As I write these words Utpal is on his way to join his new school. I kept the promise I made him when he was crying his heart out. When he was with us for one night, I showed him the beautiful message someone he has never met sent him. It said: Do
you know how amazing you are? You are a very strong lad. Good luck in
your new school. It sounds like a lovely place where you’ll find many
good friends and caring teachers. I’m so happy for you. I took the
liberty to add a quote to this
photo of yours: “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really
are.” You are truly a brave and wise soul. I want you to know that
you inspire me. Every time I look at this giggly pic of yours (after
all that you’ve been through, still you continue to smile brightly) it
lights up my day and gives me courage to move forward in life. I want to
‘THANK YOU’ for that! Better things are coming your way little one. My love and prayers are always with you. God bless
I second every word!
I was wondering what could be going on in his little head when my thoughts travelled back in time to the days when I was his age and even younger. It is funny that I never remembered till now how I too had to deal with change umpteen times and how traumatic it was. If he has his scars, I had the wrong colour of skin and a funny sounding name! In my school life I went to many schools in many cities: Paris, New Delhi, Rabat, Saigon, Algiers and Geneva. not counting nursery school in Beijing when I was a toddler. I realise today how traumatic these changes were and how difficult it was for me to be accepted and make friends and each time I felt settled Papa would come home and tell us we were posted to another country. To me it meant having to start all the saga of being accepted all over again. It also meant learning a new culture and sometimes a new language as I was sent to local schools. At that time I guess it was survival mode and I needed just like Utpal to build walls around me to bear the kind of bullying I was subjected to. India was not a known country and people had strange ideas about it. My classmates use to ask me questions like: do you live in trees in India
? or do you all move around on elephants
? It use to make me angry and as communication was non existent I use to ask my grandfather to send me pictures of our house and of his car.
As I went to the local schools, I felt different as we always had a chauffeured car and a big one at that. I remember asking the driver to drop me well before school so I could reach school on foot as many of my friends did. I hated being an Ambassador's daughter! I would have settled being the butcher's one. I guess things became more difficult as one grew up. When I was 15, my papa sent me to boarding school in Geneva for my final school year. The reason being that there was no proper French school in Ankara where we were posted. It was a school run by nuns and the students of my class (Baccalaureate) were daughters of the uber rich who had failed many times. Some of them had cars and they all wore branded clothes. The school was swanky and we all had single rooms. I was barely 15 whereas my classmates were much older, some being 20! They were not good at their studies and resented me as I was a good student. In the dining hall we had tables of 6 and no one sat at my table. They did not want to sit with the black one! Our names were written on our doors and in the evening they would stand by my door and read my name aloud and laugh. I use to lie in foetal position on my bed and cover my ears with my hands. When I shared this with my teachers they just laughed. One even said you are lucky you can eat all the butter on the table.
I did not want butter I wanted friends, I wanted to be accepted, I wanted to be one of them.
I had forgotten about this but Utpal's shifting schools brought all this back and the images were as vivid as if they had happened yesterday and the wounds as raw and the pain as searing. Even after half a century! I know how difficult it is to get accepted and how terribly hurtful it is when you are not. I just hope and pray that all goes well with little Utpal.
The last I heard from him was that the admission procedures were still not over as they had to buy all that he needed. I cannot begin to imagine how this lad will feel once those who mamaji and dharmu bhaiyya leave and he moves into unknown territory with his brand new trunk and his brand new clothes! I also wonder how quickly he will fall asleep in a strange place where everything is new. Today I send a special prayer to the God of little boys to descend from the Heavens and hold his hand through the night. I am sure he will. Maybe in the form of another little boy who sleeps in the bed next to his.
I for one know sleep will not come easy!
Yes little one: It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. I have walked that path.