“Sanjay is a shy boy who studies in VI-grade. He longs to speak as eloquently as he writes but his speech impairment prevents him from doing so. Although he does have a close circle of friends, he is bullied by some of his seniors. Unable to confide in his family, one day he manages to get hold of his uncle’s licensed gun at home. He takes it to school and during the interval when one of the senior students has been particularly been mean to him tries bothering him again, Sanjay shot him on the leg. His intention is just to hurt him enough so that he backs off. That’s why he had aimed for the leg as shown in movies. Assist the class teacher in taking further action.”
The above case study is a scenario I had created for role play inspired by true events while working on a training program for members of the Juvenile Justice Board and Child Welfare Committee. To discuss ragging prevalent in institutes of higher education, it is imperative to understand the underlying causes of bullying as ragging is an aggravated form of the same. I wish things weren’t bad enough for me to be compelled to create a scenario such as this, but alas that’s not the case. Bullying is all too real an issue when it comes to children’s mental health. Unless and until this problematic behavior is nipped in the bud, it can have far-reaching consequences that follow into adulthood.
Some heartwarming tales revolving around the theme of childhood friendship donned the silver screen over the years; Koi Mil Gaya, Taare Zameen Par, Paa, Chillar Party, Stanley ka Dabba. Each of them explored the magic created when children stand up for each other on a regular day in a manner unique to children. Nostalgia is a feeling that comes to me easily and I get transported to my childhood every time I sit down to watch these movies with a bucket of popcorn. One of my favorite scenes is from the movie Paa, in which to cover up his embarrassment of not being taken out for a tour of the Rashtrapati Bhavan as promised by Abhishek Bacchan, Amitabh Bacchan lies to his friends. Despite being aware of the truth his friends indulge him to ensure that he doesn’t get hurt. On one hand, movies are celebrating the long-lasting impression made by childhood friends and on the other hand, some movies have depicted the trauma caused by bullying so realistically that it makes one squirm. Coincidentally Koi Mil Gaya and Taare Zameen Par show both sides of the coin. The protagonists in both the movies, brave all odds stacked up against them, in terms of academic learning and taunts directed towards them with unwavering support from friends. Ek Ladhki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga gives us a heartbreaking insight into what a child who doesn’t fit in the socially acceptable gender binary might have to go through. Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander effectively reflects upon bullying fueled by youthful arrogance brought upon by familial affluence. Tumhari Sulu is the only movie I have come across to date which delicately touches upon the kind of behavior a bullied child might resort to gain respect from his peers. It also serves as a warning bell to the fatal consequences that might follow if the bullying goes on unchecked.
Cyberbullying is one of the leading causes of children committing suicide all over the world presently. Predators reach out to unsuspecting victims on social media platforms, gaming sites, discussion forums, and online video sharing platforms. The fact that a cyberbully cant is avoided as your regular classroom bully makes cyberbullying omnipresent. In India, it has somehow failed to catch the attention of filmmakers and lawmakers alike, the way it should have.
Until a few years back, every time I heard about instances of bullying, all my attention would be focused on the child being harassed. I would always overlook, the child indulging in bullying before a significant meeting changed my outlook forever. I was overjoyed to be able to reconnect with a few guy friends, I had been extremely fond of in school. We were thrilled to meet each other after so many years. As luck would have it, I soon realized that we had very little in common. I tried hard to stay in touch but couldn’t connect with them. Eventually, I had to distance myself from them, as I became increasingly disturbed by the ideas they had regarding gender roles, marriage, sexual conduct, and related matters. That was the first time I realized the extent of damage that can be caused by toxic masculinity. It is not only an underlying cause of bullying but alters the way children look at the world forever. For the first time in my life, I realized that I need to be grateful for having friends who grew up into fine men. After all, everyone isn’t fortunate enough to get over get over this phase.
As far as onscreen portrayal is concerned, Gulaal and Table No.21 have poignantly depicted the extent of psychological damage caused by ragging while Baatein touches upon the dilemma faced by parents when on being confronted by the same. In Munnabhai M.B.B.S and Three Idiots, ragging was deployed for comic effect as the protagonists outsmart their seniors. I have had a particular fondness for Dil, Dosti, Etc, and Chichore have been as in which ragging is followed by senior students taking up the role of guide and confidante to the freshers. I feel it indicates that the ragging couldn’t have been that bad if such strong bonds have ensued in its aftermath and that’s exactly how it should be. I would like to conclude with a dialogue of the late Sushant Singh from the movie Chichore,
“Par mere khayalon mein palne wali woh bhayank ragging kabhi shuru hi nahi hui. In seniors ke andar itna haramipan tha hii nahi ki vo apne juniors ko sirf isliye marte kyunki vo helpless the.”