The quad at North Point, Darjeeling. Photograph copyright: AIJAZ QAIDAR
A couple of days ago, I saw a very interesting post on bullying at One From The Cuckoo's Nest and I promised that I would respond with a follow-up.
There is one inescapable fact about bullies - they always pick on people whom they can dominate. When was the last time you saw a bully throwing his or her weight around with a person who was physically stronger than them?
I was fortunate enough to attend boarding school at St Joseph's College, North Point, Darjeeling - and not once in my years there did I ever see an example of bullying. But like most teenagers, I simply took certain things for granted: a) that my personal space would not be invaded; b) that the Canadian, Belgian and Indian Jesuit priests who ran the school would function as the surrogate parents of every schoolboy, from the six-year-olds to the seventeen-year-olds; c) that bullies were ogres you only read about in fiction and d) even though all of us boarders were many hundreds of miles away from our parents, the priests who were entrusted with our safety never, ever, compromised it.
It was a couple of years after I left school that the wisdom of the Jesuits suddenly struck me. I was eighteen years old and had returned to the school for a short holiday. While I was there, the student editor of the schoolboy magazine, `Among Ourselves', interviewed me. His final question was: ``What would you say is the best thing about North Point?''
And that was when it hit me. It was all crystal clear, so lucidly and so suddenly. Father Henry Depelchin, the Belgian founder, had set up the school in three separate areas - what we would call ``exclusion zones'' today. There was the Primary Division, for boys from Grade One to Grade Five. The Lower Division was for kids in Grade Six to Grade Eight. And the Upper Division was for lads from Grade Nine to Grade Eleven. Each of the three Divisions was a separate wing of the school, yet an integral part of it. The PD kids had their own refectory, study hall, playground and classrooms. Likewise the LD and UD. You did not mix with kids from other divisions unless they were brothers or cousins.
But it did not stop there. Kids in Grade Five were prefects, looking after the needs of the younger ones. When they got to Grade Six, they were the small fry in the Lower Division. In Grade Eight, they were seniors once more, entrusted with responsibilities beyond their years. In Grade Nine, they were again small fish in a big pond. Result? No ego problems, no sudden need to impose their will on others less powerful than them.
Thank you, Fr Depelchin and all the Jesuits and lay teachers who followed your example at North Point. We thank you, with equal measures of love and humility. And we pledge to spread your message. We humbly acknowledge our greatest debt to you. Today, we are men at peace with ourselves because of your vision.