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HindustanTimes Mon,24 Nov 2014

What's your label, anyway?

Manasvi Tewari   January 21, 2013
First Published: 10:36 IST(21/1/2013) | Last Updated: 10:38 IST(21/1/2013)

What is the difference between a T-shirt and "a T-Shirt"? None, except the label on it. There exists a huge difference between a Nike T-shirt and a T-shirt you bought from the 'rehri' market. While both the T-shirts may be of the same colour and material, and even made in the same place, there is a large price difference between the two. In today's world, what adds value to a product is not only its quality but also its brand, the label.

There is a craze for brands and labels. But in the materialistic pursuit to belong to a certain faction of the society, haven't we also started labelling and branding humans?

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Thanks to our love for finding order amidst chaos and the perpetual desire of man for belongingness, we often resort to classifying the myriads of students into stereotypes. We don't want to waste time in knowing everyone; we just classify him or her. Meaning, the geek in your class, the teacher's pet, the high and mighty who thinks she is perfect, the sports guy, the cool dude, the bully, and the shy one. Doesn't it sound familiar?

You are involved in one incident and it spreads across the whole school like wild fire. The next day, everyone knows everything about it. Secrets are hard to keep in a school filled with gossip-hungry hyenas. Just one time you agree with the teacher and, boom, suddenly you are the teacher's pet or get good marks or dare to enlighten the class with your thoughts and you are felicitated as Mr Know-All.

The tragedy of it all is that labelling is just a one-time score of an individual's personality. It's a pity that one must live with the label for the rest of their school life. Very few people are willing to spend time to know you. You are judged once, just once. In a school, there is seldom a chance for a second chance. The first impression remains, forever, the last impression.

Social hierarchy that exists in schools nowadays is a lot like the caste system of yore. You couldn't change your caste back then and you just can't change your label today. You can't change your group. You are defined by one small act, one small gesture. You belong to one section of the school society, defined by your looks, economic status, intelligence or your "coolness".

What saddens me the most is that labelling is only done in the negative sense; nobody even glances at your better side. We all see what we want to. We follow the path of least resistance. It is easier to pinpoint the faults in others, the shortcomings of others. In this environment of indifference, what we need is the desire to seek good in people and stop branding them. The day we start seeking good, we shall find that labels are unnecessary to identify people.

After all, beauty, they say, lies in the eyes of the beholder, but more importantly, so do prejudices and labels.

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