November 7, 2016

What I did not learn at Loyola

Desmond Macedo

Secularism. I didn’t know what that was. Never heard it in school, no teacher mentioned it, and, I’m sure, no other student heard it either. And only years after I passed out did I realise, for instance, there was a Parsi in school. While I was there, nobody in the school thought it important to tell me.

I knew that boys came from Kirkee and NCL and Deccan and Aundh. If they belonged to Sikkim or the 24 Parghanas or Nanded or Jullundhar, I did not know. May be the teachers knew, but they didn’t think it necessary to tell us. It was never so important to discuss each one's different state and hometown.

No one told me not to speak Hindi in the school premises. Likewise, no other student was ever told not to speak in his mother tongue. I mention this because I hear of English-medium schools today that insist their students speak only in English while in school.

And I read about top bracket institutions in India where caste is present. Loyola never taught me this subject.  But if I remember well, there was one category of student who found favour with everyone in school – the boy who took studies as well as sports seriously. And when the swimming pool came up, all of us joined Fr Schoch in a swim, almost every evening.

Oddly, I don’t remember being taught to compete in the classroom. But on the playground, everyone was encouraged to participate, compete, and win, in that order. In the class, I was encouraged to simply improve on my own performance. Later, I saw the significance. Competition in class breeds one-upmanship, whereas, on the playground, it encouraged boys to take part. Not all boys could run long-distance races - 800/1500 meters - but every boy who took part in one had to complete the race, first and foremost.

If there were different social classes, I was never taught about them. But I do remember that boys were discouraged from coming to school in cars.  In conversation with a schoolmate, he told me of a case - the student used to come to school on bicycle while his tiffin came in a Merc. Some parents in those days encouraged their sons to cycle to school, although they could use the school bus. Looking back, it seems the parents in those days also lived by principles similar to the school.

And to me the idea of tolerance is flawed. You tolerate when you recognise a difference. In Loyola, there was no difference, so there was no need to learn about tolerance. Simple.

Even today, I meet classmates and schoolmates and it matters little to each how the other has grown in his profession. But if you can still kick the football like you used to in school, or you are still energetic, then, according to them, you have lived well.

On one occasion, I recall a teacher suggesting we go see Easy Rider. None of us did, but I did see it years later and wondered, ‘So back then no teacher thought it important to teach us any kind of censorship on sex, drugs and rock n roll.’

Now, it seems, what I did not learn at Loyola has been my finest education.

And I am sure, this been your experience, too.

Note: I wrote this piece a couple of years ago. A few changes to reflect events around us, otherwise the same. That picture above of the school is from the 60s. Loyola, Pune. Here is a more recent one: