My day started off just like every other day but the only difference was that instead of waking up to the pleasant weather of banglore,I found myself in this hot and humid small town where I had recently relocated because my dad was offered the position of a lifetime. For as long as I can remember my dad yearned to be the police commissioner and finally his dream had a chance of becoming reality. So I shifted because I couldn’t stand in the way of his happiness.
And today was my first day in college and saying that I was nervous would be an understatement. Because I was one of those girls to whom education was extremely essential, I followed rules and never really got into trouble. But if education was like bread to me then fashion would its butter. I love being fashionable because it makes feel good about myself, it cheers me up and gives me the extra boost of confidence that we all require now and then. But I am also shy and insecure.
So obviously I didn’t approach anyone in college and during my first period I choose to sit in the last bench in the class. Everyone was staring curiously at me which made me really uncomfortable. But thankfully the teacher arrived soon enough. He was just about to commence with the introductions when the door was jerked open by a girl who was dressed in pink from top to bottom. She profusely apologized for her tardiness and swore that it wouldn’t happen again. And to my pleasant surprise she came and sat beside me. As soon as the teacher turned towards the blackboard she bombarded me with questions like “Who are you? Where are you from? Why did you move into this town?”.I was flabbergasted by her inquisitiveness .When I remained silent she looked up and upon looking at my expression she must have realized that she might have been a tad too nosey. So, She gave me a sheepish look and apologized for prying and explained that they rarely got new people in this town and so she was a little too excited and curious to know more about me. At that I smiled. The she held out her hand and said “I’m shreya and you must be Emily. I’ve heard a lot about you.” And that’s how I met my new best friend. We exchanged numbers and decided to meet during recess.
My next class was mathematics and I was kind of excited for it since numbers and logic was kind of my thing. So you can probably imagine my disappointment when the class turned out to be a complete bummer. It wasn’t because Ms Helen, my mathematics teacher was not good enough, in fact she was exceptional but it was the general ambience of the class that annoyed me. If the people were bored and were not interested to listen to what ma’am had to say, then I could deal with that. But that wasn’t it; they intentionally spoke louder in order to disrupt the entire class including Ma’am. I just couldn’t figure out why they were behaving so obnoxiously when they were fine until now. That became clear soon enough when a boy who was obviously the alpha of the “obnoxious group” (as I liked to call them) commented “why did the principal appoint a female teacher for mathematics? I mean everyone knows that women don’t get math like we do. Men just do it better”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I half expected someone to shout “You’re being punked”. Instead a girl piped up saying that if ma’am heard him there would be consequences to pay. In reply the boy just shrugged saying “What is the worst she can do, she is a woman after all”. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, they started passing crude sketches of ma’am. And as they were passing the sketch it slipped from the boy’s hand and landed right next to madam’s feet. She lifted it up and when she saw the sketch I could literally see the kaleidoscope of emotions pass through her eyes, first was outrage then sadness followed by extreme helplessness. Everyone in the class held their breath anticipating ma’am to lash out. Instead she lifted her books, dismissed the class and walked out. And on her way out I saw her wiping her tears away. I was so appalled, disgusted and pissed off that I walked all the way from my class to the cafeteria in a trance. It was Shreya who bought me back to the present by snapping her fingers in front of my face. When she asked me what was wrong, I told her about the entire fiasco in the class. She just sighed heavily in response and told me that I would soon get used to this. The kids here didn’t respect women because the adults didn’t. The female teachers were usually turned down for promotion stating some or other silly reason. But everyone knew that they were turned down for the sole reason that they were women. Yet they didn’t give up and with renewed hope applied every year expecting a better outcome.
But before I could even begin to process this new information .Shreya dragged me forward to introduce me to her group members: Ryan, Beth, Amit and Sneha. Although they greeted me well enough, they appeared to be a bit cold and distant towards me. Especially Ryan who looked at me with what I could only guess was dislike. I couldn’t figure out what his deal was, it was not like I personally offended him somehow. I got up to refill my tray and when I came back I heard him saying “She doesn’t belong in our group .I mean just look at her. She looks like a rich, ditzy girl living off her parent’s money. When he looked up and found me standing there, he looked guilty for a second but then it soon turned into defiance .And that’s when all the hell gates broke loose and I dumped the entire contents of my tray on his head saying “that’s for making assumptions about me” and I walked out of the cafeteria and straight into the restroom desperately trying to hold back my tears but I couldn’t.
“How could Ryan do this, he just looked at me and made his own presumptions. If I dressed as the trendy fashionable girl then I became “the rich girl splurging her father’s money and flouncing from one guy to another and if I didn’t then I would labeled as the nerdy awkward kid with poor social etiquettes. No matter what I did I just couldn’t get it right.” Then the college bell rang jerking me back to reality.
I gathered all my stuff and hurried out of the restroom and walked right into a warm, solid body. The guy looked down at me with genuine concern and asked whether I was alright .I told him I was fine. He started to shuffle nervously on his feet and then he said “I watched you storm out of the cafeteria and I just wanted you to know that I understand what you are going through and if you ever want to talk about it then I’m here”. My emotions were scraped raw and I just couldn’t deal with his sympathy right now. So I replied “And what would a guy like you know about my situation?”. To which the guy replied “you mean a guy like me, who is gay, who is stared and mocked at for simply being who I am.Then yes, I guess I don’t really know much about your situation”. On hearing his words I instantly regretted my earlier comment and said” I’m extremely sorry, can we start over again. I’m Emily and you are? “.
And after three more exhausting hours my college ended and I reached home. After mulling over all the wretched things that happened today I just realized that the common denominator was prejudice. We tend to stereotype people based on gender, religion, sexuality, race, economic status and even fashion. We judge them without ever giving them an opportunity to show us who they really are. We forget that they are actual people with emotions and feelings. They all are looking to fit in and be accepted just like us. And we deny them that. So where’s our humanity now? .Life’s about making yourself vulnerable enough to let people in because you might never know how great a person is, until you give them a chance. And if the person turns out be the opposite, well then, it’s an experience and like the saying goes” what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. All I’m saying is that “Let people in” and make this world a little bit more cheerful, brighter and peaceful place to dwell in.