What could Leela do to stop the popular kids in school from bullying her friend? Then she finds courage in the history books.
Leela and Deepa were halfway home from school when something hit Deepa’s leg. It was a raw mango.
“What’s the matter, Deepa? No money for a skirt that covers you properly?”
Roopa, the most popular girl at school, and all of her friends walked past Leela and Deepa, laughing.
Every day, Roopa made fun of Deepa for being poor. Leela knew she should stand up for Deepa, but she was afraid that if she said something, Roopa would bully her as well. When Roopa picked on you, life was miserable.
“Are you okay?” Leela asked her best friend.
Deepa simply shrugged.
At home, Leela couldn’t concentrate. All she could think about was Deepa. She pulled out one of her favourite books, which was about Indian freedom fighters. She opened to the story of the Rani of Jhansi. The rani was an expert sword fighter. When the British invaded her kingdom, she fought valiantly with her baby strapped to her back. Even though the fight was difficult, she was not afraid; she knew she had to do what was right. The rani died that day, but she died fighting for justice.
Leela sighed. If only she had the courage of a rani, she could help Deepa. But she wasn’t a rani. She didn’t know what to do.
The next morning, Deepa wasn’t in front of her house like she always was. Leela knocked on the door and asked Deepa’s mother where her friend was.
“Deepa’s not going to school today,” Deepa’s mother told Leela. “Her stomach hurts.”
Deepa only got stomach aches when she was nervous about something. Leela was sure she knew what Deepa was nervous about today: being bullied.
At school, Roopa smiled at Leela and waved, “Come, Leela. My mom bought some plum cake. Want to share with me?”
How could Roopa be so nice to Leela and so mean to Deepa? Leela knew she had to stand up for her friend. But how? She was frightened.
Then Leela thought about the Rani of Jhansi. How she had rushed into battle to save her subjects, even though she was risking her life. How she knew that sometimes, to help others, you have to do something even if it scares you.
It was time to stop acting like a kid and to start acting like a rani.
Leela took a deep breath and said, “Roopa, can I talk to you about something?”
“Tell me,” Roopa said, with that same friendly smile.
“I don’t understand why you bully Deepa,” Leela said. “She feels hurt and embarrassed. I wish you would stop.”
“Really?” Roopa seemed genuinely surprised. “But we were just being funny.”
“It’s not funny to me,” Leela said. “And it’s certainly not to Deepa.”
“You both are too sensitive,” Roopa said and walked away.
Oh well, Leela thought, I tried.
The next day, Leela and Deepa walked to school together as usual.
“Are you feeling better?” Leela asked.
Deepa shrugged. Leela missed her lively and happy friend who wouldn’t stop talking. If only the bullying would stop, she could have her friend back.
When they got to school, Roopa waved at them. Leela braced herself, waiting for the inevitable comment or taunt. But instead, Roopa said, “Hi Leela. Hi Deepa.”
Leela relaxed and thought maybe Deepa relaxed a little bit too. Later that afternoon, when Roopa walked past them, she and her friends didn’t say anything.
“Wow,” Deepa said. “What happened?”
“Maybe they finally realised how much their bullying hurts other people,” Leela said. It seems like what she said had made a difference. At that moment, Leela felt powerful and brave — just like the Rani of Jhansi.