This is my story about the world of ragging and how it destroyed my confidence and social interactions for years to come.
It was 2007, more than a decade ago, at a time when anti-ragging campaigns were unheard of. I was pursuing my MBA, and the first two days at college were quite good; I remember there being nice exchanges between junior students and their seniors. But everything changed on the third day, when, before the orientation program officially ended, our seniors told us to mug up basic details about people in their batch, double quick. Unsurprisingly, I had issues mugging up the details of over 100 seniors, both day scholars, and those living in the hostel with me.
The so-called anti-ragging programme at the time was pure nonsense. For ‘safety’, security guards were placed outside our hostels for the first 10 days of the semester to save us from ragging (code-named ‘PDP’). It was not much use, by my reckoning. The man in charge of overseeing that we were not ragged – let’s call him Mr S – used to act like our biggest well-wisher in front of us. But otherwise he himself used to send seniors to us for ‘PDP’. At various times, I remember calling him up, frightened, at 10 or 11 in the night, asking for help. He used to say, “Okay, okay, I am sending help, don’t worry.” But, instead, he used to telephone the seniors who were nearby, telling them to be relentless in their task.
The only unspoken rule of ‘PDP’ was that you can’t physically harm a junior, and that was the only saving grace of those activities – memorising databases; singing some weird, crappy song; learning dance steps, and a lot of things. The horror used to start after 10 in the night and continue till early morning. I had withdrawn into a shell. I walked past people on the streets, wondering who might turn out to be a senior, thinking God knows what they would do to me.
These were the two camps – the ‘locals’ and the ‘hostelers’. The camp system meant that ‘hostelers’ were not meant to interact with the ‘locals’ much. I was the most hated by my seniors because, in spite of being a hostel-wallah, I was equally at ease with the locals. In fact, I interacted with them a lot more, as we had known each other, thanks to social media, even before the college orientation programme. My seniors looked down on me, primarily due to this fact. To avoid even harsher ‘PDP’, I used to find ways to face my seniors as little as possible.
Sometimes, the horrors of the previous night used to be very visible on my face the next morning. I could do nothing about it. I used to be in college for as long as possible, because I dreaded going back to the hostel. There were many long nights I had to pass. Luckily, at the peak of my trauma, my mother had come to visit our relatives for three weeks, and after my classes got over I would rush to her and enjoy a at least a few peaceful nights’ sleep.
Seven of my hostel mates were my biggest support system during those days. They used to make sure that I was out of sight whenever a senior was around. I so badly wanted to enjoy my hostel life, but just couldn’t because the initial three or four months of ‘PDP’ had shattered me beyond belief. And even after seven years had passed, I never recovered.
I couldn’t talk to a classmate about this if they were a ‘local’. And if I did? A hostel senior’s chamcha (lackey) used to tell my seniors, and one of them would pull me up for this. This happened with me many times and I had to make sure to watch what I said, because anything could be quoted out of context to any of my seniors. Just because someone wanted a few brownie points, I had to face hell. Things improved a bit only after that particular batch of seniors graduated. And, finally, it was in my second year that I began interacting my own batchmates.
It’s not that all the senior students were bad. I’m still in touch with some of the best people from that batch (both locals and hostelers), and I respect them from the bottom of my heart. However, some who had graduated, and came back to visit, were a different story. I used to give the same respect to everyone, but some of them still won’t talk to me, and I am okay with that.
From being forbidden to talk to both our male and female classmates on social media, now, nine years down the line, I have a much bigger social media presence than anyone could have imagined then. This might seem very trivial when you compare it to the ragging that happens in engineering colleges, but at that time, everything seemed like it had come straight for help, and I had no help. Had it not been my relatives, my hostel mates, and my batchmates, I would have surely attempted suicide.
To Mr S, you were supposed to be a trustworthy man, and you were not. To my seniors, some of you surely did not earn my respect then, and after so many years, you still won’t.