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Chardi “Claw”

A True Tale of Being Bullied in School & Keeping Up

Don't expect some ‘pretty in pink’ princess fluff stuff from me. This is my story and I've had a pretty scrappy life. Sometimes it just eats away at me and I feel pretty sick about the whole thing. Ya see, I've always been different from everybody because my mom didn't cut my hair. Not only that but she wrapped my long hair up in a turban.

Yeah, everybody stares. Some of them pretend not to, and look away if they think I see them looking at me. But others, they just smirk and point, or try to taunt me.

This one time my family had been out of town all week. On our way home late at night, we fell asleep in the car in our pajamas. My hair had come down. My dad pulled into a rest stop and we got out in order to use the facilities. Some men wouldn't let me into the men's room. They said girls weren't allowed. Both my mom and dad had to stand there and argue with them, saying I'm a boy, and insisting that I couldn’t go into the lady’s room with my mom, that I had to go in the men's room with my dad. With that big o'le beard of his, nobody could mistake him for a girl, but they still didn’t want to let me in. But hey, it happens to my mom too, cuz she’s got this little bit of fluff on her face, people call her "Sir". She's so obviously female too. But this one guy said that it confused him cuz she wears a turban, and he thought only men did. People really get mixed up without their traditional gender alert flags flying!

I always got in trouble at school, especially the first few years. Being the only kid in school with a turban, I got called a lot of names. I'm not even going to bother telling you some of 'em, because the censor board will just edit them out, but let me put it this way – "Genie" was just the first part of it. The other half of the rhyme referred to my private body parts and some other really stoopid stuff. Kids would just get on my case 'til I couldn't take it anymore.

So, one day these kids stole my lunch and threw it in the garbage can. Then they jumped on me, punched me hard in the stomach, took my shoes and threw them over the fence. When I went through the gate to get my shoes back, the teacher who'd been watching the whole thing sent me to the office for leaving the school grounds. I got suspended for three days. I didn't really care, cuz my stomach hurt too bad to get out of bed for two days anyway. But it got my mom really riled up.

I attended public school because my sister, brother, and I all went to speech class ever since kindergarten. I told my mom, when she wanted to put me in private school which didn’t have a speech class, that I needed to learn to talk. My mom figured too that in public school, I'd learn how to deal with the real world. But she got so upset when the kids who took my shoes, and punched me, didn't get in any trouble at all, that she took me out and home schooled me for the rest of the year. 

I did pretty good in Home School. We had lots cool of field trips, and the school let my little brother stay home once a week too. But my mom couldn't teach me math, so the next year I had to go back to school. That's the year we started going to camps and my whole family got initiated. So, you'd think, hey camps are cool, cuz I could wear my kirpan outside my shirt and all the other kids are wearing turbans. NOT. Only a few did, I tried to make friends with them. Kids without turbans though, who had their hair all cut off real short, would come up to me and ask me, "Why are you here?" and tell me I didn't belong, cuz I didn't have the same skin color they did. So, I didn't belong at camp, or school. Just great!

I got to be a pretty tough little kid. Mostly, other kids didn’t mess with me too much anymore after middle school, cuz they found out I'd get back at them eventually. I figured I'm getting in trouble anyway, so better make it count.

I had to go to this program called "Opportunity School". The teacher ran it just like a military academy. He explained all the rules and I thought to myself, "This guy is going to wonder why I'm here". I aced the program and got out in six weeks, cuz I knew exactly what he expected from me. My brother though, spent a year and a half in that program, cuz he let some kid at in the classroom look at his kirpan instead of keeping it under his shirt, and the teacher saw it. Funny how they freaked out about a 3-inch blade, duller than a butter knife, when I showed it to another little kid on the bus in kindergarten. But when my brother had to dress up as a martyr for the 'Day of the Dead', he went as a shaheed and wore a real 3-foot long, sharp, sword to high school. My mom went to pick him up and found out they let him on the bus, no problem.

I always went with my brother to all the after school "Opportunity" events. I really liked the teacher who ran the program, cuz he taught me a lot of skills about how to avoid fights and getting in trouble. It worked out pretty good until one time when joking around in class with this other kid, he blindsided me and broke my nose. I practiced what I learned, and didn't fight back. I got up and walked to the office. My mom and sister took me to the hospital Emergency Room. The next day, I had nose surgery. The doctor told my mom that it was the worst break he'd ever seen. We had to go to court, and the other kid got convicted and had to pay the hospital expenses. It took him years, but he did it.

Once I learned to drive, I didn't spend much time at school. I turned 18 the year I graduated from high school, so they said I could do home study and I didn't have to go class at all. My sister had started at university. We were on our way to take some furniture to her dorm when we got the call. Some crazy guy had shot my best friend's dad at the Sunday gurdwara program that morning. Things really went really out of control. None of us kids could cope with school. Even my sister dropped classes. Seems like I've been depressed ever since; or maybe even way before, like ever since I started school. I try to make things better. Sometimes I'm OK. Other times, it all gets to me.

Right now, I don't believe in religion, or that God is some guy sitting up there watching me, making my life miserable. I just can't believe being spiritual has to do with all the rules people judge each other by and make wars over. One thing I do know is I'm never cutting my hair just cuz they don’t like the way I look, no matter who else does, or how weirdly people look at me. I won’t give in to bullies. I don't know about all the rest of it right now. I've got to sort it all out, but that's for sure. I don’t know where it goes from here. The only other for sure thing is Waheguru. The Guru says to do naam so that’s what I do, but it's personal, so I won't go into it. I'm a Singh, but maybe not in the sense that some of you others may feel you are. So, if you want to put me down, go ahead. I'm used to it. Meanwhile, I'll just get on with my scrappy life. Up or down it's mine. It's the only one I've got. Maybe, someday, someone will share it with me. But, if there's nobody else that thinks like me, then probably not huh.

Prevalence of Bullying 

Bullying is an uninvited, but intentionally repeated behavior that is an aggressive form of deliberate taunting and intimidation which can take place anywhere, and happen to anyone of any race, gender identity, or religious affiliation, regardless of age. 

Bullying has become so prevalent in the United States, that the month of October has been named National Bullying Prevention Month.

Bullying of Sikhs

Statistics show that 27% of all school children are bullied, with incidents of bullying affecting 50% of Sikh students, and 67% of Sikh students wearing turbans. A Sikh may experience episodes of assault, bullying, harassment, and intimidation throughout their entire life. 

Causes of Bullying

Bullying can stem from a variety of causes: 

  • Ignorance
  • Prejudice 
  • Poor social skills
  • Lack of self-worth
  • Desire to dominate and control

Examples of Bullying 

Bullying may include, but is not limited to:

  • Verbal Assault – Name calling, taunting, and teasing.
  • Physical Assault – Touching inappropriately, hitting, punching, pinching, kicking, spiting, hair pulling or cutting. 
  • Manipulation – Blaming, deception, and gas lighting.
  • Intimidation and Theft –Stealing money, food, and other belongings such as office supplies, school work and student supplies, clothing, and shoes.
  • Dropping the Ball – Teachers and staff may unwittingly participate in bullying when they fail to protect a bullied student, fail to address the causes behind bullying, and fail to provide resources such as counseling for students who bully others.

Where Bulling Occurs

Bullying can occur anyplace a bully happens to spot their victim: 

  • At school inside the classroom and outside during recess, or at competitive sport events. 
  • At a park or a beach, while walking, shopping, going to the movies etc.
  • At home with siblings, parents, and other family members.
  • In the work place with coworkers, or even a boss. 
  • In places of worship and camps.
  • Online social media.

Diffuse Bullying Behavior

Typically, there are three basic approaches used to address, and be applied to modify behavior: 

  • Reward desirable behavior with repeated recognition, kind words, and praise.
  • Ignore undesirable behavior. When necessary, stop the behavior without nagging.
  • Diffuse undesirable behavior. Deter, or distract, with a desired incompatible behavior. Two behaviors cannot occur simultaneously.

Develop Non-combative Communication and Confidence

If you find yourself in a situation with a bully, here are some Do’s and Don’ts to help you be confident and communicate in a non- combative manner. 

Things you can do: 

  • Be Aware of Your Surroundings
  • Maintain Boundaries
  • Use Kind Words
  • Tell Someone
  • Ask for Help
  • Walk Away
  • Keep Calm 

Things to avoid:

  • Talking Back – Don’t react, or let any one else dictate your behavior. 
  • Hurt Feelings – Don’t take it personally, it’s not about you. It’s them.
  • Assumptions – Don’t assume you know what someone else is thinking.
  • Fighting – Don’t throw the first punch, that could be considered assault legally. Protect yourself physically only when self-defense is absolutely necessary. 

Resources

More About Bullying on Sikhnet
https://www.sikhnet.com/news/topics/bullying

File a formal complaint:

  • Notify Your School District
  • Report an incident to the Sikh Coalition
    Email: [email protected]
    Phone: 212-655-3095

Website Resources: 

Sukhmandir Kaur Khalsa

Sukhmandir has written hundreds of articles on topics related to Sikhism and has co-written and and edited several books on the Gurmat teachings and Naam Simran meditation. 

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