Saturday, October 16, 2010

(Not) Standing Up For Others...

I was at the bus stop this morning, and a mother and her daughter passed by. I looked at them briefly, just like I'd look at any other passerby. Excpet that they were not like any other person. The daughter was mentally impaired, and the sight of it pained my heart.
And then I suddenly thought of Darana, a girl I hadn't thought of for many many years.

When I moved to Rio de Janeiro, I started going to this school where my aunt was the headmistress. It's a school for the  upper-middle class children, and there was a building just for high-school. Which means that said building was crawling with rich kids at the height of teenagehood. Or asshole-hood, that works too. Most of them were HUGE assholes.
And there was this girl one year behind us, Darana. Whenever she passed by, my classmates would make endless fun of her. As I wasn't actually paying much attention, I just shrugged. Not my problem - I already had my own stuff to worry about, being the plain, silent new girl and the headmistress' niece. Until one day in the bathroom, where there was only me and Darana. As we both washed our hands, I looked up at the big mirror in front of us, and realized Darana had Down Syndrome. I quickly looked back to my hands.
During the break I heard the mocking starting anew. I stopped reading and listened carefully. And to my surprise, they were not mocking Darana for having flunked, as I had vaguely supposed before: they were mocking her for having Down Syndrome. I was shocked. I sat there in silence as they went on and on about her being ugly, talking in a funny way and doing god knows what else.

At home, during dinner, I asked my aunt about Darana; she sighed and told me: it was... complicated. Darana was raised by her grandma, and she wanted the granddaughter to have a "normal" life, so, the girl was enrolled at a "normal" school. However, no kid at school had ever seen Darana as "normal". Apparently, there had always been the problem of mocking, which no amount of arguments and threats on my aunt's part had been able to solve.

I just watched the next few days, saying nothing. Then one day, during lunch time, I saw Darana sitting in a corner all by herself, drawing. I was pretty lonely myself, so I walked up to her.
"Hey!"
"Hi. You're Lucia's niece."
"Yep, that's me. Hey, you're drawing Mew!"
Mew was this character in the first Pokémon movie; I had taken my little cousin to see it a few days before, and Mew was this adorable little thing. And when I recognized it, her face lit up.
"You like Pokemon too?"
Well, I had to admit: after having spent endless afternoons with my cousin and watching so many episodes of the damn cartoon, I had kinda warmed up to it.
"Yeah, I do. I watch it quite often. And... your drawing is amazing! It's exactly the same!" It really, really was.
"Thank you! Lucia's son likes it too, right?"
"He adores it." Hearing that, she carefully ripped the page from the notebook.
"Take it to him!"
"I sure will, thanks!"

The days went by, and with them an entire year. I had my first boyfriend in 2001, and my first heartbreak. I made a couple of friends, whose friendship I did not care to pursue after graduation - and I made other friends whom I still make a point of keeping around. And with all of that, plus wrestling with Math and Physics, and trying not to be TOO MUCH of a letdown to my aunt, I barely had time to talk to Darana, except when she showed up in my house for her private classes.
But at the end of the year there was this festival at school, where the musically gifted students would make a presentation. People sang, played and danced, and the whole things was was loads of fun.
And then, at the very end, Darana stepped up on the stage, in a white laced dress. I had no idea she was gonna be a part of it, and was rather puzzled. 
And then, they brought a harp.
She sat down and played it. Perfectly, flawlessly. Every single one watching was in awe, and nothing but the utmost silence reigned in the audience. The damn girl played the harp better than a whole legion of freaking angels.
When she finished, the crowd went wild, and all of us stood up and applauded like crazy. I remember crying, and my friend Rebecca comforting me. What can I say? I'm a softy. I also remember wondering how anyone could actually mock that girl, or wish her less than all the best in the world. So what if she wasn't exactly a looker? What if she wasn't funny or good at sports? She could play the harp like an angel, and draw like a consumate artist. (Err... I'm not saying that based solely on her Pokemon drawing, just so you know. I saw many other drawings, of landscapes, people and god knows what else. All of them flawless, I tell you.)

The next day, my aunt told me Darana was going to a school for gifted people (ok, that kinda sounds like the X-Men). I was happy for her - and that was the last I ever thought of her. Until today.
Thinking of that now, I regret the way I handled myself in the situation. True, I never mocked her, nor did I ever laugh at one of the jokes made at her expense. But I did nothing to stop it. I could've stood up to those jerks, couldn't I? I could've told them how fucked up that was, or maybe spent some time with her, been her friend... I don't know, I could've done SOMETHING. Instead, I decided simply not to interfere. That was sheer cowardice. Or perhaps selfishness. Either way, that's so not what I'd like to teach my kids. To avoid trouble or any kind of unpleasantness... that's not what life's about. Life is, or should be, about fighting. For those who cannot stand up for themselves, for what's right. My only defense is: I was 15. What 15-year-old kid is actually able to see beyond their own belly buttom, right? Precious few. I just hope that now, 10 years later, I'm slightly better than that. In the end, that's all you can ask for.

13 comments:

Bella said...

hi!
abt ur post....as you said you were just 15yr old...i guess you did the right thing...according to your age! that is what counts! :)
anyways....so hw r u?? long time huh?!!

Rml said...

Hey Bella girl! Yep, long time! I was having Internet problems, and thus couldn't update my blog, or basically talk to anybody other than by phone! Horrible horrible times!
But I'm back! =)

RicAdeMus said...

We can't fight every battle and you were kind in your interactions with Darana...that means a lot.

No one should be judged by what they did at 15, maybe not even the assholes (but it's hard not to)--hopefully they grew out of it.

Bella said...

ohk....
welcome back :D

Bella said...

hey...listen...did you check Lupe's blog recently??
she has made some changes...and so i wasnt able to check her blog...i think unintentionally she blocked it...!:P
so....see if you can access it...

YAM said...

well, yeah, you're just 15..
guess its reasonable.

anyways, i missed being here!

fatima- said...

awwwww
but atleast u were reasonable wid her- not mokin & teasin her
xoxox

beanizer_05 said...

hmmmmmmm..
*thinking what to say*

guess, it's fine. At least there's a one 15yo robbie who made her smile, recognized her talent, made her feel ACCEPTED..right?..whenever you meet again, she will remember you pokemon--and you will surely draw a smile on her face AGAIN after 10 years..

Rml said...

@beanie: aren't you the sweetest? =)

beanizer_05 said...

*blink blink*

shoo! shoo!! these ants..*showing fist to ants*

hmmmm..hope you're not diabetic ma'am *wink*

Didzy said...

Darana must have been a really strong girl. I too can imagine how hard is that for her to be mocked at.

If you could only turn back the time, I'm pretty sure you'll do the right thing and stand up for her :)

(Btw, miss you!)

masterwordsmith said...

Hi RML,

Love your blog and the way you express your thoughts. Your willingness to share and blog topics are so refreshing! Thanks for the follow!

Take care and have a lovely Sunday! Do keep in touch.

God bless you!

Cheers

Rml said...

Why, right back at you! I loved your blog as well! Have a great Sunday! =)