My school days were all about innocent fun and everlasting friendships. I could not wait to go to school every day to meet my friends. My friends put up with my idiosyncrasies and bad humour. They helped me with my homework. They shared their food and class notes.They supported me when I went through any crisis.
My daughter however disagrees with me. According to her, school is full of mean boys and meaner girls. Kids take every opportunity to pull down each other in her school. They wilfully hurt and spread rumours about each other. They kick, slap, punch and call each other names.
There are days when she comes back from school in tears just because she has been insulted. Her friends sometimes do not invite her to their birthdays and gleefully inform her that she has been deliberately left out. Once, a girl walked out of my daughter's birthday simply because the food served was not to her liking. ( I had served aloo parathas instead of pizzas) Just a few days ago, she cried the whole afternoon because some girls called her gay as she did not have a boy friend.
My daughter is now in tenth grade. She goes to a prestigious school in Mumbai that figured in the top ten schools of Mumbai recently. The boys and girls are all above average students. They come from supposedly good families. I have met the parents of her class mates, they all seem rather nice. Then how come these kids find such inexplicable delight in ruining some one's art work or taunting some body's hair style or making fun of some one's body? My daughter is not like other 15 year olds. She finds it difficult to make friends. She finds it difficult to fit in. Therefore she has been a natural target for bullies on more than one occasions.
She is not the only one. There are many more like her who are bullied every day. The teachers complain about lack of discipline at every student-teacher meet I have attended. The kids write cuss words with permanent ink on the class room walls. They disrupt lectures. They bunk classes.Sadly, they are not even in high school. What will happen when these children enter India's work force? Will they carry this behaviour to work place?
The innocence that I expect from a 15 year old has vanished. These days, kids say "Screw you, bitch/man" and show each other the middle finger all the time. They use the F word like some punctuation mark in their sentences. They call each other ugly names and mean them too.They are often cruel to their class mates Is it a big city phenomenon? Because I often get the same response when I talk to my friends from Delhi, or Bangalore.
My daughter identifies more with the characters of Glee than with the eternal friendship of Jai and Veeru of Sholay. She thinks school is all about peer pressure and politics. She thinks childhood is a phase she has to quickly grow out of as it is very cruel.
I am devastated to know from her that school is no longer fun. It is apparently, a jungle out there.