(Baldness, Humiliation, Bullies, Acceptance, Chameleonic point of views, ……, Bleh!! it’s a NIGHTMARE )
Neha gathered Sameer, Sapana and Amrita and narrated them whatever happened in the assembly even though I had strictly specified her not to do so. Sameer jumped over the desks and benches and took off my cap in one go. It was so quick that I didn’t even realize what happened. The class burst out laughing. They called me a boy. They put their all efforts in teasing me through different styles. It was dreadful. I almost peed in my pants.
The laughter stopped when Samriddhi ma’am entered the class. But my nightmare had just begun. That day, the news about my baldness spread like a fume all over the school. Even the people I didn’t know started mocking me. Everybody started being against me. I had nobody on my side. Later I knew the person who had publicized this knowledge was Neha. Neha, the same girl who I thought was a very nice kind girl, the only person I liked in my class became the sole reason for my public humiliation. I never felt so helpless that day, not even when I came to Kathmandu.
I came home shattered. I wanted to cry as loud as I could, but I couldn’t. I wanted to share it to somebody. I found nobody who could listen it. I wanted to run away from this very place. This place gave me only griefs and deep pits from which, I thought, I could never come out. I didn’t speak a word with anyone about the incident that happened with me in the school until dad asked me about it. He asked what my friends and teachers said about me in the school. I just told him I was made fun of and they were no good to me. I poured my anger and dissatisfaction to him in the best way I could. He then started lecturing about the need to be strong. He was advising me not to take the help of my cap from now onwards and confidently face anyone who came in between me and my self-esteem. He suggested me to complain teachers if anyone teased me. Who in the world would tell him not one, not two, not the students, but the whole school ridiculed me. Who would tell him that I felt naked without my hair. It was so easy for him to suggest me to remain strong but the absence of my hair had already dethroned my self-confidence to let alone fight anyone, but even to face anyone.
The nightmare took its pace when the Samriddhi ma’am instructed everyone to bring passport sized photo the next day. I didn’t have them and I had to click a new picture of myself that day. That eventually meant that the picture of a bald me would be in the school register as my record. That was even more embarrassing. My mark sheets, my certificates, my record, everything would bear that picture. I couldn’t let that happen. So, I took my photo albums and started searching for the best fit photo for the next day. There was not a single picture which was possible to cut and turn into a passport sized photo. With a little luck, I found one which showed all facial features clearly and was small as well. The only problem was that it was a bit inclined. To bring it to the size, I had to cut a little bit of ear in the photo. But, with a hope that the teacher would accept the photo, I went with that cut picture of mine. Sadly, the teacher demanded another photo, the real passport size photo which was not inclined and which showed all of me till neck.
I told my parents about it and they clicked a picture of mine to take it for printing in the studio. Despite all my energies, there was me with a pair of a passport sized photo of a girl with no hair and no front two teeth. When I handed that photo to the teacher, she refused to take it for my records. I was relieved a bit. She asked Sameer, who was in the first row of the class to hand it over to me. Then came the disaster. A little moment of my relief could also not be tolerated by the people around me. They kept one of the copy of the photo with themselves and passed me only one. They made fun of me looking at the picture and giving me number of glances. I noticed the copy was in Neha’s hand. She then showed that picture to all people she knew in the school and maybe to everyone she knew. I remained as a piece of joke in the whole school, or should I say, in the whole community.
Mom had promised me that the hair would regrow in less than 10 days. But, except the skin-colored scalp turning into black, nothing like that happened. After few days, I learnt to live bald and also accept myself like that. But the world around me didn’t. I remember when I went in one of my grandma’s house. She playfully asked the whereabouts of my two missing teeth. I told her that it was the mouse who took my teeth. She laughed. Seeing her laughing, I also told her that the mouse took my hair with it as well and slightly took off my cap to show her my head without hair with the intention of adding some more humor. She turned away and asked me to put on my cap. Her expression was even more dramatic than the expression I had when I saw a video of operation for an internal injury. That grandma who was very fond of me now turned her face away from me contracting her facial muscles after seeing my empty head. That was irony.
Days passed. Soon I had hair in my head. The baldness finally let go of me but its memories never deserted me or the people around me. It had clearly left a very deep mark in my life which none of the people related to my life ever forgot and neither they let me do so. From that incident, I was never considered as, say, a respectable person in the class at least for my classmates. I was boycotted more in the class, either inside the classroom or in the playground.
Soon, it was the examination time. I did my best and after a week, the results were published. Sameer topped the class followed by Neha and then I stood third. Sapana and Amrita followed me respectively. The day after the result announcement, Samriddhi ma’am was not in time in our class. That day all the four mates gathered and surrounded me. I think it was bullying what they did after that. They were furious at me because the junior girl who leaped a class, who had bald head few weeks ago, who had no friends in the school was a competitor for everyone in the class. They were not satisfied because I didn’t fail to be talented enough to stand third in the class. They literally, started pulling my hair, throwing my bags, books and so on. I was angry and very upset at the same time. They were not less than monsters for me. They were four and I was one. I could do nothing but threaten them.
Just then, Samriddhi ma’am entered the class. No one noticed her and maybe she understood what was going on in the class. She scolded everyone and helped me collect my bag and books. I felt so bad that I burst into tears. Samriddhi ma’am took me to the staff room and asked me to describe whatever happened in the class. I couldn’t utter a word out resisting my sob. She wrapped me with her arms and consoled me. I blubbered even louder. Then, I told her everything about that day. She encouraged me saying that they were just jealous about my talent and instead of crying, I should fight my tears and top the whole class next time. She became my support in the class. When we went back to class, she wrathfully threatened everyone that if their actions were found to be repeated again, they would be severely punished. Everyone passed their looks to each other and apologized to me on ma’am’s order.
That day, after the first period, Amrita asked me if she could seat next to me from now onwards. I hadn’t forgotten what happened to me few moments ago. I ignored her. She said that she was really sorry for whatever happened and also added that she didn’t intend to hurt me in any way and it was others who forced her to be a part of it. She seemed real. I wanted to believe her. So I moved a bit towards left giving her a little space in my bench. She shifted her belongings from Sapana’s place to mine. While doing so, the rest of the people gave an angry look to her. That day, she and I became friends on real terms. It’s not that she broke all the ties with her other friends but she dared to go against others and became my friend as well. Because Rasika ma’am was absent that day, the sister took us to play in the ground. Amrita and I did lots of fun. That was the first time I enjoyed school.
Next day, Samriddhi ma’am discussed about the first term examination which we recently passed. One by one, she asked answers of the questions to everyone. I was only the one who answered all the questions she asked correctly. I had secured full marks in Mathematics in exam. She praised me in front of all the students. Admiration from Samriddhi ma’am was unexpected and I was really encouraged by her words. She even challenged rest of the students from my side that I was capable of standing first in the class leaving everyone behind. My self confidence started boosting up.
Rasika ma’am arrived after the bell rang. She was in a very bad mood. She announced everyone’s marks and screamed her head off complaining about the unsatisfying result. She made everyone stand up the whole class and asked the answers of different questions until we lost the battle. Because Sapana and Amrita didn’t secure good marks i.e below 80 in her subjects, she called both of them forward and opened up their dresses. They pleaded her to spare them for once, but Rasika ma’am wasn’t in the state of listening to anyone. Even I felt like crying when they were crying and asking for forgiveness. The way she undressed them was so inhuman that I couldn’t stop myself to ask Rasika ma’am to stop it and even asked forgiveness on their behalf. She instead raged over me and threatened doing the same with me if I uttered one more word. At last, she did whatever she intended to do in the first place and Sapana and Amrita ended up holding their ears with crossed hands, naked in front of the class. The junior class was just beside our class. Rasika ma’am opened the door of the nearby class as well. That class laughed their heart out after seeing them naked. Rasika ma’am also warned everyone saying she would so the same who are disobedient to her from now onwards.
I was shocked. I was terrified. I was disheartened more because it was Rasika ma’am who did it and less because of the extent of the punishment. Rasika ma’am who I thought was a very kind and sweet woman, turned out to be a monster. I had never imagined that she even possessed this side of her. Samriddhi ma’am who was not less than a witch for me few months ago was actually a nice person. Even though she squeaked, she exactly knew how to show up among students. Likewise, Neha who I admired months ago turned out to be a wolf to me and Amrita who I thought was mean and rude was a sweetheart in real. I was amazed at how the perception can go wrong within just a few moments. I regretted judging people at the first sight and not waiting for knowing the actual person behind that appearance.
Meanwhile, Dashain was approaching us. This time we were not going to Itahari for celebrating the festive as grandparents were no longer in Itahari. Vacation was waiting for us. With the vacation, there was vacation homework as well. The homework was answering all the questions of the first term examination. That was a bit long one.
This time Dashain was not too amusing. The multiple hands that used to be on my forehead were missing this time. Neither grandparents nor any uncle and aunt were with us this time. We went to few relatives to put tika and our Dashain was over. Except my parents, only Yami, my cousin, was the new member in our house. Yami had come to stay in our home because she menstruated for the first time then. There is a ritual here that whenever a girl first menstruates, they are not allowed to sit in their home and are strictly prohibited to be involved in any kind of functions, rituals, forget festivals. They are almost considered untouchable. Because it was Dashain time where many holy rituals are conducted in home and that we didn’t put tika in our home that year, Yami’s mother sent her to our house.
I had been procrastinating my assignments throughout the whole vacation, so in the last few days of the vacation, I had been very busy with my assignments with no assurance of finishing it before the deadline. However, Yami was there with me. She offered me to do all my remaining works. I was not sure if our handwritings would not seem different and distinguishable. But she assured me to copy my handwriting while doing my assignments. She was fast, she was elder than me i.e she knew all the answers correctly. I agreed. Except for few changes in the ‘a’ and ‘g’, I didn’t find much difference in our handwritings.
The school was about to resume and till then Yami also went back to her home and my eldest uncle was home. He was going to live with us from now.
Samriddhi ma’am organized a discussion of our holidays in the first day of our class since the vacation. Except that, she took all the assignments of the class and started doing corrections. I was not certain that she wouldn’t smell something fishy with my assignment. I was fortunate and I got my assignment back with a remark ‘Excellent’ in it.
It was Rasika ma’am’s period and I was not that afraid this time as the handwriting had already passed through Samriddhi ma’am’s eyes. But the doubt hadn’t completely vanished from my mind. After stepping in, the first thing she did was collecting homeworks. Everybody handed their exercise books to her. My assignment was forth in the pile after Sapana’s, Amrita’s and Sameer’s. She took her seat in the chair at the front which had “TEACHER” specification on it in the form of a small plate. Soon she began turning the pages starting her correction.
Sapana and Amrita had given the exercise book without any work done. Furious Rasika ma’am had only one kind of punishment in her mind which she thought was effective. They were undressed and made to stand at the door straightaway. I immediately regretted not doing my homework by myself. They were without panties that day as well. Missing their assignments and standing undressed in front of two classes weren’t the only reasons for Sapana’s and Amrita’s humiliation. The missing inner-wear became even greater gossip to laugh at them. And after more emphasis on the last reason by the great Rasika ma’am herself, Sapana and Amrita became the “no-panties” personality for the rest of the years in the school. I remember when they were once compelled to prove that they were on their panties in the later days of school. I don’t know why this thing was made such a great issue, that too by a teacher. Anyways, coming back to the point, that day when the rest of the class was bursting out of laughter, I sat their frozen and still, less because of the risk of getting caught for not doing the assignment by myself and more because of Sapana’s and Amrita’s situation at that moment. That day, when everyone’s eyes were moist out of a rambunctious laugh, mine were out of the severe pity and compassion for their misfortune.
After whatever happened, she started going through Sameer’s assignment. Most of the time of the class was already spent on punishing the girls. Now I was hoping my best for the period to be over before she finished Sameer’s correction. But when had the god listened to my prayer since I had come to Kathmandu. She took no time to finish his copy and shift to mine. She opened the copy and started moving her pen’s nib through the paper. Then she ceased all of a sudden. She turned all the pages, previous one, later one, gazed them, compared, maybe, and then looked at me and asked, “Who did your assignments?”
(…I couldn’t defend myself any further…she dragged me out of the bench to the front…it wouldn’t be the same fight against the two… )
to be continued...