We need to be more aware of the effects of bullying
What I have gone through in my childhood is something that often leads kids to depression and suicidal thoughts. Bullying is often an ignored subject in Bangladesh because the victims, especially teenagers, feel like it is okay to live with such behaviour.
I attended Scholastica since kindergarten. Since we hit puberty, all I can remember of my classmates is them commenting on looks, laughing at my appearance, and beating me lightly with copies or water bottles (if I complained, surely, it would have gone to more extreme levels).
They used every opportunity possible to shatter me into pieces and break my confidence at such a vulnerable age where one can easily be prone to suicidal thoughts. Listening to statements like: “Tui toh ekta chakma parlour e kaj na kore eikhane ki korte ashchish,” “tui toh Chengiz khan kothakar,” and “tor baaper chemicals diye tor chokh thik kora jai na.”
This was part of my everyday routine.
Every day, I was made to feel that I am worthless because I do not look “Bengali” or “acceptable” according to their standards. I still remember how some would bully me actively while the others in the class would enjoy and laugh their hearts out -- taking it as their daily source of entertainment.
The people who consisted of the passive bullies did invite me to their hangouts, as their parents were known to mine. I was made to feel by my family that I was “abnormal” for not having a social group and enjoying spending time by myself. Hence, I would attend all of their invites.
The passive bullies saw the active people bullying me every day for my appearance and would never turn down an opportunity to tell me: “Ai tumi etoh style koro keno? Tomake akdom suit kore na,” “makeup diye tomake bhooter moto lagtese,” “eita ki kapor pore ashcho,” or “ei tomake na dekhte asholeo bangali lage na, chengiz khaner moto tumi.”
These passive bullies, unfortunately, were the only “friendly” people I knew from school.
I always focused on surviving -- stay quiet and try to listen to everything they had to say in order to fit in and survive. I never confided in my parents about what was happening with me. Through everyday bullying, I did feel bad but being the kid who focused on herself, ignoring the world, not waiting for a warm cordial environment to thrive and survive.
I had made it.
I chose to ignore bullying by never making “ke ki korlo ke ki bollo” my focus. From being the bullied child every day till class viii, I became the only person from our batch to earn two distinctions in A-Level examinations.
Being a deeply analytical kid since childhood, I could somehow understand the reason behind such bullying behaviour. I knew the bullies perceived me as weak, hence, the reason for their bullying. So, I stayed strong and unaffected -- still no matter how hard I tried during my teenage days, bullying affected my confidence badly in school.
Now that I to instruct classes of 300 students in the US, I wonder how, during my teenage days, despite being the girl who could confidently sing in front a large crowd even at musical events, I was too shy to speak or read loudly in front of the class at school. Of course, bullies would make statements like: “Tui kothai toh bolte parosh na abar gaan gabi kemne” -- everyone would laugh and have a good time watching me being bullied.
I have all those people who bullied me in childhood as friends on social media, and what scares me is that childhood behaviour carries through adulthood if that is not rectified and left ignored. Even now, at the age of 26, if I ever come across the passive female bullies after 10 years, they will not hesitate to throw some comments on my fashion sense or my appearance: “Malihar shirt ta ekdom shada shaada simply shaada” and “tomake dekhte ekdom shei playgroup er motoi lage motashota.”
On the other hand, my male active bullies will never hesitate to assume that whatever I do is solely to please them and gain their acceptance which I lacked in childhood -- my male bullies will knock me even if we have not spoken for years to tell me how good I look and that I should also add them on Snapchat.
During my school years, I ignored, survived, but did not forget the memories.
Bangladeshi parents often assume that school is the place where children have fun, make friends, and are often ignorant of bullying. Being young and vulnerable, bullied kids, just like the kids who have been molested, might not confide in their parents as they may be too ashamed to admit it.
Also, parents, when their kids confide in them, might lack the proclivity to believe in them and perceive it as the child making excuses not to attend school. Teenage kids are at a very vulnerable age and often become depressed and suicidal -- we need more awareness of bullying among parents so that they teach their children the appropriate code of conduct at school and also among school authorities to spread awareness and keep an eye for any bullying going around.
It is high time we stand and raise awareness to stop bullying.
Maliha Ahmed previously worked in research at BIDS and BIGD. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.