Ragging Assimilated

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A friend of mine was called me in an agitated state last night. He was travelling in a train and in his compartment were some students of an Engineering College. They were discussing ragging, and my friend demanded that I put the thing in my blog too. He wanted me to interview one of them, but the network was not so good, so I could not do that.

The word “ragging” came into existence in 1992 because before that year, I had never heard it. It was the year I entered for the first time, a hostel of my would be alma mater. My friend with whom I had gone into the university, Vivekanand Jha, used to board with his elder brother, Niranjan Bhaiya in Ruiya Hostel. Those were the very last years of the Student’s Union, the very next year the University saw student unrest, sine die, and, finally, Chief Proctor Raj.

So, I heard about ragging in the hostels of the University one year before I was enrolled in it. Ragging became a definite possibility for me, a very real threat, only when I became a student of the University. In the first few days of a fresman’s life, before the Fresher’s Nite, us first year students used to be in awe of every senior-looking person those days. There used to be this stubbled fearsome guy who used to accompany our seniors to our classroom during our “introduction” sessions. We used to treat him like a senior. Later on I discovered that he was a University employee, and not our senior, not even a student.

By the term “Senior”, I mean those in the second year. The term used for those in the third and fourth years was “Super Senior”. There were two types of Freshers in the Institute: Locals and Hostelers. Locals were those who had a place to stay outside the hostel. They consisted of a majority of Banarsis and a very few non-Banarsis. More than eighty percent of my batch mates were from Bihar, and they were all hostelers. The funny thing is, that a similar percentage of our Seniors were from Bihar too, and our University was jokingly rechristened Bihar Hindu University by many in those years.

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For the hostelers, there used to be all-night intense “introduction” programmes, and our seniors did not want their local juniors feel neglected. So, while they were in the campus of the University, the locals were provided with ample opportunity to get introduced to their seniors, every single one of them. Although the hostelers were also given nearly equal focus during the day time, there used to be no roll call kind of eye on them, as they’d meet in the evening too. Many seniors of the local variety also used to grace the hostel with their near-permanent presence in those days so that their hosteler juniors did not feel neglected.

There was a Warden in the hostel, stationed in his quarters with his family, right by the entrance of our hostel. I am sure that his presence did prevent around twenty percent of hostel “introductions” from happening. But that’s all. My hosteler friends did not talk so much about their experiences during those pre-Fresher’s Nite days.

The locals had an informal group that consisted of people from a representative caste and linguistic identities: Debashish, Rajeev, Priyank, Ashutosh, Bholanath, Manoj and Mihir, to name some of them, were as heterogeneous as they come. We stuck together until the Fresher’s Nite (FN), and many of us, in our University years after that (I wish I could type: till date). Many of us were not invited to the FN because of various reasons.

I had invited my uncle’s friend Naveen Mama’s friend to reason with my seniors. The gentleman came to first year lecture theatre, took Prof. Singh, our soil science teacher’s permission and took me with him to the place from where the persons sitting in the second year lecture theatre could be seen. He wanted me to point one of my more menacing seniors to him who had given me an ultimatum regarding the shaving of my mustaches. As it had hurt my ego, I had gone asking for help to Naveen mama, a good friend and neighbour of my own mama. He had sent his friend to look into the matter. Well, the senior we were looking for, climbed the stairs to enter the lecture theatre just then.

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