We often allow ourselves to be prejudiced against people we hardly know. What if we simply gave them a chance?
The word of the day is – Prejudice.
Getting ready to hate Meera
I should have been happy when Ai told me that Meera was coming to visit us. Actually, I was happy. To begin with. Then I began thinking about what it would mean to have Meera staying with us for two weeks. And slowly I began to feel that perhaps it wouldn’t be such a great thing after all. At the end of an hour’s thinking I arrived at the conclusion that I was definitely not looking forward to my cousin Meera’s visit.
Meera is a year younger than me and lives in Bangalore. We’ve met at various marriages and family functions, but never visited each other. But I know all about Meera. I’ve heard so much about Meera that I could probably fill a 100 page notebook! Because you see, my cousin Meera is very good at everything she does. She’s always topping her class and she’s been learning Bharatanatyam since she was five years old and is always in the school dances. Meera is also good at debates, elocutions, creative writing and essay writing… you name it and Meera has not only done it but won a prize for it.
Whenever Aaji visits us she brings wads of photographs of Meera doing all these interesting things and being given prizes for that. And while it is okay to have photos thrust at you I was not sure it would be okay to have Meera herself thrust at me. I am what the teachers call ‘a satisfactory student’ but I know that what they really mean is that I don’t work as much as I should. Every year my report card says things like, “Obedient. Can do better”, while the column for extracurricular activities is blank because I don’t participate in any of those. And while this has never worried me, I got to thinking of what someone like Meera would make of me and that was when I realized that having her visit was not such a good idea.
From that moment I began to dread my cousin Meera’s visit. I thought so much about it and about Meera’s accomplishments that I began to dislike her. I would be doing my homework and think, “Meera will laugh at my handwriting!” and I would feel a surge of anger at my cousin. Or I would be looking around my room, which is always messy, and think, “Meera will think I live in a pigsty!” And then I began to get angry with Meera and say things like, “If Meera doesn’t like me or my room she can sleep in the hall!” or I would lay down conditions like, “If Meera is mean to me I won’t share my books with her!”
By the day of Meera’s arrival I was close to hating my cousin. It was the first day of my summer vacations and I should have been happy; instead I was grumpy as I cleaned my room and readied the bed that Baba had moved in the day before. Meera’s train was to arrive in the afternoon and Baba had asked me if I wanted to go to the railway station to receive her. But I had refused to go. Instead I had spent the morning in my room, trying to clean it up even as I grumbled about having to do it. I tell you, I was in a strange state that day.
And then the doorbell pealed. It was Baba, shepherding Meera and her father, my uncle Suraj, into the house. Meera was just as I remembered her, though she seemed to have grown taller. It seemed to me that her eyes were darting around, eager to pounce on something that she did not approve of. We said ‘Hi’ to each other and I knew that my face was wooden and that I was not looking particularly welcoming but then, I didn’t feel welcoming.
When Ai asked me to take Meera to my room, I led the way, imagining her casual criticism. Instead Meera looked around, said, “What a nice room!” and then, as if she couldn’t stop herself, added “I’ve been so terrified of meeting you, Manasi!”
Terrified of meeting me? What did she mean? “It’s just that,” Meera began, “I’ve heard so much about you and… how good you are with helping around the house and …Art and Crafts ….that I felt really scared to meet you. I kept imagining you finding fault with me and refusing to talk to me and…” She trailed away and stared at me out of worried eyes.
Suddenly I saw myself as Meera was seeing me – an older cousin whom she only knew from all the stories she had heard. A cousin who might hate her. And the hate I had been carefully building up over the past few days melted away. “Me?” I laughed, genuinely amused. “Hate you? When I’ve been waiting so eagerly for you!” Well, I thought, it was true, in a way. “We’re going to have so much fun!” I smiled, pushing away memories of my anger at Meera. “There’s so much I want to learn from you – how to dance and how to …”
Meera let out a sigh and from that moment we were friends.
This story was published in Young Buzz, the children’s pages of Sakal Times.