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Engineer and author Bhupinder Singh has written on spiritual subjects before but he ventured into new territory when he wrote a childrens book. 'Fish Eat Fish World' was directly inspired by Gurbani and effectively conveyed Guru's message to young ones that God takes care of all. His second childrens book 'In Bully’s Eyes' speaks to a subject very pressing for Sikh children and how to deal with it. SikhNet had a chance to speak with Bhupinder Singh about his newest publication: 
What prompted you to write the book on bullying?

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Well, I have heard a lot of stories about bullying of Sikh boys as with their hair bun on top of their head, covered with a colorful patka make them an easily identified target. According to Sikh Coalition survey 67% percent of Sikh children reported being bullied in schools. That is 2 times the national average. Further, I have 2 sons who had experienced bullying in school, and we experienced its effects. So I was thinking how we can help Sikh children be prepared to handle the bullies, and this book is an effort in that direction. It is my hope and desire that this small book helps them prepare to face bullies, and cope with the situation successfully.   

  1. How the bullies pick their target?

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive and repeated behavior. Bullies, who perpetuate bullying, are looking for those who stand out in some way. Sikh boys in particular, easily conform to this criterion with long hair and patka thus becoming easy targets ready to be picked. Then in addition, if they excel in studies that further adds to the urgency in the mind of bullies to make them the target. Bullies also prefer those who will not fight back and many times such students excelling are mild and not the type to fight back. 

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  1. What are the effects of bullying on the victim?

The bullies can leave a short term as well as lasting impact on the victims, which can continue long beyond the school years. It can effect the personality development and also can leave psychological scars. Some of the common effects are:

  • Social Isolation 
  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Eating Disorders
  • Low Self-esteem
  • School Performance deterioration
  • Loss of motivation for studies
  • Psychological problems as anxiety disorders

I would like to share a quote by Catherine P. Bradshaw, Deputy Director of the center for the Prevention of Youth Violence at John Hopkins University, who was involved with the new study. She said; “The experience of bullying in childhood can have profound effects on mental health in adulthood, particularly among youths who were involved in bullying as both a perpetuator and a victim.”

  1. Can you share with us some strategies for combating bullying?
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The first step is parents have to teach their children how to identify the bullying and how to stand up to it safely. The parents should check with their children on regular basis about being bullied at school. It is very important that a dialog with children takes place daily, and children feel comfortable in sharing the details with parents. Also parents should make efforts to casually drop by at school just to watch their child. The parents have to get involved and bring it to the attention of school staff. The problem is very serious and involvement of parents, community, and school staff is essential to prevent bullying and create a safe school environment. A year round campaign has to be on going at the school level, which besides discouraging bullying, encourages reporting of such incidents to authorities and building a peer support against bullying. Many a times, students will witness bullying but they will be just bystanders preferring not to get involved, the efforts have to be made to transform the bystanders to be up-standers. These measures will send a clear message that there is a zero tolerance of bullying.     

  1. What resources are available to bullied individual or their parents?

The first resource that a child should avail is to inform parents and involve them. The parents should meet with teachers, counselors, principals and try to impress them about their child being bullied. The parents can themselves make the other students aware of facts that even if their child may look different but he is just like them in every other way. The parents should also make an effort to educate the staff if their child is being bullied. If they cannot do that for any reason, then they should seek help of community leaders or Umbrella organizations so that bullying is stopped right away. A young Sikh High school student Karanveer Singh Pannu has written a book titled Bullying of Sikh American Children based on his own experiences, which provides a firsthand account to understand bullying. 

  1. How reading this book will help bullied to combat bullying?
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In this book the child reader encounters the story of a Sikh boy who is bullied at school. How his parents get involved and grandfather provide the support along with strategies that will help him win over the bullies. It provides the blueprint for the family to follow.    

  1. Has the book been reviewed?

Harveen Kaur, an Oslo; Norway based Psychologist has reviewed this book. The Review is available on Sikhnet and the link is: https://www.sikhnet.com/news/bullys-eyes-book-review

  1. Do you have any testimonials of bullies being confronted or helped using these strategies or examples of these being applied for the personal benefit of a reader?

Excellent question! The answer is yes. The story woven in this book is based on personal experience, on how as parents we handled the bullying faced by our sons. The idea behind the book is to share with children and their parents the proven strategies that have worked for us. So, if you are facing these challenges and have been wondering how to combat it, then here are proven personal experiences distilled in an illustrated book form.

  1. What are your parting thoughts on the subject of bullying?

No child should be subjected to peer pressure of being bullied. It will leave a lasting impression of feeling isolated, being judged and lonely. We all have a role and a say in halting the bullying at schools. 

Illustrations: Sangjukta Dutta and Sujog Bandyopadhyaya

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