Ragging Assimilated III

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(Photo: Dr. A. P. Singh and Mr. Rishi Vohra)

I used to pass through the Main Entrance (Singh Dwaar) of Banaras Hindu University at least twice every day, including Sunday,s since I was enrolled as a student. The University was my second home, and I used to visit the hostel of our Institute too, because I needed to. But we local juniors were not allowed in the hostel until the Fresher’s Nite. I may have known the reason back then, but I don’t remember it now. Therefore, the reason was definitely illogical. Otherwise, as I still remember the facts and incidents belonging to that time, I’d have reconstructed the reason using logic. Trust me on this one.

We had received many instructions from our seniors on the very first day we reached the Institute. I don’t remember the date or month. I have some kind of problem remembering dates etc. We had to always address our seniors as Sir/Ma’am and wish them wherever and whenever we met. If my memory serves me right, we weren’t allowed inside the Institute Canteen (that was outside the Institute Campus, if the Guava Orchard, a part of the Institute is not taken as campus proper). The Central Library and Birla Temple fell under the forbidden category too.

We used to camouflage ourselves in order to stay away from the gaze of our seniors, as we were very much afraid of the phenomenon called ragging. The University was trying to curb it, ineffectually. Our seniors had even renamed the thing as “introduction” to soften the impact (reminds me of the German re-use of the innocuous words: final solution). Those were the worst days in the best years of our lives.

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There were one hundred and eight of us in the beginning, and I can find only forty-nine of them in the group photograph taken in the final year. Late Mr. Upendra Singh, Debashish Mukherjee, Yogendra Singh, Bhola Nath Shah and Gopal Mishra are not in the photograph. Other than them, the locals of the first year still in the photograph are: Rajnish Khanna, Sunil Singh, Rajiv Srivastav, Alok Kumar Singh, Manoj Dwivedi, V Sridhar, Ashutosh Kumar,Priyank Srivastav and I. Us locals, and the hostelers, all that can be seen smiling in the image above did not have smiling faces in their first few days in the University.

I remember how we used to abhor ragging and its perpetrators and how we used to commit that we’d never let that loathsome tradition pass on to the next session. By we, I mean those who did not like being treated like vermin. Others acclimated well. After the first few days, I remember some hostelers who would talk about doing to their juniors what was being done with them. Their justification was that in the confirmation and perpetuation of what they saw as barbaric in the beginning, their revenge will be taken. I did not understand their convoluted logic then, and I don’t understand it now.

In our second year, some of us old pledge makers, stuck to their word. I remember that Swamiji, Mihir and I never took “introduction” of any of our juniors. We even used to save them from our batch mates, the new batch of immediate seniors. I remember once I had actually had a heated discussion with one of my batch mates, a friend, regarding the way he had changed in his convictions from his first year days. He, and most of our batch mates, had assimilated the germs of ragging, and passes their disease on to the next batch, just as their previous batch had done.

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