An early morning conversation between M and P on school bus stand:
“How would you feel if you are beaten up by your bus mate on your birthday?”
“ Of course bad.”
“ But you did the same with my daughter today, even when she gave you an extra chocolate?”
“Who is your daughter here?”
“There she is.”
“Would you like to apologize?”
“Oh okay.” Got up from his seat and looked in the direction of the little girl and confidently, but bit hesitantly, said –“ I am Sorry”
“Thank you. Be kind and respect others. “
“ Hey do you know, I am not bad. See him (pointing towards another boy). He is the worst boy in this bus.”
“You do not have to be like him. Be as you are while respecting your elders and taking the best traits of others .”
“ Hey P, accepting our mistakes and apologizing for it is no small task. It is a sign of strength and courage. This morning you displayed the same. I want to reward you for this . Here you go (handed him a big chocolate ) “
“I love you M”
“ Love you too P. You are amazing . Never forget that”
Now every morning P greets M with love and say good bye with flying kisses.
This is P – a young eight year old Nigerian boy named Perfect who travels in the same school bus in which M’s (your’s truly) daughter also travels.
When my daughter got down crying from her school bus, on her birthday, in the afternoon and narrated me how Perfect literally dragged her goodie bag for more chocolates and in the process hit her on her elbow, my first reaction was – “We will talk about it. Hope the injury is not serious”.
My daughter was expecting may be a strong reaction but was disappointed. At home she again poked me so I politely replied- “you should have dealt with him on your own or else should have complained to the Didi who accompany you in the bus.”
My daughter broke down saying I shouted back and pushed him back too. He even disrespected Didi and didn’t listen to her.
I said Okay. I will talk to Perfect tomorrow morning.
I contemplated how to initiate this conversation with Perfect.
Being mindful of my words, not blaming him, putting him in my daughter’s shoes, getting an apology politely were some of the ideas that I got.
Being a counselor I have realized that the moment we blame others, the other person gets immediately defensive. No matter how much logical argument you will present, the other person will never listen and argue back to justify his action.
Also I thought, because Perfect is from another country and not so well received race in India, I have to make him feel loved.
Further I also recollected that this boy always sits in the front of the bus- all alone. So I assumed not many like to talk to him and he must be feeling isolated. I will have to keep this in mind.
Then I made a call to Didi of the bus and inquired more about Perfect, his behavior and exact details of the fight /snatching incident.
I was sad to know that because Perfect is from Nigeria, Indian kids do not entertain him. They have been advised by their conditioned parents to stay away from him. Also Perfect’s dark color is an issue with fair kids and they try to bully him. Perfect eats his lunch alone. No one shares anything with him. He even brings some toys and other stuffs and shows to kids, may be to get some attention, but he is not entertained by anyone. This has affected his innocent mind and he becomes aggressive even on the smallest issue.
Also the way he asked “Who is your daughter here” made me think that he is not against her. For him all other kids are same and he just wanted more chocolates.
I was overwhelmed with various emotions after listening all this. Where are we headed as a society? Can’t we see Perfect just as a child, young and innocent, who is equally deserving of love and care. Just because some elements of a particular country gets into some wrong doings, punishing everyone with cold behavior is accepted?
I kept thinking about Perfect whole night and then the above mentioned conversation took place next morning. I am happy that I was kind to him, did not use any hurtful words and gave him an option to decide whether he wants to apologize or not. And I am glad, I was right- he is just a child and he quickly realized that he did something which was not right.
I appreciated him a lot for his gesture as I have seen we Indians have such big ego that “Sorry” has actually went missing from our vocabulary. We always want to justify our acts with a ‘But’ whenever we apologize.
Lastly I thought can we, as parents, please teach our children to be alert and careful, while still respecting the existence of fellow human beings, without judging them on the basis of their look, skin color and country of origin.