The psychology of bullying

Forgive me for writing about a deathly serious topic, I promise I have a funnier one lined up for this weekend.

As a child who was always bullied for being dark, not in my wildest dreams,  had I imagined, that this monster would come back to haunt me in my adult life too. Only this time, it is a different kind, more subtle, but enough to make me feel uncomfortable. It’s a feeling best described this way – imagine you are minding your own business, and this pesky mosquito keeps buzzing near your ear, and every time you try to swat it, the wretched creature of hell dodges away. It keeps singing in that monotonous drone –  mmmmmmm and bites you on an exposed part of your body, and you try to swat it, and miss again. Mildly annoying, but annoying enough to make you leave that room!

Thankfully, all the bullying I was subjected to, has always been verbal. As always, it took research papers (links at the bottom, if you’re a nerd like me) and a good, long talk with Akka, to come to the conclusion – bullies that use this form (verbal), are often passive aggressive. It also came to my notice that – it’s not what is being said by the bully, but how they make you feel that matters! So would general teasing qualify as bullying, you ask? Yes, if it is repetitive and the same goddamn thing every time, it borderline qualifies as bullying! Do not get me wrong, this does not mean I am intolerant towards general teasing and banter (I highly appreciate an intelligent insult or comeback, those definitely get a laugh out of me), but it’s quite easy to identify such verbal bullying/teasing. More often than not, the teasing will be unwitty. I mean, of course, the last thing to expect out of a bully, is eloquence. But that is a general pattern, and I have started to grow weary of it. Sometimes, bullies may also try to ostracize their victim. (Dear bully, if you’re reading this, I bet you had to Google what ostracize means).

I have always been an anxious person, but these days, it has gotten out of control and has made me vulnerable. I feel bullies have sharp noses and can sniff (vulnerable) blood like man-eating tigers. It’s like they are on the prowl, waiting to eat on their victim’s already draining energy. I am working on being a more composed person, and it is taking a lot of guts to open up like this, but yes, I am getting there, slow and steady, trying to maintain dignity. But to be honest, it is rather difficult, when more than half your energy is being used to veer away from these energy sucking leeches. It’s all about power for bullies, and sadly, they seek it from people they deem powerless.

I am not complaining, or moping, or trying to gain sympathy with this post. I am trying to spread awareness about this issue. It is rather sensitive, and needs immediate attention. If you are being subjected to any form of bullying/unfunny teasing that bothers you, you need to act on it. The first step of action is to avoid these people at all costs, it is no use trying to talk it out with bullies, bullies suffer from psychological issues and insecurities, and it is a matter of concern for their mental therapists, not you! Try talking to somebody close about this, somebody you can trust and knows you inside out.

Remember, you are only the victim if you allow yourself to be victimized. Stay strong, you are more awesome than you think, sending loads of love your way.

Links for my fellow nerds:

  1. http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/41730176/Types_of_Bullying_and_Their_Correlates20160129-8806-r79by2.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1492154350&Signature=uwVNZ7uAav20HMrqWOQ2xxv%2FDS4%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DTypes_of_Bullying_and_Their_Correlates.pdf
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqM0YqeRsOM
  3. http://bullyproofclassroom.com/do-bullys-have-low-self-esteem

What’s it like to lose a wallet

In one word, it sucks. It sucks big time. I am writing about it, while it is still fresh in my memory. I am generally very careful with my wallet and keep doing random pocket checks. During one such random check on my way to the BART station (San Francisco subway, stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit) this morning, I couldn’t feel anything in my front pocket.  I slipped in my fingers to confirm my worst fears, my wallet was gone!

I am going to come clean here, I suffer from severe anxiety and my first reaction was to hyper-ventilate. I managed to whip out my phone from my other pocket and dialed Akka’s number. Gasping for breath, I tried to tell her what had happened.

Akka is the most level-headed person I know. She is the Krishna to my Arjuna, the Tenali Raman to my Krishnadevaraya, the Chanakya to my Chandragupta Maurya. You get it, right? I basically turn to her for advice.

“Okay, first, BREATHE!”, she said. “Second, come right back home and take some cash from me, this is fixable”. “Kay”, I managed to say through all my incisive breathing. I looked around as I walked back home, a five minute walk took me 10 minutes to complete!

Akka then instructed me to call the bank and cancel my card, while she worked on canceling my clipper card that was on auto-load. (For those of you who don’t know, a clipper card is a smart card, that needs to be tapped at the entrance of the subway. Most cards need to be loaded with money at vending booths, but I wanted my clipper card to be smarter and had linked my bank account to it, so that every time it ran out of money, the card would be automatically loaded).

I was pleasantly surprised when the Bank Teller told me that somebody had already called in to report that my card was missing. Mind you, this was just within 10 minutes of me losing my wallet and somebody had found it, and was considerate enough to actually call my bank to cancel my card! Whew! Humanity existed!

“So that’s all with all the immediate money, right?”, Akka asked. “Yeah! That’s it!”, I said, feeling much, much better after the call. “Being poor is great!”, I said to her, “I don’t have much to lose!”. I instantly regretted saying that. I mean sure, I only had under $4k in my account, but I had worked crazy hard earning that money. I had worked during Winter Break when all my friends had gone back to India to enjoy with their family. Heck, my mom had come over to SF and I couldn’t spend time with her. Why? Because I was busy earning money that would go towards my tuition…

I got to work feeling super low, because now I would have had to spend time re-constructing my wallet, and what saddened me most is that, the wallet itself was lovely and fitted in my pocket so nice and snug. Moreover, it was gifted to me by Akka. But here’s the thing, my wallet actually had the words “I’m feeling lucky”, inscribed on it. (Perks of having a sister working at Google – you got snugly fitting wallets as gifts), so I had this gut feeling that my wallet would find it’s way back to me.

I called up USF Public Safety to see if a lost ID was reported, but no luck there. By the end of the day I had lost all hopes, but then, around 4, I got an email from a person who claimed to have found my wallet, and had gotten in touch to confirm it.

I was blown by the astute detective skills! This person had managed to find my usfca.edu id. Maybe they got it off my LinkedIn? I can’t think of any other place I have mentioned that particular id.

Turns out, this person stayed in my neighborhood and had found my wallet on their way to the BART station. I picked up my wallet from their place and profusely thanked them and gave them a small thank you note and a bar of my favorite chocolate as a token of gratitude. They don’t make people like that anymore.

I had replaced most of the things in my wallet, including my USF ID card, but was just glad to have my wallet back because of the sentiments attributed with it.

This incident changed one perspective in Life. Sure, I would have also returned a lost wallet, but only because would have felt guilty and it would have hurt my conscience. The intentions thus far were purely selfish.  I am now going to return lost items not because wouldn’t be able to live with myself, but because the concerned person may have worked crazy hard for it…

On turning 24 and what it brings along.

turning24

I just turned 24 a few hours ago, at least according to India time.

I am going to be entirely honest, I am positively terrified, apprehensive and perturbed by the prospect.

This (irrational?) fear triggered recently when I was contemplating on my life thus far, and what I expected of it and what lay ahead, in store for me. This thought niggled me for a while, until I decided to actually deal with it. I began by reading philosophical articles and blogs on the Internet. I happened to stumble upon a scientific research paper on human behavior from one such blog (I cannot find the link to the paper for a strange reason, so you have to take my word for it). The paper said, humans try to find meaning in life when they are about to enter their 30’s, 40’s, etc. After more such extensive reading, I was rather relieved to learn that it is human nature to assess and measure the meaning of life from time to time, to be more specific, when they crossed a significant milestone in life. And here I am, trying to audit life at 24.

To me, my fear made perfect sense. I mean, Steve Jobs died at the age of 56. So does that mean I am fast approaching the end of the first half of my life and have only 32 years remaining to achieve something significant? Steve co-founded Apple when he was 21. What do I have at 24? A student debt? I shared my perturbation with my elder sister, who is 10 years older than me. “I am 24 and I have nothing to show for it. Is it acceptable if one has lived an insignificant life?”, I asked her with a furrow on my brows. My Akka, the all knowing and wise person that she is, just smiled gently and directed me to this article.

Just to clarify, I am not as paranoid as the author is. Did I fear death? Not really, I just feared not living  a meaningful life. Doesn’t matter if nobody understands the meaning of my life, all that matters is, it should make sense to me! I have let go of the worries over things I cannot control. Can I control the H1B bill and prevent it from being passed? No! What I can control is, work on building my skill set so that I am a desirable candidate in the tech workforce, so that employers will be willing to pay me $130k.

Amma had a very practical take on this. “What are you going to feel when you turn 30 or 50? There is no way around this, everyone has to age. You need to accept the fact”. She went on to quote, “Parivartan hi sansaar ka niyam hai!” (Change is the only rule of the Universe).

All this pondering and introspection made me realize, I have a very hungry soul and I need to keep feeding this seemingly gutless, yet hungry monster. The only activities that seem to satiate my appetite are Bharatanatyam, Carnatic music, writing, doodling, reading and learning new things. I have been pretty active on Quora lately, so at least my need for reading and writing are being fulfilled. I have been completely neglecting Bharatanatyam and music and have decided to take it up once more. One of my goals this year, is to perform here in the Bay Area. As far as music is concerned, I am trying to learn from Amma via video calls as much as possible, the fact that I am getting to sing is in itself satisfying. I am learning a lot of new technologies  at school and my Computer Science learning curve is becoming steep, so that department seems sorted too. I am taking control of things like this, and trying to give life some meaning. Hopefully, everything will work out.

That said, I may still take my time to come to terms with being 24 and continue to strive to attain meaning in life.

I appreciate all those in India who stayed up till 12:00 AM and beyond, to give me birthday wishes! It is rather exciting and thrilling to get so much attention for two whole days!