‘Arjun, what happened? Why are you sitting silently and why is your room so dark’, Mridula asked while switching on the lights in her son’s room. She had been downstairs preparing dinner when she realized that Arjun had not come down from his room the whole evening. He had stayed put in his room after coming back from school. He hadn’t even asked her if he could play cricket with his friends like he usually did most of the evenings.
Arjun had changed his uniform but he was sitting on his bed forlornly. Mridula quickly touched his forehead, because like most mothers, her first thought was maybe he was sick or running a temperature. But he appeared to be well. Maybe something had happened at school. Arjun was a Class VI student and he was good at academics. But clearly something was troubling the boy’s mind because his eyes appeared red and swollen from crying.
‘You remember I was telling you about Karthik and his group’, Arjun started talking hesitantly.
Mridula’s heart skipped a beat. A few months back Arjun had come back from school and reported news of an incident that had spread like wildfire in their school. A group of boys had ragged a student in their school and all though there was no physical violence involved the ragging victim had suffered a nervous breakdown and had to be hospitalized. The leader of this group, Karthik was a senior student, and he was also the son of the local MLA. Karthik was clever enough not to cause physical damage which could be used against him later. The abuse and bullying was more psychological and verbal.
Mridula along with a group of concerned parents had taken up the issue with the Principal but the spineless Principal had vehemently denied the occurrence of any such incidents within their campus.
‘Did they do anything to you?’ Mridula tried to keep her voice low, although she was already seething in anger.
‘No, it wasn’t me Amma. They got hold of Praveen, you know the silent boy in my class who sits next to me. I saw them when I was walking towards the school van. Two boys were holding Praveen and Karthik was emptying the contents of his bags and tearing the pages of his notebooks. Praveen was begging them to let him go but they were pushing him around and shouting lots of bad words. Instead of helping him, I fled from there. I didn’t want them to see me… So I ran as fast as possible... ‘ Arjun explained falteringly.
Mridula now understood her son’s predicament. Arjun was feeling bad because he had ditched his friend at a time when he needed him the most.
‘Arjun, you were too scared to think properly and you wanted to save yourself. I’m not saying that what you did was right, but even I’d have done the same thing if I was in your place. It’s not easy to be brave’
‘But Amma, I’m feeling miserable ever since. Praveen always helps in my class work. He’s a good boy and maybe, if I had helped him we could have escaped. Anything would have been better than running away like a coward.’
“But we can’t change the past, can we? I have an idea. We could go to the Principal and you could narrate what you saw. Maybe it would help put a stop to the menace completely”
‘Oh, like a witness’, Arjun pondered for a while. Mridula was silent, allowing him to come to a decision.
‘If Karthik comes to know that I have complained against him will he not make me their next target’, Arjun asked with a frown on his face.
Mridula had anticipated this question and she had an answer ready ‘Yeah, that’s a possibility. But if you and your classmates stand up against this bully, then Karthik would know that you are not alone. And there’s no guarantee that even if you remain silent now, you won’t be the next target of bullying. You can either choose to ignore what happened and remain in fear or you can choose to take action. But I promise that I’ll see to it that the Karthik is suspended from school if you speak up.’ Mridula had a few contacts in the media and knew that if she made a stink of this issue in papers the Principal would be forced to act. Like Arjun, Mridula had realized that you can choose courage or you can choose comfort but you cannot choose both.
‘Amma will you accompany me to school tomorrow’, Arjun asked after some speculation.
Mridula replied happily ‘Of course, my son’.
This post was written for Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Challenge.
Today's theme is a quote from Brené Brown: You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.