This is a confession...
One day when I was 8 year old, I was sitting in the classroom while the teacher was doodling on the chalkboard, teaching us about aquatic animals. She pointed at the tall lean boy with his spectacles, Harish and asked him some questions. He stood up and remained silent and didn't utter a word. She asked an easier question and he was still silent. She got annoyed and asked him to come to the board and write alphabets. He could not write beyond E. We were all surprised and didn't know how to react. Few of us laughed at him.
The teacher told him to sit on the floor of the classroom and with his repeated silence in every class, he was permanently deputed to sit on floor. The girls won't talk to him as he was demoted from the previous class to join our class. Looking at his height all the girls used to gossip about how many years he would have failed. He was also stinky. I don't know if he missed taking baths or we hated him so much that we felt that he stunk.
The boys would not make friends with him, even if some did, they would do so they could pull his leg. But I don't remember if he ever had a sad face. He always had a smile but we always turned our backs on him. Later he quit the school.
Then one day, I was 18, an adult. Crossing a road outside our new house, I saw him again. He had the same smile. I tried to ignore him 'the failure' but he came towards me, happily, and mentioned that we studied together. I simply said 'No' and walked. I don't know what harm he could have done to me, still I lied because in the back of my mind it was engraved that good girls don't talk to bad boys.
I am 30 plus and a mother. I come across various children with unique abilities and I learned about autism, ADHD, dyslexia and learning disorders. After knowing all this I felt shame. What have we done? A child sitting next to me might have suffered from one of these disorders, but all we did was to ignore him, call him a bad boy and insult him. And teachers whom we are meant to respect actually mistreated him. Were they not supposed to understand and talk to such children calmly?
I was a child, ignorant. I followed what our elders told us to do. But we were all wrong. I will someday find him and tell him all this, maybe on facebook or maybe his name would pop up on some news channel talking about his great achievements and put me to shame.