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Date: 16th nov 2011 My last night's headache lasted until this morning.

Only when I drank a cup of freshly brewed coffee I could no longer feel the pain. Nothing s like the smell of hot steaming coffee. I turned on the radio to listen to my favourite RJ. After about half an hour of savoring melodious songs I heard the sudden blare of the door bell. God! I hate that loud ring. I was lethargic to answer the door. Somehow I got up from my comfortable sofa and answered it. Mrs.Mehta was the culprit who disturbed my peaceful morning. She is my next door neighbour who used to always drop by to say hello before going to the supermarket, park, and gym anywhere in the world. Once in a while she used to ask me to watch her 8 year old son for about an hour or sometimes more. Although I thought Mrs.Mehta to be an annoying lady infringing into my personal space I never declined her request. That was because I was fond of her son. His name was Sahil. As usual I took him in and gave him a plain sheet of paper and some sketch pens. I always make small kids busy with something so that they don't interfere with my work. This trick worked very well on Sahil too. Sometimes when I used to look at him while he was busy drawing - lost in his world of imagination - I felt good. I could hear him babble the names of the various colors as though he was confused about which one to choose. Watching him draw his favourite superhero, car and ocassionally a scenary was interesting. Once or twice I did help him. He was nothing like his mother. And I always found myself thanking the Almighty for that! I could never bear her for an hour. I used to wonder how the children of 4th grade whom Mrs.Mehta taught tolerated her all day. She was an instrument of torture that the school had hired to torment 4th graders. I felt sorry for them. From the time I shifted into this locality I have always been ducking her all the time, be it in the gym, the store, parking lot or at the laundry shop. I wondered what if I had a teacher like her when I was in school. It did not take me long to realize that her screeching voice would have definitely blown my brain out. On weekends she always asked me to join her for shopping or just spend time with her. I always made an excuse and asked her to count me out. I could not afford to be her accomplice as she criticized every other brand of grocery at the store. I would be absolutely, certified nuts to say yes to her and accompany her on her shopping spree. But she kept on asking me. May be she thought that if she was perseverant enough I would change my mind. Well, I found her perseverance as an excuse of not being obnoxious. That day as I watched Sahil draw I noticed a bruise on his arm and a few cuts which were like he had just wrestled against his cat. For a second a horrendous thought crossed my mind. Was he physically abused at home? I asked him what happened. He looked at it like it still hurt and replied at school . I was relieved. Does your mom know about it? What did she say? He smiled and said She said she was proud of me . His reply shocked me. How could anyone possibly be happy and take pride about their child getting into a fight at school?

It was time for Mrs.Mehta to come pick him. The door bell rang and I was bent on confronting her. Hello, would you like to come in for some tea? I asked. Sure, why not? was her prompt reply. While we sipped tea I was wondering how I should start. When I asked her she gave me an answer which was an exact replica of Sahil s words, as though they both had memorized it. I told her that she shouldn t be encouraging him. It is wrong to tell him that you are proud for what he has done. She smiled at me before placing the tea cup on the table. I m happy. He did the right thing . She continued, Children can be very cruel. I m glad my child isn t one among them. He got into an argument which very soon turned into a fight only to defend another kid. He could not stand him getting bullied by the other students. Ofcourse, I won t encourage him to break some kid s face. I don t want him to be the superman trying to save some damsel in distress. I m just happy that he does know the difference between what s right and what s wrong . I uttered But it s always been like that, the bigger kids bullying the smaller ones. Hasn t it? . Just because it is, doesn t mean it should be. She strongly protested. I could now feel her exasperation. She quickly composed herself and sighed. She continued, It s not only with kids. It s the same with adults. What changes is just the irrational excuse that we use to discriminate against others. I fail to understand why people can t be tolerant towards each other? Tolerance is such a great word. Why we lack the ability to show sympathy or indulgence for beliefs that conflict with ones own? Allow one to be different? Its not even saying you have to like them. It just says leave them alone, just let them be. She left after a few minutes but her words lingered in my mind violently rotating and whirling before triggering a tornado of thoughts. Yeah, she is damn right! Because someone is different from the crowd does not give us the right to be prejudiced against them. But isn t that exactly what I am? Did I not categorize Mrs.Mehta as the avoid her type? I must confess that I never even thought she could be considerate towards others. She surprised me. After hearing her thoughts today I was torn between the feelings of irreverence for myself and regards for her view. Human nature is very complicated. However hard we try to understand it at some point in time it does surprise us. We all want to be with people who agree with us, share similar view. We form groups to avoid being left out. Once a while when we find someone who thinks and lives differently we either think of them to be weird or annoying - like I did. Is it because it is human tendency to fear change? And so we deceive ourselves by assuring that being different means not being accepted by others. So here s the ultimate truth we all are prejudiced. In classrooms, at work, in the street, we single others out because we don t like a thing or two

about them. Why not just accept someone for who they are? Make one reason less to dislike and one reason more to get along? I was very sure of starting the campaign Get to know your neighbour very soon, something that I should have done long back. The first step to human communication is acceptance. Each person is unique. Each friendship is unique. So why not give a chance to ourselves to get to know someone better? Allow that someone to know us better? Do not judge a book by its cover was told to me ever since I was a child, not to be judgmental is what I learnt from my neighbour. :P ??