Chashmish is a derogatory term in Hindi that is used to refer to someone who wears spectacles. I had my first experience of this term when I was just about 5 years old. I must be among the rare breed of kids in my generation who got spectacles at such a young age. We were in Sitapur, a small town in UP, where dad was posted back then. In those days, it had one of the largest eye hospitals in Asia. The place had large rooms with contraptions that had jumping monkeys and tigers and bright red and green dots. Kids had to do fascinating stuff with these animated thingies including putting the animals in the cage or out. I was spellbound. With no video games or gadgets, this was my first experience of animated characters. I still remember being very excited while peeping through those intriguing gadgets.

Fun and games over came the painful part of eye testing for kids — the dreaded drops. The doctor would put them in my eyes to dilate the pupils. They stung. Confused, I would protest but mom would hush me.” It is needed, beta,” she would cajole. Sulking I would sit with my eyes shut in a dark room for what seemed like interminable time with mummy who sat quietly commiserating with her young daughter.

And when I came out of the room, everything seemed blurred. I hated that. The doctor who greeted me seemed nice enough. But I was upset at him, at mom, at everyone for making me go through this, my fascination with those animated animals gone by now. And then the doctor started my eye test. I read everything down to the last line. He tried again, changing the power in the humongous device that was perched on my tiny nose. No problem! I read everything again perfectly. The doctor was confused. He tried again with the same result. Now mom understood. She whispered something to him. He changed the slide to numbers. This time I could not even read the first line. Of course I had mugged up the lines and was just vomiting them out which mom had smartly figured out. So finally, I was given a prescription.

Then began the nightmare. A very ugly-looking plasticky thing in a shade of brown with glasses was given to me to be worn. I started crying as soon as I saw it. Why did I have to wear it? Well, dad wore spectacles but they were for the adults, weren’t they? Children did not wear specs. I WILL NOT wear them! After much coaxing, bribing and threatening, I was forced to wear that detested thing. I felt very self-conscious. It was painful as that ‘thing’ kept sliding down my nose very often. But I had no clue of the nightmare I was about to face at school.

The children in my class teased me mercilessly. Everywhere I heard ‘chashmish’ ‘chashmish.’ It was relentless. I remember crying but to no avail. The first day was the worst so much so that I had silently vowed never to wear it again. So, I wore the spectacles when my sister came to drop me off to class, and promptly took them off and kept them in my bag as soon as she left. I was careful to wear them back after the classes ended. This went on for a few days till my sister found out and brought an end to this. The teachers were then roped in to ensure that I wore my spectacles and also to rein in the kids. But you know how kids are. They found ways to bully me.

I also tried other tricks in my book. I would ‘accidentally’ drop my specs in the toilet in the morning. I must have ‘accidentally dropped’ at least 5 pairs. Then mom put a tight, rubber band kind of thing to hold my specs. That used to hurt my hair and I resented that adding to the ugliness of my specs. But slowly I stopped dropping the specs ‘accidentally’ anywhere. As days passed, the kids got bored and I guess more used to seeing an alien with glasses among them. It also helped that I was a very bright student. That always has its perks in terms of gaining friends and followers.

So slowly the teasing got reduced and perked with regular doses of gyan by my mother, I became more confident and understanding of the reasons as to why I had to wear glasses. I did get lenses a long time later after I had done my graduation.

Today I feel very comfortable in my spectacles. I do switch between lenses and glasses and certainly feel no complex about my appearance as I used to when I was a little girl. That word ‘chashmish’ still makes me flinch though!

Why am I reminiscing? My younger son on his recent eye checkup a couple of days back has been told that he will need spectacles. I take both of them for routine eye checkups every year. Many kids in his class already have spectacles and so do most kids he knows. So, it is not much of an aberration as it was for me. You get fantastic glasses these days so I got him one with Spiderman design and in the colours he liked. The Disney case is really lovely. Mom and brother praised him to the skies when he tried them out. I am sure he will feel a bit awkward when the school reopens. But what I am certain of is that he will have none of the nightmarish experiences that I had.

Of course, the word Chashmish has been banned in my home!

58 Thoughts on “Chashmish

  1. I’m not sure why, but as a child and probably as a young adult, I’ve always wanted to wear specs. So much so that I used to pretend I couldn’t read the board sometimes at the optician’s 🙂 Even to day, Though I now have glasses, I still love wearing them. Except when I have to watch a 3D film. Then it just sucks. I am sure your little one will cope just fine 🙂

    • Wow, Sid, you were quick! And your namesake, my elder son, tried a similar stunt at the Optician’s the other day. He got a firing but no spectacles. Oh, specs look so smart now and geeky and glamorous as well. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that way when I got mine way back. I was bullied like crazy. I even watch 3D movies with my specs. But yes, it does give a headache especially when kids nearby are also yelling :).

  2. I don’t think Gautam will be teased coz there are so many kids with specs now ! Kids can be heartless though and I hate it when a child is teased !

  3. Totally with you.. though I got my specs late around class 12, my daughter has got it at a ripe old age of 4… and we are seeing every thing that you mention in this post…..

    • Isn’t it so much tougher to explain it to younger kids? I remember being despondent. It was quite an anomaly 3 decades back to have spectacles for children. So I was picked on even more.

  4. same pinch…same pinch…same story….I got glasses around the same age. But I think I wore them without much whining 🙂 I hated glasses as they disfigured the features of my face and they dominated anything else on my face. I had some kids call me ‘blind’ but I remember giving some nice punches. (Yeah! I learned karate back then). Now, I don’t want to end up a post writing it but I got rid of them with Lasik and I can wear the goggles I want 🙂 Rushi also inherited it a year back. S was super upset and sad about it, but R is handling them quite well. You know what, many people have the fancy to wear glasses. They will know the pain only when they really wear them daily.

    • I know many have done Lasik but I am not comfortable with any surgical procedure on my eyes. I am very comfortable with both lenses and spectacles now. The worst part was the bullying I had to face. Now, it is common to get glasses. No one was sad when Gautam got his. His brother also angled to get his but was reprimanded by the doctor :).

  5. I love my specs…they give an instant intellectual look to anyone. Here’s something I once wrote on the same issue

    • That is wonderful, Shaivi. Unfortunately, I hated mine especially when very young. The frames were so ugly back then :). Sure will hop over to your post.

  6. Rachna for you it was Chashmish as for me I had not one but perhaps many which I still flinch about. Moti being one of them. But it was not from others that it hurt for they did not find me so. Strange but it’s true but it was my family which always found me so. And the discrimination just because I have been healthy has carried on…and I blogged about it once. I guess we all have something from childhood that we dislike…some word…some memories. Am I am glad that it was just chashmish for you and moti for me…
    Gautam looks cute and happy in his Chashma. I was excited too when I got my first one in the 5th grade. Yeah had to live with the hassles too but now if the house is on fire and if there is one thing I have to pick and run…well it’s going to be my Chashma.
    Bollywood and it’s romanticism…well ‘ chashmish’ in Kal Ho Na Ho and may be others does not sound that bad…wonder if u have seen the movie.
    Pls visit my blog too. Would love to see ur opinions about my thought process.

    • Shivani, you are completely right when you say that these words hurt the most when your family uses them. Luckily for me, in my family, everyone was super conscious, so I found moral support there. It is dismaying when parents or siblings bully, then one has nowhere to run. I am glad you like your chashma. I like mine too. I have experimented with red, blue and so many fabulous colours. They look very smart. Yep, I have seen the movie. Wish it had come out when I was a kid. It would have increased my smartness quotient :). Thanks for reading!

  7. As somebody who has been wearing glasses since I was 12 yrs old (more than a couple of decades now) I could completely relate to this post, and guess what, on a recent visit to the opticians, I actually asked the lady taking the test to change the sheet in front of me as I had ended up memorizing it without me consciously wanting to 😀

    While it was chasmish for you, it was kannadi for me, given that I was in Bangalore back then. And even today, when I hear the term being used derogatorily it still takes me back to those days when the rule was ‘bully or be bullied’ in an all boys school.

    Am sure your younger one will enjoy his stint with glasses, Spiderman ones, no less 🙂

    • hehe I guess it sort of happens naturally as one is made to read the same lines over and over again. My story dates back more than 3 decades, and all the bullying was pure hell for me compounded because I was so young and confused.

      Gautam is pretty excited with his new look. He picked this frame and stayed put as we ploughed through a wide variety of frames. He has been preening in them since yesterday :D.

  8. As you said Rachna, kids are brutal. I wonder why, though. Is it because they are themselves at the butt of ridicule from adults? I have seen many families where taunting, jibing and insulting a young child… until s/he is incoherent with rage… is quite a norm. It is disgusting and painful to see it. I have long thought that there ought to be a formal ‘rites of passage’ kind of a thing before you are allowed to give birth. It would not only curb the exponential population growth but also produce a generation that is properly raised.

    Oh well! Dreams…!! 🙂

    • I have no clue why some kids are just so insensitive. But yes, there are folks who feel it is okay to jibe and insult a child. They say it toughens them up. I used to have open tiffs with my in-laws’ side of relatives who were quite okay with making fun of children. They slowly stopped doing it in my presence. I think it has something to do with the way they are brought up. Some become belligerent and bullying while others are such wimps that you can’t speak to them objectively. Their kids are sacrosanct. I try to steer clear of both these kinds.

      I wonder if anything can make better parents. Parents are creatures of their own upbringing and most have been brought up by screaming parents who did not flinch in beating their kids black and blue. It sort of gets internalized and surfaces when these same kids have their own kids.

  9. Oh yes, kids can be quite insensitive, but they most likely get it from their parents or other adults. I also think things were probably worse in the past, these days perhaps because of higher political correctness or greater exposure, things are changing. Two of my nieces have been wearing glasses for quite a while now, but fortunately haven’t had to deal with any insensitive non-sense. Maybe there is also this “cool” look that kids with glasses these days now carry. Could be the better-looking glasses 🙂
    A very good post, Rachna.

    • You are right, Beloo. Things were pretty bad say 2 or 3 decades back as compared to now. In those days, bullying wasn’t considered as politically incorrect as it is now. My niece wears spectacles and so do most kids around me, some of them pretty young. Glasses do look cool now and pretty smart as well! Thanks for reading and liking the post!

  10. I hated my glasses when I was a kid too. Now the tables have turned and I love my glasses because they give me a smart appearance. I guess it has to do with the wide variety of frames now available to choose from. My daughter is fascinated by my glasses and I have to reprimand her for trying on mine.

    Your son’s new glasses are very very cool! I am sure his friends are going to love them 🙂

    • Indeed, it is good that the glasses are so lovely these days. It saves a lot of kids from the bullying I suffered. Yes, my sons are pretty fascinated by glasses as well. I am sure Gautam will be just fine :). Thanks for reading and sharing, Gauri!

  11. I got my glasses in class 9th and by 12th, somehow the number had reversed. My vision had come back to normal and i heaved a sigh of relief because I have never really developed a liking for them. Got teased badly. But i think, with so many kids with spectacles these days, teasing should not be there. I loved the glasses 🙂

    • Yes, my number also came down over the years. Now it is very low. With kids, that is mostly the case. As their eye muscles get stronger, their power reduces. Kids are such morons when it comes to teasing. I think it will be much better for my son.

  12. I cannot live wo specs and my life not possible wo it!! I became so used to it and remember when I was wearing, peeps saying o intellectual which was so stupid.

    • Exactly, Vishal! For some it is a necessity. It is in such poor taste to pick on such kids and adults. All the stereotypes associated with spectacles are so silly.

  13. Oooh the spiderman glasses look cool! 🙂

  14. I started wearing specs in ninth grade. My friends did not chide me though as I was the class topper and they thought that was a sign to it. But family is not the one to stop their tongues from wagging. Specs at a young age, parents not taking care of me properly, no nutrition.. blah blah blah. Thankfully I never payed heed to them and was proud of my glasses. I still am.

    I switched to lens when I started graduation. Today I wear lens 90% of the times. Even though, I enjoy glasses at home and while reading.

    • True Soumya. People just don’t keep their mouth shut. From passing judgments on your nutrition, reading habits to looks, they don’t miss any opportunity. I am happy that we are irreverent these days, capable of giving back especially to nasty people. I am pretty comfortable now but hated the childhood bullying around the entire spectacles wearing.

  15. I got my glasses in 8th and I was very happy about it.. I always thought glasses made one look smart 😛 the good thing was that instead of Chasmish I got to hear Chashme Baddoor at home but I am sure if I were in your place I would have been exactly the same. Chashmish sounds so bad!
    Gautam looks very smart in the pic 🙂

    • Yes, glasses do make you look smart, but you should have seen the disgusting frames that were there in my childhood :). They were anything but smart. Luckily everyone at home was nice. The same could not be said about my nasty classmates. I am sure Gautam would love reading your comment :). Thanks for reading!

  16. Ohh you reminded me of another ordeal, the hostel days in school. and the Chashmish, I have had glassses from 5th class, and asyou say those horrible plastic black, round or square frames .. I dont know why parents always liked those frames..

    I had another problem as in school we had to wear a turban from 6th class and the arms of the glasses had to be stuck inside .. made a mess of the turban too..

    Thankfully after school when i joined college got , len’s and there on i was comfortable.. strangely , since I came ot uk and got my hair cut I have gone back to glasses, I have len’s but I dont recall wearing them for a long long time ..

    maybe now there are so many good frames that have come in the market ..

    and another thing for me is specs are SO CHEAP in India, I had ot get one pair made here and it cost me 300+ Pounds.. for the really cheap frame.. Yesssssss they are so Expensive here .. so this time when i came from india I got 5 different pairs made and can wear one a day in the week 🙂

    • For you it was double trouble, Bik! Yes, specs are so much more comfortable and definitely smart looking as well. Wow, one pair for each day; that sounds cool :D.

  17. That is one of those things that never gets told about children in all the mush about their innocence and all 🙂 They can be perfect beasts 🙂

    • Oh absolutely, children are beasts :). They can be very vicious and cruel. Many children have been completely broken down by bullying.

  18. Datta Ghosh on May 21, 2014 at 8:17 pm said:

    My case is just the opposite, I am the dark horse because I never needed specs and my Mom, Dad my younger brother too had it, they said I never studied so no strain on eyes so, no specs, funnily I was a topper who never studied and marks were not enough they were not happy with my effort or no effort.

  19. I got glasses in First Standard. Strangely, I don’t recall any of the bullying….not sure if there wasn’t any, or if I just suffer from selective memory loss! But yes, I do remember the THRILL of being able to read the Blackboard again! 😀

    • You! Lucky you! I am sure if there was any, you’d have remembered. I wonder if girls were/are targeted more. I think for me my number was very low so I didn’t exactly need them or perhaps because I detested them so much, I must have convinced myself that I could see clearly even without them :).

  20. I agree. It was rare for kids in my generation to get spectacles, if anyone did get one, the blame would go to the humble, single channel TV that telecast only for a few hours in the evening (unlike today) 🙂 . I have worn specs more than half my life, but never faced any bias because of it. However, I can relate many other cases where kids were nasty to me. It is surprising how deeply kids at such a tender age can scar other kids. Sometimes for life.

    • Oh yes, it is unbelievable how much TV viewing was blamed for kids getting spectacles. I can’t imagine how our puny DD watching could have contributed to it. Yes, kids can be very nasty unless reined in. I suffered the brunt initially.

  21. I always wanted to specs so that I could complete my geeky image! But to no avail! Even after multiple attempts to ‘spoil’ my eyes, I still have 20/20 vision! Big A has specs though and I hate it because it completely masks his beautiful eyes! 🙁
    Gautam looks cute though and I’m glad that no one in his class teases him!

    • haha I find the spectacles really glamourous and geeky. And you are right, it does give a scholarly look. The frames we had back then were downright ugly making you look like ugly owls. These days they are pretty nice. I hope no one teases Gautam. The school only starts in June after summer vacations.

  22. I humoured my young daughter who was prescribed glasses to rebuff those who called her chashmish with ‘..specs are an intellectual thing, gadhe chashma nahi pahan saktey..’

  23. Wow little Gautam does look so cute. I think the age old advice in this case too will be for kids not react to comments. The other party will soon lose interest in his/her bullying. 🙂

  24. I wore specs from age 10 to 21 and as soon as I could I did lasor surgery. Even though having glasses was quite cool and they came in so many different styles, I felt they were so time consuming. I have loved not having glasses now! Sorry t hear you were teased at school. Kids will always find something to tease about unfortunately.

  25. Gautham looks great in his specs and he is happy too! Thank god, he is comfortable with it!

    I can imagine how it felt for you! Most of these teasings are short-lived. Children lose interest very fast. It is good to know that this didn’t affect your studies.

  26. I started wearing glasses when I was in class ix. I had a real fascination for them then. I thought they gave you a smart look 🙂 but I was real bad at choosing a good frame for myself, the nerd that I was. After I went to college I picked a good one. I switched to contact lens after I started working.Then I underwent LASIK surgery in 2007 and no specs so far

    • Yep they can look smart but what could be better than one’s own face :). What I don’t understand is why people got picked on for it.

  27. I am sure no one will make fun of your son as there are so many kids wearing glasses today. And I am sure though the whole bullying thing you faced was bad, it made you stronger and more confident as a person. Gautam will do just fine. 🙂

    • Thanks :D. I don’t know if it made me any stronger. It made me taste bullying at a very young age for sure and more sensitive to such issues as well.

  28. I don’t think he will be teased.
    I was teased only by my best friends and not everyone else! heh! But then, I wasn’t the only one with specs in my class so I guess that helped as well.
    I was called “soda” for a very long time. My school friend calls me Soda even today!!

    I love my specs.. and enjoy wearing them. I don’t wear lens. somehow, never warmed up to contacts..

    • Oh, he is doing great, Pixie. In fact, he said his friends loved his Spiderman glasses. He looks so nice in them. These days, lenses have become rare for me too. Specs are so much more convenient :D.

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