(Written during my final year of college…)
7.30 pm, 26th July 2006. We were all bundled into a room and given a hair oil massage. How generous, you might say. What I mean is that oil was dumped on our hair (“hair in oil, not oil in hair”, being the motto); along with a barrage of do’s and don’ts. Don’t talk in the mess, don’t look a senior in the eye, etc etc. What followed was a month of pure mental torture. We were not allowed to question seniors, nor refuse to do anything, no matter how embarrassing or difficult it was. It was just “Yes Ma’am, No Ma’am, As You Wish Ma’am.”
The funny part is that if you ask any of my friends about those days now, they would grin and say, “Those were the most unforgettable days of college life.” In fact I pity my juniors, who never had to face such an ordeal. They have never known a hostel like we did, where every senior was your big sis. Because after that initial bonding, our seniors really spoilt us. We got treats anytime we caught them at the canteen. If one of us fell sick, all the seniors would come to see her. They would take us to the doctor, and scold if we did badly in the exams. I’d like to fuss over my juniors too. But they don’t even smile when I meet them somewhere outside! I can’t blame them. They probably know little more than my name.
Most importantly, my first year taught me a lot. I learnt how to stand up for myself. How to not wilt under pressure. Trust me; a pressure cooker bursting at the seams is calmer than a mass call! And I imbibed all the traditions that make me what I am. The point is, I moved from school girl to college woman in that period. And all those memories we built! Even today, if you get one of us started on about our ragging days we could reminisce for hours. About how we would cook up excuses to wriggle out of assignments, banging utensils outside each room to wake the inmates at five in the morning…
I know how ugly ragging can get. No one can possibly condone hospitalizations and ear drums ruptured from incessant beating. But have we erred in doing away with ragging altogether? A little disciplining is needed to maintain decorum. It could be about basic manners, like waiting for everyone to finish before leaving the dinner table; to helping out for the college fest. That’s how things work in everywhere: as juniors you learn the ropes; and later on take on the onus of managing college affairs.
Today the rules scream, “Seniors should not be seen interacting with the juniors.” How sad! Most freshers are away from home for the first time. They need someone to teach them the rules of the game, to tutor them, and to basically look out for them. The first meeting with seniors often sends a message to know your place and to know when to shut up. But guess what? That introduction also says, “Well, hello! Welcome to the family!”