Graduation is said to be a new beginning in the life of graduates. I had always wondered how a single ceremony could change anything but your professional life.
Now, I know how accurately that statement was made. Four years of the reign of pain, of terror and of depression would finally end. I was not just getting my certificate but my freedom from the devils of my past.
As I enjoyed the enthusiastic performances put up by our juniors, my journey throughout my time at the Maheshwari* School flashed in front of my eyes.
My dreams of making it big in the future had landed me in the prestigious school of Bangalore. If only I had known that I would be ridiculed not respected for my dreams because of the fact that I hailed from a small town in Karnataka!
I was the subject of every taunt, the reason of every laugh and the victim of all ridicules yet the ideals which were instilled into me by my parents had not left me.
My resolve to not lose my patience had not worn off but I had begun to close myself from within.
I began shutting myself from the world and that earned me a name I would never forget – ‘characterless bitch’. The reason behind that name was even more ridiculous than the name itself: I was trying hard to get and wanted multiple affairs.
I had a few friends who looked beyond the taunts of our fellow students and stood beside me, and they gave me the strength to not lose myself in the vortex of darkness, or at least I thought so.
The first year passed by and the results managed to break a smile on my face and made me closer to faculty.
The second year proved to be better than I had expected. My results were coming out well, and the students were opening up to me, much to my ecstasy. But the growing friendship was just a facade which began to wear off faster than I could realise.
Sundar*, the boy behind everyone hating me at the first place was not at all happy with the students growing closer to me and ignoring his instructions for behaviour towards me.
His abuse, both mental and emotional, just grew and seeing failure there, he began using physical abuse as means to weaken me. It hurt me, it broke me, but I told myself that I could face it.
This time my heart pushed me to reveal the abuse to one of the faculty I was close to. I was not sure what action was taken against him but I was happy that he had mellowed down.
But the happiness was short-lived. During one of the last classes of the term, our faculty was busy with one of the upcoming festivals and we were on our own.
The unexpected happened when Sundar struck back with a mightier force and I proved to be helpless.
I was abused but not physically, mentally or emotionally like in the past. I was abused sexually.
I was shattered, broken and pushed into darkness. Soon, I found allegiance with every feeling that symbolized darkness.
I pulled myself up and took the matter to the Vice Principal, hoping for justice to be served. But suggestive smirks continued to grace his lips while placing a simple smile on my lips proved to be a herculean task. His smirk brought back the memories of the infernal and nefarious incident.
I couldn’t reveal it at home, knowing the short-tempered members of my family would go to the ends of the world to avenge my pain.
I chose to appeal the highest authority, the Principal. I spent hours waiting in front of her room. She always dismissed me by conveying through the receptionist that she was busy and hence was unable to listen to me.
The year ended and the next one began. My hopes hadn’t ended and I was sure that I will punish my culprit through the Principal. Finally, the Principal decided to relieve me of the constant waiting and called me.
I revealed every single abuse hurled at me since the time I had arrived there with ease but when it came to the final revelation, I recollect that, I stuttered badly but managed to utter it even if it was after feeling some remnants of that excruciating pain.
I patiently awaited her reply. After a long pause, I asked her to answer me only to be shocked by her answer.
She stated that her ‘old student’ was incapable of such heinous deeds and hence, I was falsely accusing her dear student. It wouldn’t be completely wrong to say that I saw red at that charged moment.
That sneer on her face still haunts me and as I eye her, smiling down at us from the podium, as she recited her speech with an immaculately sweet accent. I feel nothing but sheer disgust for that person who chose money over morals.
I realized the real reason behind her support towards Sundar when I expressed my grief to my best friend Ramya*. She explained how the school valued certain students over others and hence, the Principal was in no position, as much as she may have wanted to, to punish him.
Refusing to mellow down after knowing the real reason, I made my way towards our Principal and asked her to search for the truth before giving out her judgement.
But fate chose to side with my culprit.
He had not just bought the authorities but many of the fellow students to show their support for him. I had but a handful of students in my corner.
Hence, the Principal, with that never-wavering sarcastic smile, asked me to get professional counselling as I seemed to be troubled by mental issues.
The anger suppressed in me for months made its way out and I firmly refused to sit with the counsellor no matter what. Thanks to the rules laid down by our country I could do so or else I would have been forced to sit with the counsellor.
But the predicament of mine didn’t end there.
The interrogation had brought everyone’s focus onto me and with a bit of brainwashing from Sundar everyone seemed to believe that I was truly someone who complained for the sake of petty rivalry.
Leaving the institution when such rumours were doing the rounds, like birds of prey, would have made everyone sure that I was the erring one there. I refused to let Sundar win and I steeled my nerves against the insults, taunts and humiliation.
It was hard but I didn’t want to budge. I had some support in Ramya who answered back to as many as she could but that was never enough. The uproar had died down as the year had ended but the pain continued to linger in my soul, ripped apart by the arrogance of some and the money-lust of some others.
The last year went by faster than I could imagine. I honestly couldn’t understand if I was to feel happy that I would not feel the pain for a long or feel sad that this phase of my student life was going to end forever.
Myriads of feelings surrounded me but I was stronger than ever. I ignored the taunts as they no longer seemed to affect me.
I had borne much harsher ones in the bygone years and it wasn’t something I couldn’t bear. And when I thought there was nothing which could break me more, the destiny proved me wrong yet again.
Ramya approached me and confessed to me, along with an apology that she was dating Sundar. I felt my world breaking apart as the feeling of betrayal gushed cold winds over the wounds which had not yet healed.
I just moved away from her, without uttering a word.
Some time with myself and I knew that I couldn’t force her to leave Sundar because it was her life and it was her choice. And I? I was just a part of her life, which might have no significant role post the graduation ceremony.
The only solace was that the information greeted me only during the rehearsals of the graduation ceremony which meant that I wouldn’t have to see my best friend and my worst enemy together, ever.
I would never have to see Ramya enjoying his company while forsaking my own.
As I stood amongst my batch, taking my graduation oath, I took another oath. To forget everything this institution gave me except the lessons it taught, both curricular and the lessons of life.
All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug off the past.
I think that is who I am. I will let my past shape my future but not for the worst but for the best. Gloomy and rough the blue stone might be, but I am sure that the lessons it taught me, the gloomy and the rough way, make it as valuable as a sapphire.
*Names have been changed