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Ragging: Rite of passage or curse? Tell your story
The last fortnight has seen one Indian student dead and another fighting for her life after attempting suicide thanks to two separate ragging incidents.
Yesterday, we invited our readers to comment on ragging in colleges -- whether they were ragged as students, what the experience was like, whether they enjoyed it or were left disturbed and most importantly, whether the country is doing enough to curb the brutal connotations it has taken on in the last few years.
We've been flooded with replies, and will be publishing a few responses each day:
Being from an all-girls college, my exposure to boys was all new when I joined my BE course. My looks clearly indicated my innocence and ignorance and so I was an easy target for senior boys who used to come and irritate me with assignments like write essays, sing a song or stand up and sit down in the classroom while others watched me. Although timid, I was brave enough to manage and put up with all this and soon the phase passed off.
In my second year, I had made up my mind not to rag anybody and eventually to offer moral support to victims of such minor ragging cases, since I was not strong enough to oppose people who rag. It so happened that a former classmate of mine who happened to join the BE course later on due to the loss of a year was my junior then. My commute from the college to my house everyday was a 1.5 hour journey by private bus. One fine day I noticed this former classmate of mine being ragged by my seniors in the bus and it was very clear that she was just being questioned and not physically ragged. Before she happened to get down from the bus, I went close to her just to speak a few words so that I could restore courage in her.
The next day I was in a state of shock when I realised that I had a case of ragging lodged against me and was more shocked to know that she had included three other names along with mine whom I hardly knew. She refused to talk to me when I asked her why she had dragged my name into something where I was totally ignorant. After a week's suspension order only did I realise that my head of department was the culprit behind the scene. The authorities made me write a apology letter for no fault of mine.
It's such instances where people take advatage of rules and laws for their own selfish needs that make the law go weak and ultimately when there is need for justice there is none. Ragging laws are enforced in colleges by the faculty to threaten seniors and control them and not to help a fresher when he enters a new phase of life.These laws are very similar to the dowry laws where innocent brides burn themselves to death and the law never helps, but people who benefit from these rules are the ones who are never harassed.
-- Roopa Rao
When I was in college (this is way back in 1988), the seniors had made all of us freshers naked and then taken us to a railway station around 1:30 am, where we had to act like hawkers selling 'penis garam' to the tune of chai garam.
I still remember, we all were standing naked and helpless at platform No 1 at 2 am. I spent many nights after that at the platform, avoiding the hostel.
It will be very good if we put an end to ragging.
-- FH Rahi
Unlike others, I took ragging very sportingly and I felt it was a learning experience. When my seniors wanted me to sing and dance (I was really bad at singing and dancing), initially I felt really bad but when I tried after a day, my seniors started appreciating my efforts. Everyone started laughing but nobody stretched events ever to the extent that I broke down.
My classmates, who rejected or completely opposed the seniors had a rough time; maybe seniors who challenge and give tough assignments and juniors who refuse to comply with the instructions are spoiling this experience.
Actually, every senior likes to share his good and bad experiences with juniors, so management has to give new thoughts and chance to interact with juniors and start encouraging a friendly environment.
-- B Partha Sarathy, IT analyst
The ameliorative move to make ragging a criminal and non-bailable offence in Karnataka is welcome after the spate of extreme cases of ragging appearing regularly in the media. It is only hoped that college authorities report the offences systematically and do not conveniently sweep them under the bureaucratic carpet.In the early 1980s, the situation was extremely dire. Ragging has been prevalent mostly in professional colleges where the seniors teased the newcomers and many a time made them go through extreme torture. What was unfair about this was that these mostly naive newcomers were from small towns who were yet to acclimatise themselves to big city life, leave alone the torture of ragging. I remember writing then on the extreme case of a medical student, who was ragged and almost lost his life in the process. I still remember the public outcry that engulfed the city, as people felt outraged at what is a very sadistic mode of familiarising newcomers with their seniors. I was heartened to note in the late 1990s, the then minister for higher education of Karnataka State, B Somashekhar, under chief minister JH Patel, took concrete steps to tangibly reduce the menace.
"Only in the bathroom," I muttered, as the whole crowd of girls giggled.
"Then what can you do for us?" she said, with the same warm sunny smile.
"Well, I can recite poetry," I rued.
"Go ahead," she said.
In my mind, I quickly recollected the scores of poems which I knew by heart and I knew instinctively that my "moment of truth" had come. I could either make or mar the moment with my presence of mind and impromptu wit. Normally, I am a bit commonplace, but when challenged, I can rise to the occasion with a spurt of creativity and determination. Clearing my throat and with a prayer in my heart, I recited the following improvised poem knowing that my goal was to see that I win them over:
'Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I love me,
Why shouldn't you?'
When I heard the immediate round of applause, I knew that I had struck gold. Some of you may be wondering why I am recalling this incident which took place so many years ago. The connection is that the same teenage girl with pleasant features and wavy hair is Poovamma and on March 15, 2009, it will be 29 years of our friendship -- a friendship which is sacred, pure and totally unconditional. Call me daft, but I cannot help thinking that that ragging incident has had something vital to do with the cementing of our friendship into a warm and cordial bond.
-- Heera Nawaz, writer, Bangalore
I don't know where to start from, but it is always said that with power comes responsibility -- it's true, but I think we've lost the meaning of that these days.
Yes, I was brutally, viciously ragged in my engineering college but no, I don't regret anything because I miss those good old days. I remember the afternoon of August 6, 2000, when I got admission into the Baba Saheb Naik College of engineering. It was an awesome institution, it left me dumbstruck and awed, thinking that I have to do my engineering course from here only.
For three days my father was with me and seniors were just tottering around, but the moment he left on the night of August 9, I was taken to a senior's room and was asked to concentrate just on the third button of my shirt. All my batchmates from Jammu were standing there already, in the same position. So I followed suit. One of my third year seniors asked me to list five properties of an apple and so I did with ease, but here came the humiliating part -- they later asked me to replace the word 'apple' with 'my ass'. After hearing this I had tears in my eyes, because it was humiliating in front of 9 to 10 seniors. My immediate seniors saw this and took me out of the room, explained to me that this is gonna happen and something more serious, so crying is not going to help. I went back and did my task.
The initial 10 days were hell with so much physical ragging and mental ragging that I was s*** scared, but as time started to pass, I started to enjoy it because now I was becoming familiar with my seniors. Now, a daily schedule included a minimum of 1000 sit-ups, 100 push-ups, stretching towards Jammu and Kashmir [Images], hiding in Kanyakumari, being punished for some mistake to become a murga, or doing mujra in the corridor in front of all passers-by and singing the famous song of Umrao Jaan [Images] alongside -- it was all too much fun.
Everyday we had cramped legs because of too much physical ragging but yes, these were those seniors who taught us everything about a professional way of life, how to tackle issues etc -- if we were in pain, they were the first of the lot who looked after us. After two months, it was at least 2000 sit-ups everyday, 200 push-ups, murga races, solving mind-boggling puzzles thrown at us, buying condoms from a medical shop where a lady attendant was at the counter, keeping those condoms in our pockets for the rest of the month and producing them whenever asked for our college ID cards. My seniors would sometime come back drunk and make us dance all night for fun.
Sometimes we were cheeky and avoided meeting certain seniors -- if he got wind of what we did, then the punishments were disastrous. I was once ragged on the roof of my hostel for eight straight hours, complete physical ragging -- my whole body was cramped, but then those seniors actually carried me to my room, massaged my arms and legs and left me to sleep. The next day they woke me up at 9 -- I had slept at 6 am and they carried me to class -- no excuses, I was taught that engineers are not meant to sleep. But they helped me through the day and took me back to my room that evening.
And then again it was back to the same old routine. We were made to remember names of all our batchmates from the same state including their father's name, mother's name, if any sibling his/hers too, phone numbers, address -- and here it gets funny -- grandfather's, grandmother's, great grandfather's, if you don't know, inquire from your parents -- wow! It was fun.
Sometimes ragging would become tough, but only if we made a mistake, like one of my batchmates tried to play cheeky to avoid ragging and was caught, so one of my second year seniors made him sit in his room for the whole night on the floor like a sadhu baba and for the whole night he kept chanting 'Aum' while the senior was working on the lab file he had to submit.
Another day, that same batchmate of mine was caught again and asked to keep visiting a second year senior's room for the whole night every 15 minutes -- knock on his door, get permission to come in, wish that senior in every possible way, then again leave for his own room which was 500 metres away, from there come back after 15 minutes and perform that ritual over and over again for the whole night.
I was once caught and my senior made me look at the third button on my shirt for six hours straight and after that he asked me to lift my chin by 45 degrees but it was just not happening, because my chin would drop down again. Sometimes we were asked to do a 'Full Monty' in front of everyone -- by that time we had lost each and every ounce of sharam that we had, full monty or half monty, it's easier than mental ragging.
One fine day a group of seniors got hold of me and asked to tell them a story, Kachhue Aur Khargosh Ki Kahani. I thought it's easy and then I would disappear to my room. Ask me, after a good five hours, why I couldn't even start the race of the rabbit and tortoise. The questions that I had to answer! Who was the rabbit, what was his name, where did he live, where was the jungle, name all the trees in the jungle, what was the colour of their leaves -- boy, I was flustered when I left that room huffing and puffing for air as if I myself had taken part in some marathon.
Sometimes seniors would get generous and ask, 'Physical ragging deni hain ya mental?' No-one would say mental, we all would go for physical, because mental was actually disturbing. I was once asked to visit a third year senior's room at 5 in the morning because he had a football match. I got late by five minutes. First I knocked at his door, got permission to get in, and then was asked to become murga for 53 minutes and I was not supposed to say sorry. Atter the punishment was over, I I was made to sit on his computer and see animal porn at 5:30 in the morning -- that is disgusting, better someone would take my physical ragging, I would prefer that!
Once we were asked to climb trees and play part in the Kargil [Images] War, get completely naked, stand in a line height-wise, and play Atthani Chawanni and my friend's penis actually gave a salutation for which he was spanked on it for this mental disturbance he had -- boy, we all laughed the whole night. Ripping one condom from the packet that we had bought, blowing air in it -- ewwww! And then playing with it -- again ewwww! But we did it all. So many happy memories from my good old ragging days.
I still miss my seniors for the things they taught us -- we all were so wild that we would have ended up stupid if we weren't ragged the way we were. Ragging taught us humility and responsibility at the same time. Even now I address my seniors as 'sir' and the same goes for me when my juniors are talking to me. It's out of love and respect that we have for each other. With power comes responsibility and seniors have to understand that -- if they can't, they shouldn't rag, it's not their right.
-- Gaurav Khajuria, SAP consultant
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