I don’t know what type of school you went to when you were growing up, but I went to one that had four houses. Each house had its own logo, its own flag, its own color.
I was in Eklavya house. Yellow. The color of virtue and of discipline. We had a motto, but I’ve forgotten that by now. All I remember is that Eklavyans were always competing against the other three houses. And our biggest rival was Prahlad house, and we hated their guts. A lot of metaphorical blood was spilt over relay races and debate competitions.
I was recently talking to a friend whose son is now studying in the same school. It was exciting at first because I was telling her about how Mister and I were constantly crossing paths because we were in the same house. Then we talked about the Prahlad house captain I had a secret crush on.
And then she told me that her six year old son hates everything Eklavya. Surprise surprise! The Eklavya-Prahlad rivalry is still on. I passed out of school in 1999 – that’s 15 years ago.
That revelation hit me hard in the face, much like my father’s bony hand.
And then, when the warm fuzzy feelings and my friend were gone, I found myself wondering who decided to divide students into houses and why. I think (and I may be completely wrong) that they did what they did because of the following reasons.
- Inculcating Team Spirit: Students, especially younger ones, are largely selfish by nature. They work as individuals – it is always my book, my pencil, my prize with them. They need to be taught to work together and help each other out. Houses help with that.
- Regulating Student Behavior: Students can be rowdy. Having houses would help teachers focus on smaller groups; this in turn would help regulate student behavior. The bullies can be kept in check and the timid ones can be brought out of their shells.
- Bridging Gaps: Belonging to a house provides some sort of grounding. It gives all the activities that take place in school some meaning. There are senior students acting as prefects to look up to and learn from. Teach-student relationships acquire a whole new dimension.
In my head, religion works pretty much the same way.
Religion helps bridge gaps, teaches compassion and love, and provides a set of guidelines to live by. All four religions teach the same principles albeit in four different ways.
This is all very well until I began to analyze what we’ve done with such a wonderful institution. We’re doing it all wrong, people!
Think about it:
- Is your morality – your innate sense of right or wrong – dependent upon whether you’re a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian or a Jew?
- Is your sense of justice dependent upon which religion you follow?
- Do you, as a human being, believe in equality and freedom even if it means someone somewhere does not believe that your god exists?
Seriously. Think about it.
So much blood, so much conflict. Where is the love? Where is the compassion? How did we allow ourselves to forget our motto? When did we switch from self-government to governing the others?
Shame on us, especially if we think we’re “religious”.