As the number of days of my stay in this college is counted, my memories often in between those day to day chores (read as classes) take me to those exalted moments which I had captured every frame in my mind. My mind would often take me to those frozen moments of the past filling my present with a mélange of gaiety and grief. I wish to capture few of those moments with my words.
It had been hardly two months since I entered the most memorable phase of my life-my college days. The excitement had never ceased to stop. It seemed to grow more as the days numbered. Everyday I was meeting new people of various ethnicities, regions. I was hearing so many voices of different languages in those creaky buildings called as hostels. Languages which I had heard while switching channels in my TV had now begun to echo through the corridors. The dreaded term “Ragging” became the most talked about thing in the hostel .Wherever I went I could hear students narrating tormenting stories about ragging. Few were cracking jokes over the funny things they were asked to do during their room calls. My friends who were in my association had room calls the whole week.
It was my turn that day. I was pretty much excited about the whole thing. I had the faintest idea over what would happen that night. It was a windy night. The ruffles of the leaves seemed like ominous signs by the trees warning me about the impending danger. While I was leaving Bhabha Bhavan, I made a mental check up of the things I had taken for my room call. I had taken my intro list. I was carrying my technical id with graph. I also had my white handkerchief. While I was moving along I opened the intro list and quickly recapitulated all the addresses with their phone nos. As I entered the doors of Hostel-3 I was engulfed by a wave of hostility and fright. I was accosted by few seniors in the corridor. They looked at me with the same disdain a Gestapo officer would look at a Jew. They asked me where I was going. Words refused to come out of my mouth despite my effort. I stammered “DDDDF-5”. Before the number 5 could reach their ears, one among them shouted. “What did u say..?” “How dare you?” I felt sudden shudder of fear. It took me a jiffy to realize what I was telling. “Sorry Sir…D Block First floor Room No: 5”. I hurriedly climbed the stairs and reached the room. I stood near the door of the room. I took a few deep breaths and knocked the door. A voice filled with hatred resembling Punit Issar (Duryodhana of the Mahabharatha fame) came in through the door. “Get inside”. I slowly opened the door. There were six guys in the room. It seemed they had cleaned the room just before I entered the room. All the six of them were cosily seated over two cots put together. “Shall I do the traditional entry dance?” I asked looking at their eyes while standing near the door. “Hmm…”. I moved my hands together in unison and bent my knees to resemble a lotus. It was a traditional bharatanatyam step which is done in the beginning of a concert. Here I was performing the step making myself ready for this ragging concert. I entered the room. My eyes only then noticed a frail woebegone creature who squatted on the floor in one corner. He looked like an exhausted mine worker after a hard day’s work. It took me some time to realize that it was my friend. His cheeks seemed rosier than never before. I could understand who would have done the make up for him. He seemed to be in a trance state. I could feel some creature moving along my cheeks. I quickly touched my cheeks to wipe the sweat. One among the six talked to me with a tone of sarcasm.” So are you the guy who refuses to shave every day?” I didn’t know what to say. These sorts of questions really irritated me. What was the need to ask that question when he knew the answer. I however took care not show my discontent. I lowered my head. One more voice from the group asked “Have you brought all the things which should be brought?” I said “Yes” . “Show me your intro list” I quickly took it from my pocket. I had worn a Louis Philippe Shirt with matching trousers. I bent forward slowly and handed over the sheet of paper. He peered into the sheet and his eyes ran in the huge maze of rows and columns with eagerness to spot a mistake. “Tell me the date of birth of Balaji”. I responded in a jiffy. “25th May 1986 Anno Domini”. He was taken aback by my quick answer. He checked the column and said with a tone of authority “Hmm...Good”. All the 5 bones in my face moved together in perfect accord to give a smile over what was not meant to be a compliment. I partly showed few of my teeth. A voice came roaring in” Don’t show your yellow teeth to me you ********”. All the 32 bones in my face moved in quick succession to show a frown in my face. How many buttons do you have in your shirt” I quickly responded “16”. I had already counted it in my room. One more voice came in from a corner ” Tell me Are you ready for the GK game” I without knowing what it was said “Yes” The voice came in again. ” I’ll tell you the rules. You have to ask me questions from any field you wish. But not more than 4 questions from the same field. For every question I answer you have to unbutton your shirt. For every question I don’t answer that little puke who is sitting there will unbutton his shirt. Is that clear?” It took me some time to digest all the things that were told. After a brief pause, I said “Yes”. I was pretty average in general knowledge. I suddenly gained a bit of confidence over myself. I however looked at that frail creature who had come out of the trance state then and listened to what was told. I gave him a piteous look. He didn’t have any emotion in his eyes. His mist filled eyes had nothing to say. Probably It was the sign of acceptance over what was destined for him in the next few hours. I asked my first question. “Who is a spin doctor” I knew for sure that no one would answer this one. As I expected no voice could be heard from the other side. However my happiness didn’t last for long. My friend unbuttoned one button from his shirt. I couldn’t bear to see his face. I lowered my face and started thinking about the next question.
“Who wrote the book “My presidential years” “. It was one of my favorite questions for obvious reasons. I looked at all the six guys who started to discuss about it themselves. Every second they discussed about the question seemed joyous. This is the best part of ragging. It freezes time. Those six seconds duration seemed like six minutes. I was happy to see their quizzed faces. I started looking at my watch admiring every step the second hand took. All of a sudden one voice howled “Venkataraman”. That was the first time in my life I felt bad to hear my own name. The sound clutched my heart with talons of shame. It was an unforgettable moment. I glanced at my shirt and my fingers gradually caressed the top most button of my shirt. My hands however refused to move further. I was filled with a whirlpool of emotions. My ego started throwing in words of abuse into my mouth. However my lips didn’t cooperate with it. I wanted to get out of the place. One among them was keenly observing the reactions going on in my face sadistically. I looked at him. He was enjoying the tableau of emotions in me. I couldn’t bear to see that face smiling at me. I suddenly pictured how it would be if I could produce concentrated H2SO4 from free air and throw at that smiling face. I was enjoying the sight of that chemical splashing and burning every fiber of his skin. I came to my senses when my senior’s abusive words primed my ears. I unbuttoned one button from my shirt. I resolved to ask the most difficult question they could ever hear in their lives. “The title song” Kal ho na ho” is based on which south Indian raga?” I was pretty average in spotting raga. I had a doubt in my mind whether it would be “keeravani” or something else. However I knew none would be able to answer this question. This went for an hour before they got exhausted with the whole GK thing. I threw questions from my favorite subjects economics, psychology and music. Norman Lewis’ Word power made easy helped me in between whenever I couldn’t ask questions from those subjects. I didn’t have the guts to see my friend who was totally desolate in despair and shame. He was asked to leave. He sank behind the door without a trace. I stood pretty close to the balcony door. I could see the moon illuminating the dial of my watch. It was 2 AM. One amongst the seniors suddenly spoke in a soft voice. “Your general knowledge is pretty good man Keep it up.”. My face generally lights up whenever I receive a compliment. I instead stared at him blankly. Soon one senior who had not been involved in the GK thing suddenly came forward. He had special feelings towards me. Right from the first day I met him he hated me very much. Today he wanted to vent out all the hatred he had for me. He resembled very much like the typical goonda you find in the streets. His shaggy uncombed hair with a thick moustache and beard however didn’t stir any amount of fear in me. I was suddenly feeling brave despite the fact I knew that makeup would be done to my cheeks too within few minutes. I firmly stood like a soldier caught as a prisoner of war. He then swayed his hands slowly to check if the distance was perfect for a perfect landing in my fat cheeks. He asked me to close my eyes after removing my spectacles. It was the worst moment one could ever face. I didn’t know when I would be hit. He moved his hands slowly caressing my cheeks. I guess he was making the initial arrangements for the arrival of his hands. Time stood still then. I could hear the tick of the second hand of my watch. The whole world went blank for the next two minutes. My body which went cold got warmth from the heat generated in my cheek. My mind went to deep nirvana state. I felt as if I was the only creature trapped in a vast expanse of molten pitch. All I could see in the earth was black. As I opened my eyes I could see stars revolving my head. I had seen this thing in my favorite Tom and Jerry cartoons. Today I saw it in my own eyes. As my eye balls moved I could see those white stars moving along with me. I refused to believe what I was seeing. I felt totally numb. I couldn’t move single part in my body. I stood like a statue for the next two minutes. I partially heard few voices telling me to leave the room. My legs moved like mechanical toys which are given key to move. The whole world seemed so silent. It was as if some one had pressed the mute button of this world. For the first time I felt the weight of my bones. It was as if I was carrying a sack full of bones. My legs suddenly gained some divine force and carried my whole body to the hostel. I reached my room and collapsed in my bed.
This article was not written to glorify or romanticize ragging by any means. Though I strongly advocate against physical ragging, my heart refuses to condemn ragging per se. Later when I pondered about my ragging experiences, I realized that during that GK session I had learnt to think on my own feet. I learnt what it really meant by acting under pressure. Above all I learnt to control my emotions. There were moments when I was in the verge of an emotional break down. I learned to cope with those moments. There were moments when I couldn’t resist laughter. I learnt to control both the extremes. When this incident had occurred, I thought of complaining about my seniors to my hostel authorities. They deserved to be punished for such sadistic acts. But they were indirectly responsible for all those things I had learned during ragging. Also I didn’t want to ruin their careers. Business gurus are gung-ho these days about Emotional Intelligence. However during those times when I hadn’t known about emotional intelligence, I underwent training in emotional management. I had learnt it in a painful manner. I would never forget it through out my life. Before I conclude this article , I wanna give a small advice to all my juniors in this college
Ragging is a wonderful thing. It helps you to forge relationship with your juniors. Make sure you teach your juniors something useful for his life through this ragging. BUT DON’T EXCEED YOUR LIMITS. Make sure the guy who is being ragged also enjoys the whole process…