Tag Archive | violence

Checkpoint Charlie Hebdo

A barbaric attack this afternoon at the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo left 12 dead and several others severely wounded.

“…in [what is purported to be] an apparent militant Islamist attack, four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor-in-chief, were among those killed, as well as two police officers.”

Reports from several reputed news sources claim the attack as being carried out by people claiming to be part of Al Qaeda, although this has not been entirely corroborated yet.

While multitudes [myself included] have come out in strong support of the cartoonists following the attacks at Charlie Hebdo, some media outlets seem to highlight the ‘fact’ that Charlie Hebdo persisted in its irreverence, subliminally implying somehow that they deserved it. A perverted apologism of sorts for a violent, ruthless attack.

Irreverence can go to extremes, and it has done so repeatedly. In its most modern form, it has all but regressed in its entirety to its original iterations: to use, manipulate and control masses, a tool for power, whether that power is political, monetary or plain old physical might.

That oft repeated quote still stands: “Religion is like a dick. It’s fine to have one, but don’t go waving it around in people’s faces…”

AND don’t go stabbing people with it.

I would like to openly aver that there may be personal bias in that I am personally against the concept of religion in and of itself, and of the opinion that it has done far more harm than good in society. However, it is not anybody’s place to state to another what they may and may not believe [a job extremists take entirely upon themselves, and have done violently in this case].

Extremists seem convinced somehow that their beliefs are the ‘truest’, the strongest, the most faithful to an imaginary sky being on which they base their entire set of values and morals. (To the woman in Central London who once told me atheists ‘have no morals’, we choose to found ours on a reason unrelated to fear of punishment, retribution, becoming a Christmas turkey et al.)

Is your belief so weak that pens and pencils can shake it, cause it to be insulted, irreparably damaged? Is your ‘all-knowing’, ‘all-powerful’ being, the creator of all humanity and everything in existence, the one for whom you commit these crimes, so fragile that words will hurt it? The same being that threatens to punish a being for eternity for being ‘evil’ needs guarding and protection from a few words? Less reminiscent of a god, more reminiscent of a schoolyard bully too chicken to get a taste of his own medicine. Is THAT your belief?

Is belief asking people to ‘multiply’ to ‘replenish their numbers’? To arrest, silence, kill those who disagree?

Censorship is a world issue; Indian cartoonists have in the past been arrested for what was interpreted as ‘seditious work’. Protests are currently on in India against a film that showed, according to detractors, the country’s biggest religion in a ‘bad light’. [It didn’t – it was a sardonic, much-needed take against godmen and the money-spinning, divisive business that is religion.]

Multitudes protested  – on the internet, vocally, in their homes, which, while I personally disagreed with, is perfectly alright. Extremists took it further, with picketing, physical violence and threats.

No physical harm came to any being, however, which is a significant relief, but does not condone the attacks.

Extremism, specifically extremist religion, is a plague. A veritable cancer, seemingly attempting to eat humanity and peace from the inside out; by attacking people, education, free speech and thereby, rational thought.

People have protested from time immemorial, with religion as their goal, their instrument, tool, their means and their end.

To protest film, literature, thought or dissent. In an ideal world, Deepa Mehta would never face widespread protest, and neither would Rajkumar Hirani. Salman Rushdie would never have had to flee, and neither would M.F. Husain. In a sane world, nobody would die as a result of the rabid insecurity of extremist factions, and their cowardly, bloody violence.

Perhaps we should remind ourselves today that if our beliefs (whether in a sky being, a tenet, a school of thought) are as unflappable as we believe them to be, names will never hurt them. It is that belief that should be under question in the end.

To those who believe an absence of religion necessarily means an absence of morality, where is YOUR morality now? In the pointlessly spilled blood of 12 innocent people?

Today, instead of backing down to those who have proclaimed themselves defenders or protectors of faith, each one of us must make a conscious effort to defend something ourselves: the license for others to say things we may not like or agree with, but respecting utterly their choice to express it anyway. The freedom of expression includes the freedom to offend (and being offended is one of humanity’s favourite pastimes).

With these attacks, extremists hope, in silencing those who disagree, that others who disagree will silence themselves. Fear for self censorship. That the threat of attack will lead them to ‘fall in line’.

Today, write more than you did yesterday. Say something you were afraid to say. Speak up about atrocities against everyone. If you protest the Paris attacks, protest those threatening the freedom of expression in your own political and geographic arena. Each time you feel personally slighted or violently offended at a film meant to point out exactly that, check yourself.

Murder is never defensible, and this was not merely an attack on the 12 victims at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. It was an attack on the freedom of expression, of the expression of that opinion without threat. It was an attack on every one of us with a voice that wants to be heard without silencing itself in fear. It is now up to us to not be cowed down; in the words of the slain Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, to die standing, rather than live on our knees.



New Delhi, Rape Central

It’s something I’ve said before, and it’s something I will say again. New Delhi needs to be rechristened Rape Delhi or something to that effect. In Uganda, rape is a war crime. In New Delhi, I wonder if it is even a crime anymore.  If you’re Indian/living in India, sipping your morning coffee and reading the paper, and you see ‘Rape in New Delhi’, more than likely you will be angry but not particularly surprised.  Saying somebody was raped in New Delhi is like saying it snowed in the Arctic.  It’s something that never goes away.  It isn’t just the rape capital of India, it might as well be the rape capital of the world.

India is still, sadly, largely patriarchal.  We’re at the end of 2012 and still attempting to break stereotypes that belonged in the Middle Ages, that everywhere else in the world disappeared at the turn of, I don’t know, the 19th century. And we’re not even doing a very good job.  Browse any online newspaper and the comment boards will be chock-full of misogynistic rubbish that somehow blame the victim, for reasons made up by the commenters, reasons that make rational sense to them and them alone. Reasons like, the rapist ‘lost control’, the girl was ‘skimpily dressed’, or a lot of other comments that somehow imply the victim had it coming. The kind of comments that make you want to throw these morons against a wall and beat the living daylights out of them. (And I’m not even a violent person.)

For those of you who are as yet unfamiliar with what happened – a 23- year old girl caught a Dwarka-Delhi bus with a friend after watching a film. The people on that bus beat her up, gangraped her in the bus driver’s cabin, nearly pulverised her, then her friend for attempting to protect her, and then threw the girl out of the moving bus.  In spite of the fact that the bus passed FIVE police checkpoints, nobody stopped it or even bothered to look.

It’s something that sends chills down your spine wherever in the world you are, chills and utter shame when it happens in your own backyard.

I’ve written time and time and time again about my absolute lack of faith in the Indian judicial system in general, and that continues. But New Delhi/NCR policemen are a whole new level of foul, disgusting, bottom-feeding dirt that do not even deserve to live, let alone have any power.

If a girl is raped, their first thought is not, oddly, “How do we catch these men and what do we do to them?” It is “What was the time when the girl was raped?” If it was nighttime, that is their rationale for justifying said rape, because ‘what is a woman doing out so late at night?’.    “What was she wearing?” Because if she was skimpily dressed, of course she’s to blame, she might as well be holding a sign that says ‘do me now, I want you inside me,  violate me completely’.  Or that it ‘was consensual, but these guys just get violent halfway through so the girls call it rape’.  Because that’s completely logical, obviously.

For other reasons our cops and politicians think rapes happen, click here.

It’s not just them though, lots of people somehow seem to think if a woman dresses as she wishes, drinks, parties, or basically has any will of her own, she is a ‘loose’ ‘slut’, and I don’t know what either of those two terms mean. Basically, according to them, said woman is trying to be a man, which is unacceptable, women to them are supposed to be beings that are there to stay around till you feel like marrying one, then mop your floors and make you food and tea, show off to your wife, and put your penis in as and when you feel like, following which, if and only if you deign to choose, she will carry your seed, which is hopefully a male. (This is exactly how the brain of your average misogynistic MCP Indian man functions.)  Women are not meant to be just regular human beings with different genitalia from men, they are not supposed to have their own desires, wants and needs, unless aforementioned needs include ‘staying a virgin for marriage’, ‘looking for a boy’, and, oh, ‘marriage’. And whatever they think marriage entails, which they think, for the most part, is access to sex as and when you want it.

Why am I talking about these people? Because it is precisely this sort of mindset that gives rise to hordes of utter idiots who do not respect women, or even other human beings, which is another thing New Delhi is notorious for (like this guy, who shot a toll booth attendant because he didn’t want to pay).

The moment you believe men are the only acceptable species of human, the species that should hold power, and women are not homo sapiens, but just some sort of instrument that is there , you have morons like these. This sort of backward ideal of the woman being unequal, a sad little being that depends on a man for everything, including to give her life meaning, (which of course it has none of otherwise),  is not something I see changing any time soon, simply because there are both women and men out there who believe in it and are watching it propagated through pathetic TV shows that are on Indian television all the livelong day. [An aside: One of said TV shows includes, to my knowledge, a woman whose husband cheated on her, left her for another woman whom he later married, and she still keeps a photograph of him on the mantelpiece and gazes at it lovingly. (Saw all that in a promo.)]

That, to me, is one of the root causes of stuff like this. The simple fact that we’re not moving forward from patriarchy, misogyny, from the idea that the man (and not man, but the homo sapien with a penis and testicles) is an ultimate being and all else is his kingdom to do with as he pleases. Instead of TV shows (which are a prime way of reaching out to the bulk of our population across every socio-economic level, because watching TV is something everybody does) that are about women being married off, looking for a husband, looking for marriage, and only that sort of thing, maybe there could be shows about women looking for careers, looking to make their own choices, doing something with their lives.  Sadly, as I type this, I see a promo for a new show about a girl looking to have a “Karan Johar-style ‘sasural'” to marry into. It cuts to a shot of the girl serving a boyand his family tea, and the boy then saying “Oh, nothing beats mum’s tea”.  Incidentally, the girl in said promo looks to be about 15, 16 years old at the time of her pining for a ‘fancy sasural’.

I have made no secret of my absolute hatred towards arranged marriage, which is a term that makes me go into Hulk Smash mode. Really. It brings up bile and vomit and possibly stomach acid, because the ideas behind it are disgusting and outdated. I have also written about my feelings regarding arranged marriage at length before. That ad highlights a few of these reasons. The whole idea of marrying not a person, but a family. The idea that you need marriage to be a ‘complete person’, whatever the hell that is. The idea that you have to serve someone tea (if you want tea, you better get it yourself), the idea that a girl must serve tea to a groom-to-be, and the idiot groom, whose mother’s apron strings might as well be his damn umbilical cord, has to comment.

Nearly EVERY socio-economic stratum and sector in Indian society has access to television. And not just television – satellite television.  How do I know this? Drive past a chawl (for non-Indian readers, that’s an Indian ghetto), slum, makeshift set of homes, even a construction labourer’s tinfoil-and-asbestos home and you will find a satellite dish hoisted atop it.

Clearly, we have data that will prove how much of our population has access to TV. More people nationwide have access to (and by access, I also imply an understanding of) television, more so than newspapers because a large chunk of our population is also completely illiterate.

Can we not then use a tool we know is at our disposal to disseminate messages that we also know will be useful and will make an impact? Instead of using primetime cable network time to broadcast archaic TV shows that are little more than period Victorian dramas masquerading in 20 layers of makeup and Indian clothing, we could use it to get people OUT of a mental rut instead of digging them deeper into it.

But we can’t seem to.

The second big issue is the fact that there is absolutely no fear of retribution among these people. They know that with money and connections, or either one of those two, they will get off scot-free, untouched, and free to roam the streets like the pathetic sewer-rat vermin they are and commit as many crimes as they please. Nobody will touch them, if they know the right minister, cop, have a rich uncle, aunt, mum or dad, or are rolling in money themselves.
Actually, scratch that. No matter what socio-economic background you come from, rape is part of a completely messed up, life-sized game of Monopoly that seems to come with a ‘get out of Jail free’ card.  Which is exactly what they do, if they even find themselves in prison to begin with.

Our legal system is absolutely pathetic. It takes at least four years to even BEGIN to deliver a verdict, and any verdict made in that time or less is looked upon as something wondrous, and ‘wow’. More than half the cases out there have probably been lying in files since they were registered, the only things that have seen them being silverfish, for whom it is their next meal.

Rape or divorce, who cares? It is all ALWAYS made out to be the woman’s fault. Here you can read about a Bangalore judge who asked a woman looking to divorce her husband on the grounds of domestic violence to ‘adjust’, because her husband puts food on the table. Why are abject morons like this given any power whatsoever?

People actually have lists and pointers for steps they think women should and should not take so they can ‘avoid being raped or eve-teased’. Don’t stay out at night, don’t dress in ‘skimpy clothes’, inhabit crowded areas.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rape is not about sex. It is not about so called ‘horny feelings’ or these men’s ‘lack of access to sex’. It is not about cellphones, chowmein, interaction, or the age of marriage. It is about disgusting, feckless criminal assholes who think they can have their way, and in New Delhi, end up doing so.

I also abhor the nomenclature of rape by the news media. Why must rape be described as ‘VIOLATING MODESTY’? Is a girl’s virginity her so-called modesty? I am well aware we live in a disgusting, completely backward society that in Twenty-blooming-twelve (and now thirteen)  that seems to prize a girl’s virginity, look to it as an indicator of her virtue, grace, her purity, her brilliance, and of course that all-important criterion, her success as a wife and human being, which of course are not mutually exclusive. India is one of the few countries where you still hear of rape victims being married off to their rapists. Why? Because the rapist ‘deflowered’ them, and since he has already taken her, er, ‘modesty’, he might as well KEEP it.


But must so called modern media, media looking to erase this sort of retrograde ideal, promote it, on whatever level? Rape is not a ‘theft’ of anything. It is not a violation of a woman’s modesty. It is, however, a violation of her as a human being, which is the same as it would be if it were a man. It is a violation of her right to exist peacefully. It is a violation of justice to allow scum like this to roam the earth unfettered, swaggering around without any fear of punishment.

Violence has never been something I have condoned, but every time I read about a rape case in New Delhi (which is to say, every day), I keep thinking taking some sort of harsh, yes, violent action against these lowlifes, these sorry excuses for human beings might be effective,  at least at instilling some sort of fear within them, something that seems insofar to be nonexistent. Considering that these same men seem to think rape proves their ‘masculinity’, I suggest doing away with their genitals, which would have the added benefit of ensuring trash like that never reproduces, ever.  We won’t also have commenters like this guy I saw on the Times of India online comment board, pity I can’t find a permalink anymore:

” zahoor ahmed (bambayi) 1 min ago
why so much hype on this gang rape?the girl was roaming around in late night with a boy…what else one can expect? ”

We don’t need to be leaving women tips about how to take care of themselves, we need to be weeding out crappy human beings from functioning society (if you can even call it that, really).

And to all those morons, everywhere, talking about people’s ‘mothers’ and ‘sisters’ and ‘how would the rapists like it if it were their mother or sister’, or ‘rape the rapists’ mothers and sisters’, WHY all the “mother-sister” talk? Are you not supposed to respect a woman otherwise? I suppose it’s telling that the two most insulting words in hindi have to do with screwing somebody’s mother or sister. Because if they aren’t, you’re free to do what you’d like, right?

We need to change the way we think (and by we, I mean a nation). We can all sit and wonder from what rat-infested corner of hell  people like those rapists are born. And you know where? Right here.They’re all born right here. Right under our noses.

Dealing With Bullies

Simple title, fairly straightforward. This is a subject that’s been extremely close to my heart and has worked on my mind subconsciously for many, many years. I’ve wanted to write about it for nearly as long, but I don’t think I had the composure or the sense or enough closure to do it, or maybe because it meant I’d have to face far too many demons in doing so. Which is a funny coincidence, because I was reminded of it while watching an old episode of Supernatural. [Episode 13, Season 4 – you can find the synopsis here.]

The lead characters, Dean and Sam Winchester [demon-hunting brothers (and so much more), for those of you who aren’t familiar with the show] visit their old high school when they find out about a murder.

The episode opens with a ‘popular’ girl being heckled and called a slut, so she goes over to the ” outcasts’ ” table, where the only other person seated is a ‘fat chick’. As someone who’s been the target of taunts and bullying for years, she sympathises with Ms. Popular and tries to make her feel better, only for it to bite her in the ass as she is called a ‘fat ugly bitch’ by the popular girl. She storms off. The scene then cuts to the girls’ bathroom, where ‘fat chick’ bangs the ‘slut’s’ head against a mirror, and then swirlies her (dunks her head into the toilet bowl and flushes, i.e) till she dies of asphyxia.

Sam and Dean head on over to investigate, and as it turns out, they were at that same high school for a few months, a little over a decade earlier. While they’re there, a bully shoves his victim’s hand into a moving food processor in a home economics class, and when Sam finds the tormentor, he finds ectoplasm leaking from his ear.

Now I’m not into all this demon mumbo-jumbo or anything, but they cut to Sam’s past, and that was the bit that really, really got me going.  Sam was a quiet kid, and instantly befriended a stereotypical ‘nerdy kid’, a guy named Barry, who was relentlessly tormented – a bully twice his size sat behind him, flicking his ear till it bled, hitting him, provoking him without reason, and he could do nothing- and that is when I began to cry. (I continued, intermittently, until the end of the episode.)

I wasn’t your stereotypical nerdy kid in school (well, I probably was, though I wasn’t bespectacled/four-eyed/near-blind, like the kind they portray on TV and in movies) – I was academically ‘nerdy’ right up until the end of 6th grade, and that’s when everything went downhill, life in general that is. Funnily enough, this was when I won the maximum number of quiz competitions and quiz shows that I’d ever won. I won a brand-new mountain bike from the Discovery Channel one time, and was chuffed to bits. I got two new trophies. Plaques and certificates with my name on them. I’d just given two sets of Trinity music exams and aced them, and had my face broadcast on national television as one of the year’s biggest student achievers, throughout the country.

Then why didn’t I feel like one at all?

In my head, it’s like the whole chicken-and-egg argument, really, as to which came first, the recognition or the bullying. I’m not quite sure to be honest, and I suppose now that scientists have found the answer to the chicken-egg question, it’s a shitty analogy as well. .

I was never a particularly social kid – even as a two-, three-year-old, all my kindergarten/ primary school reports said that I needed to talk more to other students – I talked only to the teachers. (One thing that makes me immeasurably happy: My first ever teacher in primary school at the school I was for 14 years still remembers me. My name, my face, my behaviour, everything. It made me well up just a tiny little bit.)

I had maybe one or two really close friends then, one of whom was also a quasi-neighbour and a kindergarten classmate, and the other somebody who continues to be one of the people in my life that is closest to me, somebody who’s been there for me through quite a lot even though we had our rough patches, someone I’ve grown exponentially closer to in the last few years. Didn’t hang out with people all that much, but I wasn’t really unpopular – I was breezing through academics at the time, top grades in everything – upto the 6th grade, I don’t think I saw a single mark below 95. I took part in school plays, and just went about my daily life, neither here nor there.  I remember one isolated bullying incident from the 3rd though. My best friend and I (the same one I just mentioned) used to keep one another company for lunch – we carried lunches to school, both of us, and we’d search for a place on the large field to sit and relax and eat in peace.

The field was this huge expanse of tarred-road-like land, surrounded by grass. Tons of it. It had just rained the day before, and there was dark brown, squelchy, gooey mud all around the field, though thankfully not that much in it because the gardener managed to heckle kids out of the lawn before too long.

Two girls we knew and were more or less apathetic to (we had no feelings about them, positive or negative) got the soles of their black buckled shoes nice and mucked up, and came up to my best friend and I (both of us were in our white sports shoes, presumably because we had P.E that day), stamped hard on our feet, spread all the mud all over them, cackled in our faces, then walked away, laughing, like something straight out of one of those creepy, psychotic-possessed-kid films.

Friend and I were pretty shaken up, but we kept shut and thought about telling our classteacher. I don’t think we ever got around to doing it.

Life was fairly uneventful for a while, at least at school. (Home was a pretty different story, and one that I don’t know if I want to get into, ever. Just assume it was its own form of bullying, meted out by the last people in the world you expect to bully you at all.)

I was a terrified little kid that always needed to sleep with a night light on, and even as an 8-year-old, I had insomnia. My mind would think itself into some sort of negative spiral or the other, and bye bye, sleep it was. [Being hit and yelled at and told how worthless you are will do that to ya, I promise you.]

I started drifting further and further away from other people as the years laboured on, and I don’t know exactly how or why. It just happened.

Then came the 7th grade, and the chicken-and-egg bit that I don’t really remember. I do remember meeting an amazing girl then, though, quieter than even I was, positively mouse-like, and exactly a year younger. To the day. We bonded over our shared birthday, won a couple of quizzes, travelled together, and she’s still one of my best friends to this day, one of the people I consider family.

We came back from the local round of the quiz, ecstatic, with our new mountain bikes, and every teacher congratulating us – and not one student that I remember.

Months later, I was selected to participate in the Bournvita Quiz, which, at the time, was all the rage (I used to watch it religiously myself, every Sunday morning at 10.30, as my mum and I tried to answer everything.)

I saw a ton of sour-pussed faces glaring at me, tripping me up, generally being bitchy, avoiding me, going out of their way to call me names, be awful, and start all sorts of rumours about me.  (Think I heard more about myself from ‘other sources’ than even I knew.)

One group of girls in particular, the ‘populars’, the run-of-the-mill loaded family/beautiful/empty-up-there chick you find everywhere, went out of their way to make me feel permanently miserable. Add to that the fact that I was a fat, ugly kid, and there you have it. The magic combination Nicolas Flamel was looking for, to turn lead into gold. The golden formula that will necessarily get you bullied.  To deal with this, I swung between comfort eating myself into oblivion and not eating anything at all. I think, more than anything else, the stress got me fat.

As it happened, we won, and came back with cheques for substantial amounts of money and a humongous box of Cadbury’s chocolate each (it was the Cadbury Bournvita quiz). We got back to school post lunch-break, and I went to my classroom, not really expecting anything much – we got hugs from all our teachers, and then I trooped back to the classroom, still feeling euphoric, and to paraphrase Leo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson, like the Queen of the World.

The same bitchy populars came up to me and said ‘Oooh, you won? Congratulations, could we have some chocolate?’ [+100 for subtlety], and one of the worst tormentors ever, a girl who continues to this day to be a gigantic bitch (I never said all these people were behind me) feigned a headache and ate half the box. It didn’t matter. I was just happy I’d won.

I nursed huge dreams growing up – I always wanted to read literature and linguistics at Oxford (still do), and somebody found out. How or why, I have no clue, but I found out in a rather unpleasant way, when a girl I barely knew (read:was not even aware of the existence of) said to her entire class, ‘Oxford? Really, as what? A sweeper, or a janitor?’. Obviously it hurt me, because I wouldn’t remember it 8 years later if it didn’t. Still remember her face, too.

The next year, the school nominated me to take part in another event, also organised by Cadbury Bournvita- they featured one student at the end of every weekly episode, somebody they considered an all-rounder, an achiever and whatnot. The most exciting bit about the entire thing was that I got to skip my history exam to compete, so I got to chill in the lobby of a fancy hotel with my mum while everybody else was languishing in a hot classroom slaving away at writing about Mughal leaders.

Coming back home a winner was rather exciting, and I got a cheque for that too, which I gave to my mum.  And again, fresh floods of vitriol.  Back home, things were getting worse by the minute, and I’d begun cutting at this point in time. It started with snapping rubberbands, trying to burn myself with freshly-extinguished matchsticks and incense, scratching and poking with pens and pencils, and then I graduated to scissors and old razorblades.  It was as if someone was taking all that pain from inside me and purging it from me as the blood flowed out, like it was able to express something I couldn’t.

Morbidity was the flavour of the day for the next three years – I was bullied at school, my grades began slipping faster than a cartoon character on a banana peel, and as a result my folks got even worse – this time I was not only told I was dumb and worthless, I was also reminded how fat and ugly I was, how unlovable, how disgustingly, absolutely abhorrent, how much better everybody’s lives would have been if only I had not been born, in addition to being whacked round the ears with hands, belts, having stuff smashed in my face a few times even.

Hear that sort of stuff enough and you’ll begin to believe every bit of it. Between home, people at school thinking I was ‘fit to be a sweeper’, and being hideous and unattractive to boys (at that god-awful age of 13 where that seems to be so ridiculously important that it suffocates you), I went into my own shell. People would try and hit the shell, sure, but I knew somewhere I was safe, sort of. Except bullies will take your insecurities and multiply them a hundredfold. So not only did I get laughed at and become the butt of jokes about how no boy found me attractive,  I had pranks played on me by people I thought were friends. They’d get random boys to call me up, put everybody on conference, and then ‘prank’ me. It was their idea of fun, I guess. Somebody found out about my first ever crush, then went and told him, and made me the laughing stock of whoever I wasn’t the laughing stock of already, even if it was just for walking, or worse, existing.

Those were the three worst years of my 21 so far- all I wanted to do, in all honesty, was kill myself. I tried to, a couple of times, and failed miserably. Maybe I didn’t really want to die and somewhere, I knew that. Wasn’t for lack of trying, though.

In the 8th, I found a kindred spirit, somebody that made me smile and laugh and want to actually go to school for once- an English teacher who shared my pure, intense love for the Beatles, dogs, and, well, English! She loved my writing, and would quote Beatles songs to me in class.  My permanently crappy handwriting improved, and my short stories and poetry got considerably less morbid. I’d go home just a bit happier, and cried into my pillow far less than I used to. Of course, people just resented me more, and come the 9th it was back to the old drawing board, but thankfully, I had an amazing English teacher then, too, in love with the language. I drowned myself in that and maths because I loved them, and just laboured on with everything else.

Anyone who has ever been in a classroom will attest to the fact that the front row is the worst place to sit, and indeed it was. 15-year-old girls (who you’d honestly expect to possess some semblance of a brain, but clearly not in this case) threw pencils, erasers, compasses and dividers, protractors and set-squares and anything you could find in a pencil case, or anything that was handy at my head. During class. I went back to crappy, sad, morose me, and became like Mad-Eye Moody. Constant Vigilance!

Trust no-one. Be cynical, always.

It requires the patience of a saint to put up with people chucking stuff at your head and calling you names all day long, patience I didn’t have. But I had no spine either at the time, and so all I did was keep quiet and take it. It’s been years since I got away from them, much to my relief, and in my last year of school I found some friends, aced my finals, and moved on. Except maybe there’s still some annoyance there. I don’t resent any of the people I had to deal with, even though I may regret having ever known them. But now that it’s all happened, it’s all sewage under the bridge 😉 .  None of them would even dream of talking to me like that now, and really, none of them do – everybody is somehow super-friendly and chirpy. Do I reciprocate? No. But do I pretend to? Occasionally. It makes it easier to move on.

I had nobody to talk to about being bullied as a kid, and the two people I thought I could trust bullied me too. But just find something you love (not a person, just a thing, or an animal) or something that drives you. I was lucky enough to have my writing, my books, and only the most amazing, protective supportive dog you could ask for. Cliché as it may sound, he’ll always live on in my heart.

If you’re being bullied right now, know that it’s not you. It’s not something you deserve being meted out to you. It’s just people even more insecure than yourself, attempting to make themselves feel better while making you feel absolutely worthless, whether it’s to your face, behind your back, or the most cowardly, on the internet, anonymous or otherwise. Ever heard the phrase ‘feeding the troll’? Yeah, don’t do it. Bullies are precisely that. Insecure, grotty little trolls looking to get a rise out of you to feel better about themselves.

Please, please, please do not self-harm- I have been there, it is not fun, not good for your mental or physical health, and not a good way to deal with pain. I understand how tempting it is to just slice through your own skin and see that blood, but however good you may think you feel, it sucks, because you’re only hurting yourself because other people have hurt you, and that’s extremely counterproductive.

Talk to somebody you care about, or if you feel like you’re completely alone in the world and have nobody you care about, not even yourself, keep a journal. Write in it as you would to a friend. Just vent, and get it all out. Write. Play music. Sing.

If you’re suicidal, I’m not going to use beaten-to-death-phrases like ‘stop, there’s somebody out there in the world who cares for you, they’ll feel hurt when you die’. Depending on your situation, realistically, there may be and there may not be. The only one that matters is yourself. YOU should care for you. Allow yourself to dream and hope and wish for things, ludicrous as they may seem.

There will be days when you don’t want to get out of bed. They may stretch into weeks, they may stretch into months and years. Your reflection will be the last thing you want to see, and living the last thing you want to do. But you should.

Smile, even if you see no reason to. Read. Losing yourself in the world of literature is always a lovely escape. Food, however, whether it may be avoiding it or going crazy eating, is never the answer. Try exercising – not only does it help you get in shape, it releases endorphins that keep you going.

Know that keeping quiet and not retorting does not necessarily mean accepting defeat — it could mean being the bigger person in the bigger picture, the one that you will begin to see much after you’ve stepped away from it a little bit. Do not make the mistakes I made, and keep silent. Please, please let somebody know what is going on.

It may not seem like it while you’re being bullied, but it’ll begin to make some sort of sense later. You don’t HAVE to ‘forgive’ them, and honestly after years of being tormented, it’s pretty hard to. You can, however, let bygones be bygones, and perhaps look at the part of your life gone by and consider it a learning experience. Not all of them are pleasant but you learn from them anyway.  It’s like when you were a kid and your mum told you that the most rotten tasting vegetables often were the most nutritious. Sort of like that.

The toughest, most hurtful experiences end up being the most useful as you grow older.

Writing may not come easily to everybody, but seeing your own thoughts on paper helps you arrange them more coherently and look at them more objectively, as opposed to what I visualise as a noodly mish-mash inside your head, a jumble of thoughts, none of them very nice at all.

If you’re considering suicide, please, please try to speak to somebody. A parent or sibling if you have an understanding one, a guidance counselor at school or college, someone you trust. Talking to your pet, if you’ve got one, is extremely therapeutic, as is simply just crying it out. VERY cathartic, much like writing this.

I’m an adult now, for the most part, and as I look back on my school life I don’t remember anything that I particularly enjoyed about it. As an adult, I have also been diagnosed with BPD and Bipolar Disorder, and was on medication for clinical depression for a while. Did I hate it? Hell yes. Do I think it had something to do with having a crappy time growing up? For sure. But at this point, I think I’ve more or less let it go. Cremating the corpse, as it were, and letting bygones be bygones.

Yes, growing up is awkward all on its own and bullies and awful people like them don’t make it any fun, but there’s always a way out, and it is not harming, hurting and/or killing yourself. Look in the mirror, and tell yourself you matter to that person. You’ll look back on it, years later, be stronger for it, and maybe, someday, exorcise your own demons, vanquish them completely, something I hope to do at some point in the future. For now, I’m quite content with how far I’ve gotten in this process — I have since discovered more of myself, made some wonderful friends and have amazing, positive people in my life who help to keep me going, no matter where in the world they are.

(In any case, if anybody reading this feels like they do not have a single shoulder to cry on, there’s a little box at the bottom of the screen with an email where you can reach me, even if all you want to do is talk.)

All in all, they’re just bricks in the wall.

%d bloggers like this: