It is imperative to be frank, and communicate your views clearly to tackle the bullies.
Day after day Farha came back from college hungry and exhausted. This in spite of carrying packed breakfast and lunch. “I got a few bites of roti, that’s all,” she would sigh resignedly. “They ate up the rest.”
“They” were her friends and classmates. They would fall on lunch boxes like a pack of wolves and lick off the last morsel. Farha rarely managed to get more than a few bites of her own lunch, though her mother packed lunch for more than one, keeping in mind home food-starved boarders. Farha and a few others shared whatever was left of their food with one another. But not one from the pack that wolfed her food ever felt obliged to buy her food to replace the lunch they made free with. They seemed to look at her lunch as theirs by right.
There are similar brat packs in all colleges. While they mostly hunt in groups, they sometimes operate singly too. One day Naina, a boarder, was fascinated by the danglers her hostel mate Anusha wore. “Coo....ooool!” she complimented her friend. “They look like the ones Mom got me last week.” Anusha laughed. “They are yours, dude!” she drawled. “I found them in your handbag.”
What makes young people take other people’s things with or without their permission and sometimes even knowledge? While at school Anusha must have been taught that taking other people’s things without their knowledge is stealing. Would she like to be accused of stealing now at college?
Every young person values his or her private space and would never allow anyone — not even parents — to infringe on it. Then why do some violate others’ space and liberty without any qualms?
This is not a hostel boarder versus day scholar issue. It is not their circumstance or the context that makes them what they are: this is more intrinsic. This has to do with personalities and attitudes.
Even as far back as in primary school, some children are more domineering and bullying than others. Excluding others from their group is often the harsh punishment that children mete out to those who do not toe their line. If this trait is not corrected, it grows to define the personality. In college, these personalities find each other and work together to become a very uncomfortable force to deal with.
For some others, college is like a stage. They assume new roles; try on new attitudes like new garb. Rather like the goatee beard or the spiky hair that suddenly appears to transform personalities. They are all trying to figure out how to be the cool dude or girl. Or how to develop into that street smart go-getter who can get his own way in everything.
In college they have time, space, energy and freedom. No one regulates their activities or corrects their conduct. Students like Farha and Anusha unfortunately become guinea pigs for their experiments.
“I’ve always shared food,” says Farha. “Now my mother is telling me to save my food for myself!” People like Farha and Anusha are dejected to note that although they have always been enjoined to be fair with everyone, others often don’t play by the same rules.
Always remember that college is a microcosm of the adult world. You are likely to encounter bullies and worse all through your life. You need to develop strategies for dealing with them. Move in groups, supporting one another. Avoiding encounters is another strategy. Not panicking or getting angry is a third. A blunt and frank communication of your opinion — not in anger, though — sometimes helps. Try to understand what drives these actions, and what can save you from them. Try to predict their actions and take preventive measures.
Never imagine that leaving behind these pin pricks in a couple of years will solve your problems. There are many out there in the world. You need to develop ways of dealing with them, without compromising on your principles and standards of behaviour. If college is the testing ground for brats and bullies, it is also your big opportunity to develop the skills and temperament necessary to deal with them.
The brats and dadas will learn their lessons another day. When thrown at the mercy of the world, where more seasoned hands and minds will decide their future and growth, the smallness and powerlessness of being new entrants in the arena will hit home and lead to change.
For Farha, Anusha and their kind, while at college, it is important to learn to balance their innate goodness and cultivated values with knowledge of the world and the skills to survive — on their own terms, and without surrendering their integrity and self-esteem.