Thursday, August 6, 2020
Content creator Arwin Kumar and film director cum actor Afdlin Shauki speaks to me about the bullying they faced in their schoold days.
By Bissme S
ARWIND KUMAR had a miserable time while at secondary school. His seniors called him derogatory names. Slowly, the verbal abuse turned into physical abuse.
“I dreaded going to school every day,” says the 25-year-old content creator and mental health advocate.
“I was kicked. I was spat on. I did not cause any harm to them. I was simply clueless as to why they were mean to me. I kept asking myself what I had done to deserve this.”
He thought that life was not worth living and had suicidal thoughts. The bullying only stopped when he was 16.
“The seniors who bullied me graduated and left school,” said Arwind.
“I felt a sense of relief. Slowly, I was able to enjoy my remaining high school days.”
But the bullying haunted him later as an adult.
“I had no self-esteem left,” he said.
He was afraid to voice out his opinions, and suffered panic attacks when he was in public places. Slowly, he learned to overcome his fears.
He feels boys should be given the freedom to express their emotions.
“When a boy cries, you always find people will tell the boy to ‘stop crying like a girl’,” he says.
“By making these kinds of comments, you are giving a wrong picture to the young boy. You are telling him that he should be an alpha male ... he should be rough and tough ... He should not be soft by showing his emotions. Indirectly, you are creating a toxic masculinity atmosphere.
“No boys are aggressive naturally. It is how we raise them. There should be no gender [limitations] when it comes to expressing emotions.”
Like Arwind Kumar, comedian, actor and director Afdlin Shauki went through a similar experience. His bully called him many unkind names, from ‘fat’ to ‘slob’. But he decided to use his talent for comedy to protect himself.
“I was making my bullies laugh,” says 49-year-old Afdlin.
“So, my bullies found me funny and left me alone. They considered me the class clown whose main aim was to entertain them.
“My comedy skills saved me from getting bruises.”
But the vicious name calling was enough to scar him for life.
“I suffered from an inferiority complex,” he says.
“I thought I was never good enough. I believed that if any good thing happened to me, it was because I was lucky. That my hard work and talent did not play a role.”
He had to go through a cycle of self-analysis before he was able to gain some confidence.
He says: “When I became confident, I became aggressive, and became a bully myself. I was putting people down, emotionally. I was doing to other people what the bullies did to me.
“I had the wrong perception that to be powerful, you have to put people down. From an inferiority complex, I began to have a superiority complex.”
Luckily, he managed to overcome this negative stage of his life. In fact he directed two films, Buli (2004) and the sequel Buli Balik ( 2006) to emphasise that bullying can have dire consequences.
It upsets him tremendously whenever he sees a viral video where children are bullying other children. He believes schools should provide psychology services to students who have suffered through bullying.
“You do not want them growing up as destructive individuals,” he says.
Side bar :
Headline What makes a person a bully
MATILDA XAVIER, the clinical psychologist who is the founder of Mentem Psychological Services, has said that bullying is all about powerplay.
She says: “People bully because there is a difference in power. The one who is doing the bullying feel he or she has a more powerful standing [in life].”
The reasons that someone resort to bullying may vary. The person could have seen this kind of behaviour in his or her own home, and accept it as normal, and eventually practised this behaviour with classmates.
“Others bully because they want to impress their classmates,” she says.
She does not rule out the possibility that bullies could also be victims themselves, and may want to unleash a similar pain upon their innocent classmates while at school, allowing the cycle of viciousness to continue.
She firmly believes one cannot minimise the act of bullying.
“You cannot say bullying is simple teasing between friends,“ she says.
“Teasing is where you and the other person are having fun, and both of you are laughing. Teasing is not about putting someone else down. The moment the other person feels attacked, it is no longer teasing. You cannot justify behaviour where people’s actions can lead to shame.
“What do you get when you shame the other person? There should be zero tolerance for bullying.”