This is the entrance to the Institute upon which I should have centred seven years of my life. I diffused my centres throughout the University instead. But that’s another story, for some other time. This story takes its threads from the point where one of my seniors was called back after nearly reaching his lecture theatre. I could see first surprise and then fear on his face. He was not at all outnumbered. His forty male classmates were within his shouting range and he had only two persons to face: two outsiders who had dared to challenge him inside his institute, right in front of his lecture theatre. He, the ferocious looking and behaving senior of ours. changed colours suddenly. He started appeasing his interrogators and would have fallen farther had Professor Singh not interrupted.
Prof. Singh was in the first year lecture theatre. I was called out with his permission. He heard some noise outside and came out to check. He understood the situation and ordered me to come back to the class. Mama’s friend told Sir that I’d be back in a minute, but he insisted on taking me back with him. Well, I was already frightened with the shape the events were taking and did not want to take any more risks. So, I left them behind and went quietly to my seat. After the class all I became the focus of many kinds of pressure from all sides.
Prof. Singh called me to his chamber and reprimanded me severely. I told him very sincerely and truthfully that I had not planned it all, that it was an accident and had neither happened with me in the past nor would ever be repeated. He was appeased a little bit, but not my seniors. Their authority was challenged, severely. They did not risk turning violent with a local who had already started calling his supporters to the institute. The called a local senior, known to my mama, who was not present while all the drama was taking place in the Institute. That gentleman was reasonable and only asked me why I had not taken him into confidence instead of calling someone else from the outside. He warned me against any repetition of the thing and left. The others, especially the hosteler seniors, generally boycotted me till the Fresher’s Nite.
Raju (Rajeev) and Priyank were both big and hefty and Srivastav and friends. They used to stick together and that was their main strength. They were boycotted because Raju had actually physically beaten a senior, that too in the institute itself. And he lived to tell the tale too. He was fully supported by one of his friends, who also happened to be a local and our immediate senior. Other than the two incidents of confrontation, nothing happened to even remotely challenge the hegemony of the seniors. We became the outcasts as the seniors decided to ignore us in general.
There was a positive side to it: no introductions any more. And the seniors knew that there’d be a negative side too: they’d not help us by passing on their notes and sage counsel regarding how to deal with a particularly tricky subject or teacher etc. It would not have been easy had they stuck to their words and stuck together. As time passed we developed ties with our seniors. The locals among us found out the local seniors through the network of University seniors and contacted them out of the Institute boundaries in the no man’s land. The local plus junior plus recommended by someone they knew combination was unbeatable in most of the cases.
With the hosteler seniors, caste played a central role in forming groups. It sounds unbelievable now, but back then there was caste politics in ragging and later too. There were brahmins, thakurs, bhumihars, kayasths, and sub groups of many other castes in our Institute and its hostel. Among my close friends in the Institute were a brahmin, a bhumihar, two kayasths, one Bengali and one from the backward caste. My being a brahmin meant that I was a part of the group of brahmins: that much was established in the minds of our seniors. It saved my life at least once.
A super senior of mine spared me once, now I conjecture, because of one of the two reasons: either because I was from his cast and a local like him, or because he knew I posed no challenge to him. He was more than six feet tall in comparison to my mere five feet seven, he had a large skeletal frame and was heavily built in comparison to my medium frame and ectomorphic body, and he had experience of street and hostel fights which I neither had nor was able to acquire even later, and he knew that.
I used to keep myself aloof from caste politics in my Undergraduate days. So did my friend Rajeev Lochan aka Swamiji. This generated a lot of mistrust in the minds of those of our respective castes and they could never call us their own with full confidence. But they would never totally write us off too. All my other friends and classmates were part of their caste groups and politics. Therefore, I had access to the resources of the groups of my friends’ castes too, albeit clandestinely.
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