As I looked into the pearling eyes of my next survivor, who is a banker in his early 50’s, I wondered if I would live to see the day harassment ended.
He begins with a positive note while sipping his tea, “Harassment is not always bad. My dad was posted to Peshawar so I joined the boy’s only public school there,” he recollects, “My previous schooling was in coeducation convent and burn hall system so I was considered a sissy. Other and older boys would gang up on me, even the teachers smiled upon it. Eventually, I became stronger and adapted to the system. By the end of school, I was the head boy cum, senior prefect”.
He tells his story with pride, which doesn’t last long. Having built a considerable name in the society, he made me promise not to reveal his name but just his story.
But harassment is not only about ganging up and belittling, it had a much darker side to it. As I make him recall the worst days of his childhood, he laughs at my intrusion and opens up.
Like many other stories, his first case of physical harassment was a religious teacher, who used to come to his house to teach his and his siblings the recitation of the Holy Quran, “He started by touching himself inappropriately and caressing my cheeks and neck as a way of “Shahbash” (well done),” he claims, “He would also pull my ears as punishment at times and to get rid of the ear pulling one had to play with Molvi Sahab’s privates.”
I flinched upon hearing the words coming out from a grown up man with silvering hair, he continued.
The second intersection was with his tutor, who wanted things to go beyond mere playing, “He used to beat me, told the parents I was good for nothing and made me stand hours in the corner. The best option to avoid the wrath of my parents and his caning was to let him have his way.”
These incidents happened along ago in Sialkot and Peshawar; I asked him why did he keep quiet? He said that even though this might sound absurd at the moment, “But to avoid a multi physical beating and the constant pain I let that one pain take over.”
Did You Try Telling People?
“I tried to tell the elders but no one paid heed. The master and molvi were sacrosanct beings and could not be wrong!”
He learnt to keep it all bottled up, until the age of internet came through and he was able to vent out his emotions on online forums and read similar experiences, “However talking to other kids who were under the tutelage and sharing the experience slightly gave me the strength that I was not alone but did not take the shame or the guilt away, neither has it made me forgive the elders for not listening.”
He says he played his part as well as he could, by trying to save younger siblings from the beasts, “Even when it meant more exposure – so to say in lieu – of saving them.”
The effects the incidents had on him weren’t short termed, “I went through guilt, embarrassment, anger, shades of planning revenge and even doubting those who later on proved to be the best of the people and stereotyping Tutors and Molvis everywhere.” He claims the journey back to sanity is not easy but not impossible.
I wondered looking this tall and strong figure, this man who keeps his family saves and warm has come through a hard past.
He also spoke of how the age of the internet is also not helping much, “The internet has added to the confusion, the amount of information available leads kids wanting more. They want to see what happens and they get caught in an unending web of harassment. Sometimes they dare each other, especially in same-sex institutions, news spreads like wildfire and one then has to bear the brunt of the dare and gets ‘labelled’ as available.”
He has played his part and spoken widely about the issue trying to involve and mostly failing to, elders in a campaign to ensure that they are present when the tutor or molvi is teaching be it, girls or boys.
“Elders of the house need to understand that this is a factor in their child’s safety, even if it comes at the cost of finding time from their busy schedules, to talk to the children,” he aggressively adds, “Teach kids to say NO and SHOUT. Inform the kids about inappropriate touching, innuendos in speech, what punishment is and what’s harassment, in schools and at home.”