Tribe & Prejudice

Sneha Boro
Sneha Boro
Young Bodo girl from North East India

“Hey, Chink, why don’t you take this home and eat it?”

The guys from my third-grade class said while they pointed toward a garden snail

“We don’t eat those kinds of snails, and no one in my family does eat snails,” I told them I hoping they would understand, but they didn’t. 

“Yeah, sure, we know you guys do. You and Sonali are from the same tribe, aren’t you guys? Why don’t you go back to the place you belong, the forest?”  They laughed. 

"Hey!!! if you keep on saying that. I will complain about it to the teachers." Sonali said. 

Hearing her, they ran away, “Are you okay, and what are the boys trying to say?”  

I was angry and said, “I feel weird that we belong to the same tribe. That's why they misunderstand me so much.”  

“So, I am the cause now?? It’s not my fault that Nayana told them that my parents eat snails. God! Why did I call her to my home on that day when my grandmother sent Samu-zangsobai for my father. Look, I am just like you are, and I know there is no use arguing with them. I even had an argument with Nayana because of this. I thought she would understand but I guess she is the same as them. ” Sonali replied 

Sonali sat next to me and said that her parents were moving her to a new school. “I'll be going to another one next week," she said.

I soon came to the realization that her leaving meant that I would feel lonelier at school. I realised that she was the only one who was there to talk to about the bullying, I felt grif as I lost a friend.

A week had gone since Sonali had left; everything seemed different, yet the bullying had continued unabated. All of this had taken its toll on me, and I had lost the will to attend school.

I started looking for excuses to skip school, and I tried everything from stomach aches to feigned illnesses. My mother was aware of what I was up to at some time, but she never confronted me about it….

Until one day she decided she'd had enough.

When she walked in and sat down next to me, we were face to face. Because she was soft-hearted and could never be the bad cop in any scenario, the harsh look she was giving me slipped away.

“Tell me the reason why you don’t want to go to school,” she asked 

 I remained quiet.

"Is there a teacher you don't like or some challenges at school that are causing you to act this way?" she continued.

I simply shook my head, as a straight-A student, teachers would be the last reason I would skip school. 

My mother didn't stop there; she inquired, "Is it your classmates?" which tore down the fence I'd been attempting to build.

I couldn't refute it since I couldn't bear their presence any longer, so I nodded. 

“What did they do?” She asked.

"They constantly tell me that I'm a savage person who eats strange things like insects and that I should return to the forest because we're different" (indigenous). And that we belong there rather than here."

Something was choking my throat, and I couldn't stop crying.

 My mother was in deep shock and sighed as she hugged me. 

“Don’t worry, I  will do something about this?” she said as she tried to put me at ease. 

That night, I felt as if a big block had been removed from my heart.

The next day I went to school as I had already missed a lot of classes. During the third period, the general staff of the school called me to the principal's chambers. I was nervous and saw my mother, and as I entered, she gave me a smile.

“I understand, Mrs Borgayamri, that you are angry that the children behaved that way towards your son, but it’s just a joke between the children,”  the principal said 

“Joke? So, saying that someone should go back to the forest because that’s where they belong is a joke to you?  Sir, I am not angry but disappointed that the children have not been educated properly. If they have that kind of ideology now, what will they become in the future?” 

"Tell me their names," the principal demanded, and I nervously told him the names of the bullies.

My mother called the bullies to the office and spoke with them for a long time; I had closed my eyes and tuned out all that was occurring.

Mother was a proud member of her culture and background, and she had a strong sense of justice, which is why she joined the law firm. She despised being told that she belonged and was prejudiced because of her gender, as far as I recall. She still believes that a person's character and reasoning define them.

My thoughts were interrupted by my mother, who said, "Even if you have money but are narrow-minded, you will never be liked by everyone, and no one has the right to condemn you for who you are," at some point during the conversation.

This is when I realised she was a true role model for me.

"If they don't stop, I'll talk to their parents," she continued, holding my hand.

“If they don't stop, we'll not return to this terrible institution where such misbehaving children are taught”, she continued 

I later learned that the parents of the youngsters who used to bully me scolded them. They expressed regret to me and my parents.

My parents, on the other hand, chose to move my school, which I didn't mind because I didn't want to stay there any longer.

My father was sad that he couldn't help us and stand by our side when these events occurred. It's not totally his fault because none of us informed him of the situation because my mother didn't want to worry him. When he did find out, though, he approached me, spoke with me, and told me about his story…

"I used to live in a community where there was no discrimination like this when I was your age, so I used to believe that everyone in the world was wonderful and didn't understand it I moved to another state for college," he said.

"I was afraid and had doubts about my own capabilities. I tried all the time to fit in between them, but I couldn't. Throughout my twenties, I felt such a heavy sense, he adds. I wish I could tell someone but I didn't have anyone to talk to about it, but you're different. You have your mother, and you aren't like other people." He gave me a warm smile as he patted my back.

That day, I was so relieved and thankful to have them. I apologised to Sonali over the phone for saying such things to her. She forgave me because she understood my distress. 

That experience occurred when I was a youngster, yet it had a profound impact on my life. After that day, I left my former school and went to my previous school, which was much better and had a lot of wonderful people. 

I made many friends and did not remain silent in the face of injustice, and I continue to do so. I realised that ignorance and silence aren't always the answers to life's problems. You have to be willing to take a risk now and then.