No sorrow, no tears.

I was scared as hell. Imagine this if you can - a scrawny kid of nine, walking in a faded blue pinafore (I would be graduating to a skirt and blouse next year!) and a 'fountain' of hair on her head, walking to school a little earlier than usual. Walking with a purpose. I was going to meet my tormentors.

Praveen is the biggest bully I have ever seen. He is in fifth standard, one year older to me. All the other kids call him 'anna', meaning older brother. I don't call him that. I have a brother, much older than Praveen, and only he is anna to me. Not this dog.

He demands respect. If you don't call him that you can't be on his cricket team. You can't play anything else in the school grounds either; he has a bunch of friends to make sure that does not happen. But really, we don't care much about him, the girls I mean, We know that he is a bad boy. We keep out of his way as much as possible. But what happened yesterday was unforgivable.

My friend Nandini and I were walking to the trees near the play park for lunch, when this boy jumped down from a tree to scare us. I was only shaken, but Nandini fell down and scraped her knee and her lunch box fell open. What would any decent boy do? Apologize and help her right? This fellow just laughed and walked away.

I was mad. Nobody, I mean nobody does that to my friend. I ran after him, and though he is much bigger than me, hit him hard and square on his back. He pulled my hair. We were wrestling on the ground when Pratibha Miss found us.

I am lucky Anna, my big brother was at home when I went with the note. I came in and kicked my shoes off in anger. I was crying, not because I was hurt physically but because bullies like Praveen could get away with this sort of a thing. Miss had scolded him, but not so much as I was scolded. She said I should not have picked a fight, but gone to her and complained. Pphht. As if that would solve anything. Why was everything so unfair?

Anna did not show the note to Mom. Rather, he saw the note and asked me what was wrong. Do you know how that feels, just someone not blaming you because you are the one with the note, but asking for my side of the story? I told him what happened, how he had scared Nandini, how she had got hurt and her lunch was spoilt, how Praveen and his cronies were such bullies...

Anna heard me through. Then he asked me, "Do you think they are bad boys?"

"Yes!" I declared with vehemence. "All boys are bad. Except you."

"No they are not. Let me tell you how. See, when you were coming into the house you were crying. Why?"

"Because no one would listen to me. Miss thought I had started the fight. She even refused to hear me speak, but made me stand in the back of the classroom all day."

"But now you are not crying. Why?"

"Because..." I struggled with the thought. "Because you are talking to me. Because you are listening to me."

"You were upset and angry when you came in. Now, you are quietly listening to me and thinking over what I said. What has changed?"

I was silent.

"Maybe Praveen just needs someone to just talk to him and listen to him. Maybe, if you show a bit of love, he might be a much nicer person for it. What do you think?"

"I can't be his friend."

"It is easy to make enemies, to try to make your point by hitting someone. It takes a lot more strength to make your enemy your friend. You have to get him to trust you first, and that can happen only if you are sincere. But that should not be difficult for you. You are a generous, kind-hearted and warm person."

I think it was the last words that did the trick. I wanted my brother to think I was all that he had described me. That night, as I went to sleep, I could hear him hum that song, the one that he always sang to me. I curled up to sleep, with a new resolution.

I was scared as hell. I walked with a purpose. I was going to meet my tormentors.

Praveen sat on his BSA champ cycle with four of his friends. I felt my legs wobble. He looked curiously at me as I walked over.

"What, coming to say sorry?" asked one of the little henchmen.

My legs trembled again, but I looked Praveen in the eye.

"I know you were mean to my friend, but I realized that hitting you was not the best way to tell you that. I am not afraid of you. I am sorry that I hit you. I know you are a bad boy, but I can still be friends with a bad boy." I held out my hand. "Friends?"

He smiled, the first real smile I had seen from him.

Inspired by one of my favourite Kishore-da songs.

There was another evening, when another brother sang this same song to a pretty much lost sister :) With many thanks and much love.


APPU said...

cute one!! :)