A few days ago, Anu (firstborn) came up to me in the evening and said,
“I want to change my surname?“
“Why? What happened?“
She tells me,
“That Dev in my class keeps making fun of me calling me ‘Gyaani, Gyaani’.”
To this Lil Love comes up with,
“Next time he does so, call me and I’ll punch him on his nose.“
After making the angry young woman a bit cooler, I told Anu,
“The very next time he calls you ‘gyaani‘ or makes fun of you tell him that you learn ‘dhyaan se‘ because of your surname (which is Dhyani). Also tell him that it is not good to make fun of others. But if he still wishes to, he must first learn to dissect his name and surname and ask himself if it is right to do so.“
I am sure she wouldn’t have gone and told him anything, but I had to calm her with whatever little came to my mind at that point of time.
What troubled me more was not Anu being hurt, but Lil Love’s rage, because it reflected the me that I was when I was a child.
While I was in school, some of the boys in our class used to make fun of me because of my maiden surname), ‘Nair‘. They would dissect it and call me a ‘Nai‘ which in Hindi meant a barber and in my native language Malayalam, it meant a dog. Though I was a shy and quiet child, I still remember how hard I had hit one of those boys when they started dragging my father into it. Yes. I had hit a boy when I was in class fourth. And he was hurt but did not complain, because he knew he was at fault. It’s a different story that we both are still ‘friends’. That incident troubled me so much that at many places I had started writing my surname as ‘Nayyer‘ instead of ‘Nair‘.
Later on when I joined my first job at 19 and my Dad used to drop me at the World Book Fair venue where I had a stall duty, one of my colleagues made a remark about my Dad being bald. I didn’t say anything that day even though I was visibly upset about it. But when it started becoming a routine I gave him my piece of mind without any sugar-coating, which the poor fellow had to accept without a single word in return.
Aren’t such careless and seemingly ‘harmless’ remarks meant to be banished at the very onset of it?
It is such remarks which later on end up making one unaware of how he/she is hurting others without even having an intention to do so or realizing how the other person is getting affected. The change has to being at ground level or rather root level. Yes. It has to be my responsibility as a parent to not engage in something that I am not party to, like making fun of others, poking jokes about religion/sect/caste, belittle someone based on their skin color/height/weight etc.
The recent killing of Nido Tania is the consequence of one such seemingly harmless remark from the shopkeeper. My heart goes out to the wailing parents who lost the boy. I sincerely wish that the attackers get punished and the public gets a lesson.
This case is highlighted so much because the deceased is the son of the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh.
Do you think it was a one-off case?
I just need to go to the close-by market place or the nearby school or college entrance and I can hear countless remarks like these. Some hushed ones, some louder ones. But all of them exposing their shameless selves.
Sometime back I had written a post And then we talk of racism across the globe! and there was a college student who tried educating me about the difference between racial discrimination and such ‘harmless’ remarks on one of the FB groups. I am not sure if he reads me anymore, but I wish to ask him: Does he still feel that ‘harmless’ remarks need not be a reason to be agitated about?
If we engage in a productive conversation with even a toddler, I’m sure he/she is sensible enough to understand and make amendments. Isn’t this easier for parents like us to do over a simple game of snakes and ladders or scrabble? Teachers too can make a huge difference by educating students about the ill-effects of such ‘harmless’ remarks. But definitely someone/somewhere has to make an effort and raise the flag. Then, why not me?
So next time you get a funny SMS, FaceBook message, email from any of your friends or acquaintances, stop them right there. ‘Paki’, ‘chinky’, ‘firang’, ‘angrez’, ‘madrasi’, ‘takla’, ‘bhoora’ etc., are some of the phrases one should erase from one’s dictionary. And if our youngsters are fed with more of these, we’ll never ever progress in our thoughts, in our actions, in our mentality towards fellow humans which in turn will definitely affect us in more than one ways.