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The world will always have an opinion about you but only you decide what reaches you. And like them, you also have a voice but use it for you.
Dana alighted from her school bus and made her way towards her house. The sun followed suit and started to leisurely shuffle towards its abode, wherever that was.
Dana paused for a minute at the driveway entrance and inhaled deeply to steady her nerves that still stayed asunder. She rubbed her palms on her face and gave a light slap on both cheeks to force some complexion into her pale and tired countenance.
Satisfied with her efforts, she plastered a big goofy smile that was characteristic of her and entered the house through the main door.
“Ma, I’m home! Mmmmm.. smells so good. What you cooking?”
Fourteen-year old Dana lived with her parents in a humble independent house at a cul-de-sac part of the suburb. She was a confident teenager, who had been immensely cared and pampered by a morally-strong set of parents.
From an early age, she was ingrained with the significance of ‘act of giving’ and entrenched with the importance of ‘accepting everyone just the way they were’.
She absolutely adored her parents for always setting up an example in front of her instead of just parroting a soliloquy from some self-guidance books.
The way she was raised, made her look at the world through a kaleidoscope which seemed bright and scintillating with goodness. She perceived the same in each and everyone.
“Oh. You are home, my baby. Are you hungry, sweetheart?”
Her mother hugged her tightly after Dana took off her school bag and placed it on the couch. “Dana, your eyes look red. Have you caught the bug?”
Her mother waited expectantly at the doorway, leaning against the jamb, for Dana to complete her sentence. But Dana had already closed the bathroom door to freshen up.
Slightly piqued by her short response, Dana’s mother wanted to discuss more on the topic with Dana. However, a strong singeing whiff from her stir-fry took over her complete attention as she rushed to switch off the flame.
Next day, Dana hurriedly entered the kitchen space to quickly grab her tiffin box before her mother could spy her. But was caught red-handed anyway. “Sweetheart, it’s so hot outside today, why are you wearing this full-sleeves top?”
“No reason, Ma. I was in a hurry and this came into my hand while rummaging in the cupboard. Okay, the bus is almost here. Bye, love ya.”
Her mother very well knew that the full-sleeves top was stored at the rear end of the cupboard, stashed away for colder days. Her motherly-instincts tingled and she could sense there was something amiss about Dana. She would have to wait till Dana returned from her school.
After stepping off from the bus at the school entrance, Dana placed her baseball cap on her head and angled it very low to the front so it covered almost all of her face. She walked briskly towards her classroom with arms tucked tight alongside her body.
“The witch is here. Guys, the witch is here.”
Dana’s legs ceased to move, right at the entrance of the classroom as if they had been struck by lightening. In her mind, she was desperately wishing all this to be a nightmare and any moment she would be waking up.
Just then, someone shoved her from behind and she entered the classroom with her feet stumbling to find their ground.
“Why did you hide your witch-initiation mark? Does it burn when it’s full moon?”
“Idiot, that’s for werewolves. Witches gather around fire or something right, Dana the Witch!”
“What’s going on this early in the morning? Take your seats everyone.”
Tears blurred her vision, and she could barely see where she was heading. She scuttled towards her seat, that she shared with Tyra, her best friend.
“Just ignore them. Cute top, by the way.”
Dana gave a feeble smile at Tyra’s attempt to cheer her up but she knew that Tyra understood the real reason for the full length sleeves.
She had a long, dark misshapen birthmark running all the way from her wrist to forearm of her right hand. Until this year, it had never been a cause of distress for her. She hardly ever noticed it as it had been a part of her since years unknown.
Things changed when she entered this new high school, almost a month ago. Someone noticed her birthmark in the class and yelled out ‘witch’, just for fun. Dana found it hard to believe that name-calling could ever be for fun.
The next thing Dana knew, the nickname had caught fire all through the high school. Taunts turned into jeers and catcalls overnight even before Dana had a chance to brace herself.
Dana lost all her self-confidence to fight back against the most powerful clique in the high school. As she got down from the bus that day, she repeated the same routine before entering her home.
She just didn’t know how to tell her parents, who had always taught her to stand tall against adversities. How ashamed they were going to be of her, if they knew she wasn’t even trying to fight back.
“You were crying, Dana.”
Her mother’s words, as Dana entered the house made her heart leap in fear, for an instant. It wasn’t a question from her, but a statement.
“No, Ma. Why would I?”
“Dana, I know you are a strong girl since we raised you that way but being strong doesn’t mean, you don’t get to cry. In fact, only strong have the right to cry as they know they did all that they could.”
Her mother’s words flipped a switch in Dana and tears came tumbling out, while her mother gently held her.
“It’s okay, Dana, you can tell us anything. Not to search for solution but just to clear your thoughts too.”
Dana narrated the past month’s incidents at the school and saw her mother grow livid but she managed to maintain her calm till the end.
“My poor baby. Why didn’t you come to us? It breaks my heart to see you feeling that you were letting us down for something those ill-mannered kids did. Dana, this world will always have an opinion about you and everything but only you get to decide what reaches you.
“Like them, even you have a voice to use but use it for you. You are still so young so we don’t expect you to fight all your battles yourself, just yet. That’s why, we are here for you. Do you want me to reach out to your principal? I will handle it discreetly so it won’t come back to you,” her mother said.
“No, Ma. I know what I have to do now. You are right, even I have a voice. I will first try using it otherwise I know you both have my back anyway.”
“The witch has arrived. How is your coven doing?”
“You know what, I did read up on the witches and it turns out black magic isn’t all that hard to learn. In fact, I practised a bit yesterday so if you get a stomachache today, no, don’t look at me. I don’t know the reason. Or do I?” Dana, dressed in a sleeve-less tank top, announced loud and clear. And to her surprise, there was no comeback.
She didn’t care to look at their faces or their expressions. That wasn’t important anymore. She knew she had a broad smile on her face as she fist-bumped Tyra before taking her seat.
Author’s note – Raising a strong and an independent child is need of the times now. However, give them freedom to have unapologetic moments of weakness and vulnerability so they know how to overcome those, their way. Guide them, be there for them and with them but let them learn their own lessons.
A version of this was earlier published here.
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na…
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Loves words and hence loves reading and writing. Has worked with renowned MNCs as data
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