With all of the recent incidents of bullying, I am recollecting some of my own experiences of it. It evokes a myriad of feelings and it is for this very reason, that it has taken me weeks to write this particular piece. For me, my belief is that sharing can be an important part of the human experience, it helps us feel connected to one another. For years I had stifled these experiences and then when they came out, I not only felt immense pain, but also utter dismay that I had lived with these feelings for so long. Of course, suppressing painful experiences don’t make a healthy psychologist so I started referring to them when they came up in conversation or obviously, in context. I know I most certainly horrified at least a few people, most were in disbelief, but in one particular situation, something happened that was completely unexpected.
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I was at a social gathering and talking to one of my friend’s mom. If you knew my friend, you would know why her mom was this way. Anyway, we started talking about my brief residence in New Jersey. It was 1982 and the movies “E.T.” and “Gandhi” were just nominated for best movies for the Academy Awards. New Jersey was a troubled place during that time, or least that was my perception, as well as reality of it. The trouble manifested itself in the children that we went to school with who engaged in cruelty, the type of raw cruelty that sadly, only children are capable of. At the time I had recently moved back with my family to the United States (from India on a temporary basis). I was still figuring out all the social norms and vacillating between the two countries and cultural contexts, was proving to be challenging.
During this gathering, I was sharing with my friend’s mom some things about my experience with New Jersey at the time. I told her that racially, it was a difficult time. Kids from our school were angry with my brother and I that the movie “Gandhi” had won the Academy Award over E.T. They would yell out “Gandhi” whenever they saw us and a few times, more times than I would care to care to remember, there was name-calling and chasing; rocks and sticks were thrown at us because our differences bothered them immensely, their rage toward us, so misdirected and raw. I was reluctant to tell my parents about these experiences because if you are a child of a recent immigrant, one of the dynamics that you will understand is that initially, you don’t know what is expected of you so you do what you think is expected of you, and you try to make sense of things, and you try to blend in. You also try to take a parentified role in your relationship with your own parents because I know for me; I wanted to protect them from my pain and what was happening to me. There were also elements of shame and self-loathing. I was also sure that they would tell me to accept things, and that they would get better soon.