm for some random work. This senior of mine, probably bored in the afternoon, asks me to climb into his locker. I barely fit. It was the kind of space where you couldn’t stand, sit straight or straighten your limbs, even for a small kid like me. As soon as I got in, he locked me in.

I don’t know if I was in for a minute or longer but it felt like forever. I kept begging him to open, banging on the thin steel. Looking back, it would’ve made more sense to close my eyes, breathe slowly and wait but I was scared and uncomfortable.

Light and air rushed in when he finally opened the door. I had tears streaming down my face. He was laughing. When he saw me in distress, he masked his feeling of guilt with arrogance and asked me to not be such a wuss and to get out of his dorm.

People hate bullies because they torment the weak. But that’s not all they do. Bullies give birth to new bullies.

What my senior did that day was wrong in itself. But apart from the actual act of sadism, he did a grave disservice to me and those closest to me.

He unknowingly taught me how to hurt people.

My school made me a self defense bully. So petrified of being hurt or bullied, I learnt to act out in anticipation. And as I got stronger, unshackled by the burdens of school hierarchy, my verbal blows got swifter and more efficient. For any minor act of aggression against me, or even perceived betrayal, retribution would be swift. And merciless. I mastered the art of knowing what and how to say things that would cripple someone. And although, I’d have the last word, I felt my heart shrink, become darker with each episode. I learnt to prey on their weaknesses, in much the same way a few of my seniors preyed on mine.

This behavior affects all your relationships. The one you have with your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your best friends and unfortunately, even your children. And as affectionate as one may be, you’re still a bully.

There’s nothing about being a bully that one enjoys. One doesn’t enjoy the hurt caused to your loved ones. And the sense of power is a misplaced one. Remorse inevitably follows. You end up living your life with constant guilt. You miss the purity of the heart you used to have, buried under all the layers of hurt and unresolved issues.

We use our pasts, like I used mine, to justify all that is wrong with us. Till one day, you decide to let go of it. We need to accept that it’s a choice we make. When we have two wolves whispering in our ear, one guiding us to the light and the other dragging us back to our dark patterns, which wolf do we end up listening to? A wise friend once told me, “The one we feed”.

You’re not the scared boy in the locker anymore. And everyone’s not out to get you.

Feed the good wolf. Believe in the best of you. Recognize your patterns, acknowledge them and bid them a quiet goodbye.

It’s time.

 

If you liked what you read, follow me on:

Twitter: Obstetrix

Instagram: @scissortongue

Medium: http://www.medium.com/scissortongue

“Charmed” 

  
I was about eleven when I first heard someone say it. Home for the summer holidays from boarding school, I was immediately impressed. We were all sitting at a restaurant and someone walked up to our table to say hello to a family friend. Upon introduction, he took her hand and said “Charmed”. She blushed in return. My eleven year old mind was blown. 
I have always wanted to say it from that day on. Being born and brought up in a small town in India, I never really got to say it to anyone. No one I met was charming anyway. When I had to go back to school, it was still at the back of my mind. The need to impress someone with my beautifully modulated “Charmed”. 

I was intensely homesick that year. A week into school, I feigned some illness, maybe a fever, to check myself into the school sickroom. The school sickroom had this compounder called Mr. Khushwaha. An arse of a man, I learnt, as I spent more years in school. He had this perpetually bored expression on his face and absolute contempt for kids, especially kids like me, who may have feigned their illness. This would be the first time I met him. I entered the sickroom, and approached him, sitting pompously behind his wooden desk, a BP apparatus in front of him. I stuck my hand out and introduced myself. Taken aback, he waited a few seconds before offering his hand to me, nostrils wide, the disgust evident on his face. 

I don’t know what came over me, I blurted out “Charmed”, with a slight eyebrow twitch and head tilt. 

His eyes widened and he shot me a look as though I belonged in a mental institution. I cringed from within. I could not believe my eleven year old self would be impatient enough to use “Charmed” on this jackass. 

It was the only time I’ve ever used that word in this context. I wish I’d waited for the right time. I’ve never had the courage to use it again. Or any other similar word like this. 

The next word on my list is “Enchanté”. With perfect French pronounciation. I’ve never been able to muster the courage to use it. You never know who may turn out to be Mr. Khushwaha in disguise. If you ever happen to meet me someday and I linger over our handshake, be certain that I’m saying “Enchanté” in my head. 

And I hope you’ll smile kindly. 

Showman

IMG_0923.JPG
B. N. Chatterjee was a funny looking man. Sitting there on his arm chair, the cane weave on the back creaked slightly as he shifted in his seat, he leaned forward every few minutes to relight the tobacco in his pipe. He dressed in a white kurta pajama and an ivory waistcoat with black piping, a uniform of sorts. A very thin, black-dyed mustache sat near his nose, a distance away from his thin, purplish lips.

I was eleven and this was my first trip to the school music room. A wonderful little place filled with sitars, mandolins, harmoniums, tablas and other delightful instruments, all begging me to touch them. I couldn’t resist, no one could, a ploink here, a thud there, everyone wanted to give it a go. Till some idiot would drop an instrument and Mr. Chatterjee would growl and in Bengali accented English, ask everyone to get out. But he was so funny looking, with his jet black hair (with some dye staining his scalp), his thick black glasses and his flaming red Bajaj scooter, that no one took him seriously. Much as he probably hated it, he knew the kids made fun of him and was quietly resigned to that fact.

Soon after my first trip to the music room, I became painfully aware of my limitations as a musician. I had harbored dreams of being able to pick up a guitar and strum out a tune, on a beach at night, surrounded by girls looking at me wistfully, warmed by a bonfire. And here I was, plucking nervously on a guitar string, with Chatto (that’s what we called him), looking at me with disgust, like I was some rotten fish. It didn’t help that I kept losing my plucker in the hole of the guitar and spent half the hour of music class, trying to get it out.

As the months went by, preparations for the annual Founder’s day orchestra performance began in full swing. Devoid of any musical talent, I was relegated to the back row, about 15 of us with some coconut shaped instrument filled with beads. We would be providing the super important background ‘chickachika’ sounds while the talented musicians took the foreground and played the actual Raaga. There were about four tabla players. A couple of days before the show, one of the tabla players fell ill and had to bow out. Distressed by the lack of symmetry on stage, Chatto calls me up front during one of the practices and asks me to sit in the empty place. He politely asks me not to actually play the tabla but just pretend to do the ‘dhak dhin’ finger motion, gently to the rhythm. Piece of cake. I’m awesome at pretend playing. I could sense his anxiety but I was just so thrilled to be in the front row.

Founder’s day was upon us. The show went off beautifully. The orchestra played proudly, practiced to perfection. I pretended to play, smiling for the cameras, trying to search for people I knew in the audience and make gleeful eye contact. After the performance we all gathered backstage, congratulating each other. Chatto was there, saying ‘Shabaash’ to his star pupils. Then, just as we were all about to disperse, he grabs my hand and says loudly, “I love this boy. He doesn’t know T of Tabla but he played like he was Zakir Hussain. Swinging his head and everything.” I didn’t know how to react, mainly because I didn’t know if he was being sarcastic or ridiculing me. But he kept going and there wasn’t any sarcasm in his voice. Mr. Chatterjee found it incredibly endearing that I would pretend-play with flair.

Deeply embarrassed as I was that night, a part of me felt incredibly reassured. Ever since I could remember, I’ve always loved being in the spotlight. But people always tell you to shun it, to work quietly, to curb that natural instinct to want to shine. And here was this man, so used to ridicule, from his colleagues and his students, who didn’t feel the need to trample over a little boy who wanted to just feel like he was playing brilliantly. He let me shine that night. And he loved me for it.

We had a different equation from that day on. I never ridiculed Mr. Chatterjee and he always jokingly called me Zakir Hussain. I played in the school orchestra for 4 years, moving my way up to the mandolin. I never really was a gifted musician but I practiced long and hard, committed the raagas to physical memory and never made a mistake during a performance. I spent an incredible amount of my free time in that music room, sometimes practicing, but most times, just taking to Chatto. And while walking to the dorm, if he happened to zip by on his scooter, while most students would shout “Eh Chatto” behind his back, I’d keep my silence. I knew a side of him that others weren’t fortunate enough to know.

Life is a bully. It makes us paranoid and superstitious. We trade in our spark for a more socially acceptable way of life. I fall into that trap too. But some days, and those days come infrequently now, I find myself often revisiting that October night in 1992. Chatto grabbing my arm, saying he loved this boy, who couldn’t play but wanted to be Zakir Hussain. It silences that nagging, doubtful voice in my head. It reinforces who I was born to be. And I step into the light again.

Hate Math. Love Art.

I love drawing. Especially cartoons. It all started when I was in the 5th grade, my first year at a boarding school. I was in Scindia, by the way. I hated math and had a terrible math teacher. Also, did I mention that I was a stubborn little critter? My way of protesting was to doodle in my math book.

The very first comic strip I drew was called ‘Big Mac’. It was about a guy who wanted to become a boxer against his father’s wishes. He’d get beat up every night and come home with a few teeth missing. One day, after some 70+ episodes, I got caught and ‘Big Mac’ got confiscated. And that’s all I have to say about that.

In 8th grade, I had an art teacher called Mr. Jojo Jacob, who I really liked, mainly because he encouraged me to bunk classes and hang out in the art room. He was a pothead which I learnt much later on. He was never really liked by the other teachers for his very anti-establishment outlook. In his head, the poor guy was still in woodstock. He made me start a cartoon strip mocking every teacher, one a week. All to be taken in jest of course, but it was petrifying. The teachers took it well though mainly because I kept the humor a little above the belt.

As with all Indian students, the years from 10th to the 12th grade were a blur. Periods of intense studying and even more intense praying. Getting into a medical school was not easy. Whilst in 11th, I met this bunch of really fun people, all of whom wanted to pursue engineering abroad. We had a blast and it was very sad when they left after 12th. So my third attempt at a comic strip was starring this odd bunch called ‘God Save Us’, chronicling all the good and not so good times we shared. It was the most finished product I had ever come up with, inked with special rotring pens and india ink, it looked professional. And very well received, remembered to this day.

So, when I came across Marjane Satrapi’s work, namely Persepolis and Embroideries, I was taken back to what was my beloved hobby. I want to crack open my pens and dust off the cartridge paper sketch books and start doodling again. This stupid doctor profession keeps getting in the way.

The only question is, who’ll be my muse? My wife? The mother-in-law (that would be a funny strip)? Or the kids in the house?

And just for that feeling of fresh enthusiasm, thanks Marjane.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.