Guest column by Kriti Chopra
“Kriti, you F.O.B., go back to where you came from, we don’t want you here.”
(F.O.B. means “Fresh off the boat.”)
I can vividly recall the days when I was bullied because of the way I dressed, spoke and my skin colour.
I moved to Canada when I was 10 years old. I had pictured myself going to a public school with no uniforms, meeting new people and maybe even becoming the popular kid. But, to my surprise, the new school, in Surrey, turned out to be my worst nightmare.
I had never imagined that my elementary school years would involve me being tormented with profanity, insults and threats from my classmates. For the next four years, I would spend my lunch time alone in the girl’s washroom, trying my best to avoid the bullies. I used to lock myself up inside the corner bathroom stall, sit on the toilet seat, curl my feet to my chest and count the minutes until the end of the lunch break. I was afraid I would be picked on and humiliated in front of everyone. I did my best to ignore it but bullying found its way to me.
I had an incident where my chair was smothered with ketchup. The “prank” was to have me sit on the chair and have my pants covered in ketchup so it looked like I had menstruation bleeding. If this wasn’t already enough, the very next day, two of the bullies came running behind me saying, “Hey alien, wait up!” and, me being so naive, I stopped. The minute they got close to me, they grabbed me by my arm and soaked me in Coke from head to toe.
Standing on the middle of the street with my clothes all stained with sticky pop, I could not move and cried out for help. Unfortunately, no one came to help me.
There were several other incidents similar to these, and they left me with no self-confidence, fear of meeting new people and trouble eating or sleeping. I started to believe that something was really wrong with me. The worst part was the fact that my teacher was well aware of what was going on but chose to do nothing whatsoever to help me with my situation.
I grew up believing that no one would ever fall in love with me and that I would be lonely. I felt worthless and believed I did not deserve any more than what I got. But now that I look back and realize ignoring the bullies and the bullying wasn’t the solution.
The following are some of the ways I pushed through bullying:
• Getting involved in the community. I can’t emphasize this enough, but volunteering can have a tremendous impact on building up one’s self confidence.
• Finding a mentor you can speak with. This can be someone who can understand the broader picture and advise you better.
• Remembering that you are enough and you have the capacity to do anything you set your mind to.
• Focusing on the positives and giving yourself time. Looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself that you are amazing, charming, lovable and caring.
• Finding hobbies that help you feel good about yourself.
Today, I am 21 years old and hold the title of Miss Heart & Soul 2016-2017 as part of the Miss BC pageant, held from July 3 to 5 at Chief Sepass Theatre in Fort Langley. I am so glad to say that I have overcome all the fears and anxiety that bullying instilled in me. Currently, I am a mentor for youth at risk and a crisis-line phone counsellor. I intend on becoming a lawyer once I am done my bachelor’s degree in business.
Kriti Chopra lives in Surrey. Her website is at Kritichopra.com.