There was a large open ground in the middle of a town. The land belonged to the government. Because of paucity of funds, it was not being looked after and had become a dumping ground for garbage and refuse. Wild grasses were growing there. It was infested with snakes, rats, cockroaches, mosquitoes and the like. The village elders decided that something must be done about this breeding ground for vermin and disease.
There were various communities in the village, and people were very conscious of their groups and leanings. Each community was claiming that the land be allotted to them. As is common in such cases, everyone was outdoing the other in preparing their case as a claimant. After much discussion and argument from many quarters, they were still not able to decide what to do with the land.
So eventually, it was proposed to let the various groups get the rights to use the land turn by turn, for a week each. By draw of lots the first week came to the Krishna devotees. They cleaned up the entire place. They organised religious discourses on the Geeta and the Bhagwad Puran. They sang Krishna Bhajans and danced together in celebration. But, only the Krishna devotees came for the celebrations. All others stayed away.
The following week, the draw favoured the Christians. They sang carols and staged skits portraying the birth and life of Jesus. This time only the Christians were in attendance. The others abstained from participating.
The third week was allotted to the Durga Mata Devotees. They organised Jagrans all night where they sang devotional songs in praise of the Goddess Divine. They organised langars where they fed little prepubescent girls as Kanyas, as the living form of the Goddess. They gave bangles and bindis to the little girls too.
When all the groups had had their turns, it was time for a discussion. The seniors of the town were to decide who had done the best job and hence should be allotted the land for future use. The discussion grew intense and fiery. Everyone was a claimant.
One of the elders happened to look out of the window of the meeting room overlooking the ground. He saw that all the village children had gathered there. They were playing cricket. Some were playing; the others were cheering. What caught his eye was that children from the families of all religious groups were there. No one had kept away from the game. He kept watching for a few minutes. Then he said, “Friends, I request you all to come and watch the cricket match from this window.” All of them watched for a few minutes. Each of them spotted his or her children or grandchildren there.
Then the old man said, “So who should we allot the land to?” Everyone looked at each other and smiled. Yes!!! The land should be reserved for the children! Eventually it was developed as a playground for children. All the groups took weekly turns in the cleaning and upkeep of the ground. What belonged to no one, now belonged to everyone!
Why should religion create barriers? God is one. He can be remembered and worshipped in many ways. But, God is one only. We can call Him by different names; we can reach Him by different paths, but He is one … only one.
Children have pure hearts. They know nothing about groups and barriers. Perhaps we too need to learn a thing or two from them. The Indians believe that the world is one family … Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam! We believe in the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man!