India’s Bullying Problem Is Real. Here’s My Story

Sharing a first hand account of Bullying by High School student Arunima herself. 

We’ve grown up watching mean bullies on screen, from Cartoon Network to mainstream Hollywood and primetime TV. Their characters are undeniably entertaining, be it Johnny Lawrence from The Karate Kid, Regina George in Mean Girls, or Ben Affleck’s Fred O’Bannion in Dazed and Confused. Heck, we even have a great example closer to home — Kareena Kapoor’s Poo from Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.

But how much of the bully trope is exaggeration and how much is true reflection?

Let’s Talk Numbers

Believe it or not, bullying is extremely prevalent in Indian schools, and unfortunately goes unaddressed most of the time.

According to a survey conducted by the Indian Journal of Paediatrics, 31.4% out of 500 children reported being bullied. Unfortunately, only 24% of them shared their grief with their parents.

We’re not just talking about physical bullying here — verbal, emotional and cyber-bullying are just as harmful. While only 16% of students from the IJP survey reported physical harm, a much higher number admitted to being teased, called names, and feeling threatened and isolated.

Let’s Talk Impact

In theory, I’m sure we all agree that being bullied — especially in your formative years — can do some serious damage. Because unlike Lindsay Lohan’s Mean Girls character, you don’t get to make amends with your Regina George and move on with your life. For us real humans, coping with the after-effects of bullying can be a real, life-long struggle.

What does the struggle look like?

Let me take you through my personal experience with bullying.

Welcome To High School

It was the 5th of April

I didn’t know what I was getting into

They said, “You’re gonna miss it when it ends. You’re always gonna remember it”

But I’m gonna tell you the truth


Welcome to High School

Where everything feels like a carnival at first

First week, first class, first look of disgust

Shot by the prettiest girl in class

She looked at me like my existence polluted her vision

My face repulsed her, and

The stretch marks on my legs made her cringe

So, I smiled at her out of embarrassment

And guilt that I couldn’t comprehend

Welcome to the real life party of Regina George

Where the entire class was driven to please her

But oh, on Wednesdays we didn’t wear pink

Instead, everyday she wore condescension as her backpack

And I wore apprehension as a cape


Week two, there were two of them

Two minds that worked as one

Two hands that reached out from the desk behind me

“We like your hair”

I smiled, confused.

Welcome to the class for no weak where hush hush, the whisper I could hear

They liked the idea of something

Something I couldn’t fathom

Giggle, gasp “Yes!” I overheard

And so that pair of hands, five minutes later

Gave me a lock of my own hair

And a pair of scissors


Week three, now there were three; a boy this time

He sat next to me and I saw a friend in him

He asked me about the new backpack I’d bought,

I thought,

“Why is he even interested?”

And so the three of them together

Picked that bag up and took it away

I later found it in a urinal,

on the third floor boys’ toilet

Welcome to the room for no weak

Where week after week you try to recollect the pieces

Of your broken self esteem


Week four, I realised I had four years more,

But I wasn’t ready to take four minutes of this anymore

And so I taught myself four important words

“I’m not their expectation”

Welcome to the lost circus

Where the clowns and the acrobats go all out steal the crowd

But you being the lion, you stand out


Year 5,

a mind,

a soul,

a voice,

one thought,

one mouth.

Resilient, I feel like I destroyed my own catastrophe

I destroyed the spiteful actions you threw at me


High school, I’m never gonna miss it

But I’m always going to remember it


Let’s Talk Change


There are two parts to tackling the bullying problem.


The first is attitudinal. We need to accept that bullying is a serious problem, and not just a part of growing up.


The other is actionable.


If you’re being bullied: don’t be afraid to speak to an authority figure — your parents, teachers or school counsellor about it. Trust me, you are not alone. Reach out to your friends and family for support.


If you’re guilty of bullying: it’s never too late to start being empathetic. Know when you are hurting someone with your words or actions, and try to put yourself in their shoes.


If you’re a bystander: know that your voice can actually help save someone from being bullied. Whether you are the parent, teacher, family member, friend, peer or even a stranger to either party, you have a responsibility to speak up.

Let’s make a pact to be more compassionate, shall we?

By Arunima taken from The Timeliners. 

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