Updated: Sep 24, 2020
I grew up in many different cities as my dad loved changing jobs. I was no stranger to being bullied throughout these years of consistent change. But it got particularly bad when I was in my 8th grade.
Back then, as part of the Bengali Social Club in Muscat, my family attended a lot of events – ranging from on-stage performance nights to small soirees to weekend picnics. At the soirees, I was ridiculed and excluded from whatever the kids my age were upto. Topping up the verbal bullying I faced in school, these kids went an additional step into the physical.
However, my worst experience of this was at a farmhouse picnic with 50-odd families where I was minding my own business in the swimming pool, playing with kids far below my age group. This guy one year older suddenly came up to me and asked if I could beat him at holding my breath underwater. I said yes. The challenge started off normally and maybe 30 seconds in, he surfaced while I continued holding my breath. Suddenly, he closed in and pushed down on my head. I instantly tried to push his hands off me but he was much bigger and stronger. My attempts probably felt like water currents from the pool to him. Struggling, I started to panic as I was almost completely out of breath. I could feel suffocation inching closer and my mind going numb with only the sound of the water around me while the other kids’ laughter faded away. Just when I thought I was going to die, the pressure lifted and I came out, gasping for life. Thankfully, we left Muscat that year.
Jumping ahead a few years, over the course of college my introversion gave way and I became a lot more outgoing. Introspecting, I realized that I was a really easy target for those childhood bullies – short, introverted and while not feminine, not very “masculine” either. I stood out and it was easy for those kids to pick on me. My experiences have taught me empathy, which I value as the most important trait in a human being, and I now used my ambiversion to make sure nobody around me feels left out - not if I can help it.