Since childhood I have battled against bullying and more often than not craved to fit in. All was well till I was 10 years of age. I had friends at home, at school, loving family and it was wonderful. And then the worst happened, my school changed.
It was a nightmare that still haunts me. I was constantly teased for having curly boy cut hair, nicknamed ‘PARDON’, for using the polite words “Ma’am please pardon”. I was slapped for fun. My books were hidden. My bag was thrown at the end of the class for having seasonal allergies claiming I was spreading them. Everyone wanted to share the food or the candies or my canteen money. And on their turn, I was left alone in class. And if I dare object, I was told “tumne mere khane pe nazar laga di, gir gaya”. I was shown shoes and slippers. I was their friend only before exams as I used to explain them concepts and how to solve problems in an easy way. But from the last day of exam till the next exam, I was their muse to be bullied. I was not a bad kid. I was obedient, I was good at studies, won multiple prizes in public speaking. The child in me just hoped that one day they would stop and accept me. My only hiding place was my books and all the extracurricular I was so good at.
After 4 years of this torture, my school changed again. I was relieved and excited. However due to what I had been through, I was cautious this time. Now there was no direct bullying, but I felt as an outcast most of the times. Mainly because I was not very feminine as per the norms. Teenage is difficult. Specially if you are a girl who is a 'Tom-boy'. I was not bullied directly but made fun of behind my back. So this time again I drowned myself in extracurricular. But I also learned authority. I first became a school prefect, then the school captain (head girl), and had moments of my own where I could get back to the bullies in direct and indirect ways.I was on my own most of the time but it didn't bother me a lot. Again, I didn’t fit in although I wanted to be accepted with all my heart.
Then came college.I got a new gang, with women of different personalities and it was so much fun. I really got into being more girly and embracing the feminine aspects. But now bullying took another turn. I was bullied for being overweight. I was bullied for being too strong. But this time, I put up a fight. I started to be more vocal, and not taking up shit most of the times. Well guys didn’t like that either. I was too intimidating to them and I was too intimidated by them. I was 18, and first time away from home. I was scared sometimes, and so tired of the bullying that I avoided college bus from hostel to city for fear of being ridiculed.
When I joined my first job, it was the first time ever that I got to embrace my uniqueness. I started getting comfortable with myself and my identity. I gained a new confidence, I liked the freedom. I knew being strong is a virtue and not a drawback. It didn’t mean that the bullying stopped. Every now and then I come across a bully who will make fun of my weight on the street, or say I am not as good as my picture, or why didn’t I shed some weight if I wanted a specific wedding costume.But now the bullies don’t have any power on me. Every abuse now is dealt with a firm response and the same bully never dares cross my path.
People are still intimidated and find me rude sometimes, but they don’t know about the challenge my life is every single day and what all I have been through. I am a warrior in my own world, dealing with chronic illness which impacts my quality of life hugely. It includes constant pain, sleep disturbance, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment. And yet I have a happy family, great friends, good career and a vision to create an impact . My pillar through all of this has been my mother who gave me the strength and courage to fight . My sister, who is still fighting the same battle and is one rock solid lady. I am lucky to have a life partner who respects my opinion, stands with me and even adores the strong tom boy side of me. Now I am OK to not fit in into the conventional society norms.
I am very happy today because now I know – I was never meant to fit in.
And always remember: You are not alone women
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