The year was stressful for the whole country but being an army officer’s family, emotions were on another level for us. We moved to my grandparent’s place after my father left for the Kargil war. I was about 8 or 9 at the time.
I didn’t know I was about to enter a different war zone on a personal level with bullies.
I was dark and chubby but what really caught the attention of bullies in the new school was a scar on my right arm that was caused by second-degree burns when I was 11 months old.
What I faced was an ordeal that lasted for 2 years. I was given a separate desk in one corner of the class. I was isolated so that I couldn’t come in contact with or touch any of the other students. No student would touch me, talk to me or share food. I was constantly reminded that I was disgusting, deserved to be isolated, and would be abandoned soon because I was scarred. I was already afraid of losing my father to the war, on top of that I was told that he wouldn’t come back because I brought shame to the entire family. I was told to leave, or die so that people wouldn’t have to suffer.
One might expect such a treatment from school kids, but my teachers were no different. They would not touch my notebooks, and while distributing them, they would leave each notebook on other kids desks but my notebook would be thrown from the teacher’s desk on the floor for me to pick up. My birthdays were special, they would clear the room and make me stand in the middle of the room and throw all the garbage at me, this session would usually last for an hour. I went from being a bubbly, friendly and a confident girl to being quiet, lifeless and depressed. It reflected on my studies and my mother couldn’t figure out why. She tried talking to me, I didn’t tell her.
There were times when I would lock myself in the bathroom and cry for hours, I tried to end my life twice but chickened out at the last minute. This ordeal turned my life around, I stopped making friends. I had nightmares, I couldn’t sleep. I still go around and see people cringing, asking me if it is contagious. Some of the ‘aunties’ would console me and advise my father to collect a good amount of money and he might just be able to marry me off.
Years later, one of my close friends showed me a quote that said, “In Japan, broken objects are often repaired with gold. The flaw is seen as a unique piece of the object’s history, which adds to it beauty.” She helped me realise that I am unique, talented, beautiful and strong in my own way.
I bear my scar even today, I refuse plastic surgery and can finally sleep peacefully. I realised that the only way you can shut up bullies is by becoming a better person, doing something in life and wear your battle scars with pride because that’s what makes you unique.