Rishita Rana, a 17 year old national level boxer residing in Mumbai hails from a mixed culture of India and Nepal. The young Indian faced various stigmas from the Indian society, purely for her physical appearance. Not being accepted by the country you are born and brought up in surely takes a toll on your mental health.
They often say, school is your second home. But what happens when that school turns into a toxic environment? The young Indian, Rishita, fell prey to bullying from a very young age. It started off with a few classmates and spread like wild fire with peers from various grades commenting on her facial features. Walking through corridors became almost impossible without being noticed and frowned upon. It got to a point where the young Indian believed it was normal and happened to everybody. “I thought everybody has some sort of deformity and they all get bullied for it”, recalled Rishita.
Up until Rishita was bullied, she was a happy go lucky girl, who looked at her self in the mirror confidently without batting an eye but during her 9th grade, the bullying worsened and so did her mental health. Not having anyone to sit with but having all eyes on her, Rishita felt helpless, choking on her own breath.
If you fall down while playing in school and have a mere cut, you’re sent to the school nurse to treat your wound. But what happens when the wound is inside you, hidden from the naked eye?
Due to the escalated bullying, Rishita started having panic attacks in school. But due to the negligible mental health awareness, her teachers did nothing about it, far away from calling for medical assistance.
Time and again, situations have proven the fragility of mental health, yet, education systems in India blind side its existence. The result of such neglect can prove to be permanent, like that for Rishita.
Not soon enough, Rishita decided to do something about it and not be dragged down by people’s judejments and stereotypes. Mary Kom being the center of inspiration, Rishita resorted to boxing as a way to channel her energy. She went on to compete at state and national level, bagging a silver medal whilst representing Maharashtra.
The young Indian placed 4th at the national level after which no one dared to mess with her in school. But not soon enough, the bullying and racism began some place else. Rishita’s boxing coach blatantly began using Rishita as bait for his other students. “I was sent for matches where I won but then my name was replaced with some other student without informing me’, recalls Rishita. The situation worsened when Rishita was sent for a match with her father only to wait for hours to know the match had been cancelled the previous day.
When does one draw the line between racism, bullying and humility?
Scrapping the little dignity left, Rishita had no choice but to quit boxing and find a new passion to follow and a new identity to create for herself. She left no leaf unturned in trying her hands at everything, from writing to public speaking, she found new talents and set a new bar of capabilities for herself.
Rishita, the young Indian is a perfect example of when life knocks you down, throw a harder punch. She may have been a victim to racism and bullying but she didn’t let that define her. ‘Be kind and courageous’, says Rishita and this is how she broke out of her society-made mould.