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Home Is Where We Can Begin To Be Kind

June 01, 2023 12:29 IST
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Parents, relatives, friends need to accept that things said in jest can deeply scar young minds and should therefore, be best avoided, notes Aarti David.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

Recently in a conversation with a few of my friends we just touched upon how each of us has encountered bullying, harassment or abuse in some form or other in our childhood, in our adolescent years and even later.

These could be simple well-meaning statements from family/relatives or friends commenting on the colour of your skin, or your body type (heavy or light) or one's overall physical appearance, be it -- one's nose or lips or the shape of one's eyes -- or something as normal as wearing spectacles.

This doesn't quite go away as one enters college where bullying is very rampant despite the various bans on the same by the authorities.

One reads about so many students being driven to suicide as a result of the harassment they faced in college.

The trouble is that the people who are engaged in these acts or make these comments are not even aware of the agony and trauma, their actions may have caused another.

It would have just been a fun pastime for them, but to the ones experiencing the same, it is nothing less than angst, horror or humiliation.

So much so, that in some extreme situations, it may ultimately lead them to a point of no return.


Some people are so traumatised by these childhood incidents that they may never be able to recover from that experience and in turn find themselves unable to trust people again, share their fears with anyone or end up having really low self-esteem as a result.

While family members often brush these conversations under the carpet as nothing important.

The truth is that these unresolved emotions can lead to deep rooted complications in an individual's psyche.

It may lie dormant for years but can get triggered when they see something similar happening to themselves or to another.

One would imagine, that we would be more mindful of the differences we have in our physical appearance, features and colour of the skin.

After all, we are a pretty diverse country, but subtle references are often made based on nationality, physical attributes or the region one belongs to.

Some of us may have encountered this while at school, university and or when we started our journey at the workplace.

A few good Samaritans have put their past experiences to good use and worked hard to ensure people feel included and supported in their organisations with their DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) policies.

However, despite the strict anti-bullying and harassment policies in place.

Many individuals continue to get bullied or harassed on a daily basis despite the so-called safety net.

Since most of the words and actions are so understated, you often find that there is nothing concrete to even place a complaint about the same, except to share, how you have been made to feel.

Often times, the complainant may be asked to reflect and consider, if they are making too much out of a trivial issue. This can demoralise them further and push them to the other extreme.

It is so important that we are able to cultivate a spirit of inclusion within our households and families, in our academic institutions and not just our workplaces.

As a society, a lot would have to shift to bring about this change.

We would have to become more accepting of one another in spite of all our differences (physical or otherwise).

Parents, relatives, friends need to accept that things said in jest can deeply scar young minds and should therefore, be best avoided.

Being considerate towards others' feelings and ensuring that we don't tread into a territory we know nothing of is sometimes necessary.

For instance, it is very commonplace for someone who can speak fluently to end up teasing someone who stammers due to their own ignorance of their condition or for body shaming someone because they don't fit in with the stereotype, they are aware of or comfortable with.

This happens a lot nowadays as we are becoming more aware of people's orientation.

Very few individuals are aware or even try to educate themselves about the same.

They just dismiss it as a fad or a disease. It is therefore very important that we respect boundaries and not pass unnecessary comments on anyone, irrespective of the relationship we share or even otherwise.

I still recall an incident from my teen years when I was just out of school and there was an opportunity to get a job as an usher at the Trade Fair which was held in November every year at the Pragati Maidan (in New Delhi), some of my friends got selected as ushers at the exhibition stalls.

However, I was rejected on the grounds that I wore glasses and wouldn't fit in with the requirement for an usher.

It was a heart-breaking experience, one that I was never able to forget.

A few years back a colleague shared with me, that her mother used to discriminate between her brother and her, because of her dark skin colour.

It was so sad to hear her relive her anguish as she bared her heart out to me.

A young boy I crossed paths with, confided in me about his orientation, but was extremely afraid of public perception and ridicule.

He didn't want any extra attention coming his way because of his orientation.

He had a partner he was living with, but couldn't muster up enough courage to come out to his parents for fear of rejection as his parents expected him to marry and settle down.

Being small town people, he was convinced that they wouldn't understand his situation and be accepting of the same.

He was extremely sensitive and very vulnerable as a result. There are innumerable such incidents each one of us would be able to recall from our own lived experiences.

As the famous American civil rights activist Reverend Jesse James, Jr said, 'When everyone is included, everyone wins.'

In today's changing times, the youth is more accepting and aware and therefore more inclusive too.

However, as a people we still have a long distance to cover to embrace each other's differences and similarities and provide unconditional support even when we are in disagreement.

It may not seem easy, and sometimes a tad bit confusing even, but if it makes someone feel safe and included, then you know it's a path worth walking on.

If each individual decides to be the change, then we can surely make this world a happier, kinder and more hopeful place to live in.

We will all profit from a more diverse, inclusive society, understanding, accommodating, even celebrating our differences, while pulling together for the common good. -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/

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