You are walking alone through the streets of Thimphu on a perfect summer evening. It is drizzling and cool breeze embalms your face. Listening to Don Williams strum his guitar, your feet take you far when suddenly out of nowhere you encounter a group of young men wanting to punch you and hit your head with beer bottles. Some carry glasses and others daggers and a few bicycle chains. As they come closer, stench of alcohol sends a bad signal down your lungs. And with no rhyme or reason, they want to beat you up. What will you do? Will you flee or fight back?
I was in a similar situation three years ago at a college. I was on my way to the dormitory from a classmate’s birthday when a group of gone-astray-students blocked my way. Now it wasn’t that late. One amongst the group was truly aggressive. He wants to hit me on the head with a Hit bottle while he on the other hand can hardly stand without his friends supporting him. I always thought the college campus was the safest place in the locality. Why was I arguing with a bunch of drunkards? Do I flee or fight back?
I fought against both the options and decided to stay. Running away seemed too coward an act, but fighting with people who could keep their bodies erect seemed even more foolish. But if they hit me, then there would be so many ‘unforeseen’ consequences. And if I chose to fight, I might only magnify the problem. Much against my male ego, I asked him not to hit me. But now the boy who wanted to bash my head dropped on the ground. His friends could no longer hold him.
And later when I narrated the harrowing incident to my friends, they all laughed as if thousand fingers were tickling their armpits. I knew they were hinting at my cowardice. But for me it took more courage. For once I said I will be brave and say no. And I did. If I did it otherwise, consequence would be severe. In the worst scenario, these boys would be terminated from the college or given the twentieth last warning.
I was glad that I at least extended their stay in the college by three days. These people who were about to see blood oozing out my head, three were terminated caught in a separate incident and the rest were awarded the last warning for the 21st time.
Sometimes to be a coward takes a lot of courage, but it is easier for courage to turn into cowardice at other times.