Sunday, September 22, 2013

It is Not Okay


Bullying is not a new phenomenon. With the audio-visual media, the news about bullying seems to spread like fire. I wonder with so much information concerning bullying, whether some people are desensitized while some copy it on their targets. 

In Hindu mythology, the Kauravas are portrayed as big bullies who eventually succumbed to their ill fate. When I was growing up, at picnics, the goodies from my lunch box used to disappear. My younger cousins tell me I was very bossy. I wonder if bossy and bully are the same. No, they are not. Hey, I never ate from my little cousins' goodies nor did I hit any child in my life, not even my own. 

I think the bullying starts as simple teasing, for example, stealing someone's goodies at a picnic, without a response from the teased, it may escalate to bullying. Then there are some people who are born mean and rejoice hurting others. I don't know, I am still trying to figure out why people bully. What I do know is, that down the road, it hurts the bully and the bullied. 

In today's story, for his own reasons, the teacher's son teases, Sapna. He may have liked her and she refused to accept his admiration. I have not thought about how it may escalate down the road. For the time being, he's especially happy to pull her long hair. In earlier grades he stuck his foot out to trip her and then laugh. It is definitely not okay with her. When her complaints failed to work, she decided to teach him a lesson.


It is Not Okay

In the busy school cafeteria, one hiss rang out.
Who said that?
Nine-year-old Sapna brought her long black braid up front. She looked across; sparks from her eyes could have turned Tommy into a fishing-net.
Sapna murmured to her friend, "I stopped Tommy, the bully from trying to trip me but he still kicks me under the cafeteria table, and he just pulled my hair. 'I'm telling' does not work with him." 
The friend did not hear the whispered complaint.
Tommy tossed his lunch bag on the table, “Ooo…Sapna, tell me, is your hair made of silk?”
Sapna murmured, "How do I keep the bully from messing with my hair?" 
The fourth-grade teacher, the bespectacled Ms. Dumbledore came around peering at the students and then sat down at the end table for lunch with her colleagues.   
Tommy smirked again, his shoe touched Sapna's under the table.
Sapna pulled her feet under her seat and opened her lunch. She fumed. After a few minutes, lips pursed tight, she walked straight to a trash-can and threw away her lunch.
After school, Sapna walked into her thirteen-year-old brother, Sagar’s room.
Sagar said, “Hey sis, I saw you throw away your lunch.”
“I wasn’t hungry.”
Sapna’s face turned red, “Mummy and Dad will never let me change my school; I want my hair gone today.”
She bent went around Sagar, leaned over his desk and picked up a pair of scissors. As she straightened up, her braid tipped over a little bottle on Sagar’s work-paper. A dark liquid sprawled on his white sheets of work.
Sapna dropped the scissors on the desk and cried, “Oh my god---I made a mess. I’m so sorry!”
Sagar grabbed her braid, “Sis, it’s okay.”
“It is?”
“Sure, Look!”
Little by little the black blob disappeared from the paper.
“Where did it go?”
Sagar said, “It’s the same ink that grocery clerks use to check the big dollar bills.”
“Can I get a bottle of this ink? I’ll give you my one month’s allowance.”
“We don’t get any allowance.”
“Right. I’ll clean your room plus give you my dessert every night---for one whole month.”
“No dessert, but I accept your cleaning service.”
Sapna smiled and stretched a hand, “It’s a deal. Give me the goods.”
“First, tell me, why do you want this ink?”
“I want to teach Tommy a lesson that he’ll never forget.”
“Tommy? The boy who’s always smiling at you? I think he likes you.”
Sapna clenched her teeth, “Yuck. I hate him. He pulls my hair at every chance he gets. Your ink gave me an idea.”
“Before you implement some far out idea, have you told the teacher, any other adult about his teasing?”
“They say they haven’t seen him pull my hair, besides, his mom is our teacher.”
“How about telling our parents?”
Sapna said, “You must be kidding. They’ll march straight to the principal’s office.”
Sagar nodded, “I see your point. Here’s your bottle; I’ll get more from my science teacher. But my ears are burning, tell me your plan."
Sapna told Sagar her plan, “It's not okay for Tommy to bully me; I’m going to make him stop.”
On the following day, Sapna and her friends sat closer to the teachers’ lunch table. She kept one eye on the cafeteria entrance. 
When she saw Tommy walking towards her table with a mischievous smile, she opened her bag and took out the bottle of magic-ink. She undid the top and poured the liquid on her hair. She tossed her braid back with the shake of her head, without touching it. 
Tommy passed by Sapna.
He screamed, “What the –“ 
Sapna ran to Ms. Dumbledore.
“Ms. Dumbledore, come, please, come quick. Tommy just pulled my hair. Look at his hand.”
Ms. Dumbledore went to Tommy and asked, “Tommy, what’s going on?”
Tommy muttered, “I don’t know. Like every time I pulled her hair and look what she did to my hand.”  Tommy opened his palm; the black ink that stained his palm was disappearing fast. He glared at Sapna.
Ms. Dumbledore narrowed her eyes, “I see. So you did pull her hair.”
Tommy said, “Well, Mom, she ---mom, look my hand’s clean….”
“Tommy. Please, pick up your lunch and sit by me at the teachers' table. 
At the teachers table  Mrs. Dumbledore talked softly to Tommy about teasing and bullying. She talked about how it makes others feel hurt and angry. She asked Tommy if he should be punished in school by making him sit alone.
Tommy said he would not like that.  
Ms. Dumbledore paused for a moment, “Okay, fine. You can go back to your spot with the others. I do not want you to tease anyone. For hurting a fellow student's feelings, there will be consequences. No TV for you at home for one month.”
Tommy nodded. He picked up his tray. Looking down at the floor, he went back to his lunch table to finish the rest of his lunch.
Ms. Dumbledore went to Sapna, she touched Sapna's hair, “Your hair feels clean. How did you get the color on Tommy’s hands?”
Sapna beamed, “Well, just before Tommy came by my table, I wet my braid with a special ink.”
“A special ink?”
“Yeah, this ink disappears in seconds after you use it.”
“Do your parents know about this?”
Sapna said, “Not yet. But they will when I go home.”
Ms. Dumbledore nodded and went back to her seat to sit by the fellow teachers, "Teasing at school or outside of school is a kind of bullying, I will not tolerate it. I hope we, the teachers discuss bullying in our classrooms. We must educate our children that it hurts everyone involved. Being a bully is just not acceptable." 

The End

© 2013, Meera Desai Shah

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