WEEKEND THOUGHTS # 14

CHAKRA

Introduction

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Hi, welcome to another edition of Weekend Thoughts.

This week's contributor is Swapnakant Mohanty from Minneapolis and one of the element in his article is ragging. I dont know, how many of you have gone through those horrible episodes; but I am sure no one has any sweet memories of ragging. So, how does it still thrive in all our engineering campuses all over our country ! I dont have the answers, do you ! do you think, it's cool; it's okay; it's no problem. But think about it; has it brought forth anything other than trouble, pain, bitter memory ...

Oops, sorry! didn't mean to upset anyone, because our author has lot more nicer stories of his life to share with us besides ragging. cheer up ...

Surjit

Self Introduction

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Name            :       Swapnakant Mohanty

High School     :       Secondary Board High School,
                        Cuttack                         ( till class 9 )

                        Govt. Boys' High School,
                        Unit - 1, Bhubaneswar           ( 1983 )

I.Sc.           :       B.J.B. College, Bhubaneswar     ( 1985 )

B.Sc. (Physics) :       B.J.B. College, Bhubaneswar     ( 1987 )

M.C.A.          :       R.E.C., Rourkela                ( 1990 )

Work            :       HCL Hewlett-Packard Ltd., India.( 1990 - 1994 )

                        Mastech Corporation, U.S.A.     ( Sept. 1994 )

Current Location:       Fourth Shift Corp., Minneapolis

Hobbies         :       Stage Acting, Outdoors, Watching Action Movies
                        Joking and Informal Socialization

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Prologue

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I am not a writer. Most of the events described in this article did take place during my days in Hostel-4 of REC, Rourkela. But many things in this article are also imaginary. If any of my juniors, anywhere in USA happens to read this article, then I would request him/her to take it lightly, because I decided to end this story with some seriousness. My request is not to think that I am writing against you or something like that.

IT'S JUST AN ARTICLE.

This is my second attempt to put together some of the lighter moments of my life. You may find is dragging and boring at times.

Please bear with me.

Happy reading.

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Our Ragging Preparations ( Down The Memory Lane .. )

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Swapnakant Mohanty

I always used to wonder about the concept of ragging during my first year of MCA course in REC, Rourkela. It was like a mystery to me. We would have discussed this issue thousand times (at least) during the first four months of our first year until called by our seniors to Room # 38. But in our second year, we ( the anti-ragging squad ) used to call our juniors to Room # 38, whenever we used to find them doing the same thing.

Thought, I would share some of my encounters with the ragging process in REC, with you all. It's like going back to REC, down the memory lane ....

After enormous tries to get a seat in any one of the Engineering Colleges in India after my I.Sc, when I finally failed, everything was painful. Living became painful. While congratulating ( with a pathetic smile ) all of those who managed to get into the Engg. stream was painful and also digesting the scene of everybody congratulating those winners in front of me in any public gathering was even more painful. I was shattered by the "No problem, you will make it next year" attitutde.

I came to know about stories of ragging in the Engg. Colleges from friends who came on vacation for the first time after joining the Engg. College. They were of course the centre of attraction at that time. They used to describe the ragging process like a heroic tale. Wherever you go, whichever "khatti" it might be, if there is a first year Engg. student, it's the ragging discussion. It became a standard of measure of bravery for the young would-be-engineers and the volume of sympathy one would draw because of its enormous magnitude. Though I used to curse those seniors ( whom I do not even know ) in front of my friends for ragging them, I was really happy that these guys are paying a heavy price for joining the Engg. College. I was really thankful to the Seniors. I was dreaming different furious methods of physical ragging during my sleep and was hoping - if I could pass these ideas to those seniors !!

I had never realised the charm of saddistic pleasure before.

The reality was, they were a success and I was a failure, a failure in competetion, a failure in life (!), a failure in everything when compared to them.

I used to hate them internally of course from frustration and jealousy.

Gradually, the thought of not being able to get into any Engg. College became a part of my life and there was a stage when the person asking me about my JEE preparation/performance started feeling shy.

I was a "Pucca Be-hayaa".

After completing my graduation in Physics, I did not know what to do next. I certainly did not want to continue with Physics and end up being a Lecturer. I know how students call their lecturers by names and I knew that I would be a victim pretty soon becuse of my exceptional expressing power and clarity of concepts in Physics.

One of my uncle suggested - "Why don't you try MCA ?"

There was a wrinkle on my forehead, between my eyes. "What is MCA ?"

- " MCA is a Master's degree in Computer Applications. "

- " Ha ! Computers is not my cup of tea. "

My mother was more concerned about my career. She had weeped (in sympathy) once, when I was trying for Engg. admissions both after my I.Sc. and first year of B.Sc. and was unable to trace my name even after Rank 136 in the entrance results published in the newspaper. (She had wished my name to appear at least in the waiting list, so that she can feel the satisfaction that I qualified. I came to know about this after I got married.) She suggested - " Atleast give it a try and let's leave the rest to Baba (Baba is the Sadhu Baba, my father used to worship).

So, I thought of giving it a try. I procured the forms and prospectus for the JEE for MCA. My spirit was in full swing and my determination (!!) was controlling my every move. I was determined to get thru this entrance and I knew I could do it. ( Because the syllabus was really easy ).

The results of MCA (JEE) came out and .... I made it. Suddenly, the world became a very nice place to live in. Bhubaneswar looked greener and peaceful. I thought, may be this is how Buddha felt, when he got "Nirvana".

My mom was the happiest person on earth.

My relatives congratulated me. And there I was, like a HERO, a role model for my cousins, who were junior to me. I started liking my friends who had got thru Engg. entrance examination two years back.

The best day of my life ( so far, at that time ) was the day I went to REC for admission. I had many friends in REC, who were continuing their Engg. program and I stayed with them. The day of admission started. We saw a couple of guys hanging around the admission hall and asking the would be MCA first year students about their back ground etc..

They were the dreaded SENIORS.

I was kind of afraid (!) to face them. I started recollecting the ragging days my friends had described two years back. I tried to avoid bumping into any of my seniors. My Engg. friends were asking me whether I was nervous about the process and RAGGING. I gave them a smile."Oh No!". I am already a graduate and do not believe in such ridiculous thing like ragging. I don't think there is any ragging for post-graduate students. One of my friends had a cousin, who was doing his MCA and he was one of those seniors. My friend wanted to introduce me to his cousin and I some how managed to avoid that. ( Thanks to my imaginary hunger ).

I was a part of REC now, but I WAS KRACKING INSIDE. Thought of ragging was in full swing in my mind and I could not take it out.

Next day was the first day in the classroom and as soon as we came out of the class after it was over, I bumped into my senior Mr. X ( my friend's cousin ). I was asked to introduce myself and I felt the sudden urge for a glass of water. I had a feeling of dryness in my throat. Mr.X suggested - " Why don't you come to Hostel - 4 ? You have already taken a room in Hostel - 4. Many of your batch mates have come, you will have a chance to meet them. After all it's your hostel and you will be proud to be in your room." ( I was staying in Hostel-5 then with my Engg. friends - outside the juridiction of my seniors, and was not willing to shift to Hostel - 4, though I had a room allocated to me with three of my B.J.B. College friends. All of us were staying in Hostel - 5 ). I gave them a nice "Yes Sir." with a smile. Mr. X smiled and said - "Why are you calling me Sir? Don't call me Sir. We are all graduates and old enough to behave rationally. Count me as one of your friends."

Was I not impressed ?

Anyway, with this kind of response from Mr. X, we accumulated our courage and strength to shift to Hostel - 4 that evening. Prior to that I ( alongwith my Engg. friends ) went to the "BACK POST". ( Back post is the favourite place for all the Rengcolians and is the forbidden place for all first year students for initial 3 to 4 months.) At the back post, we met Mr. X and he smiled and chatted with my friend and asked us about our shifting to Hostel - 4. " Immediately " was our answer.

Mr. X smiled.

We shifted to Hostel - 4. It was a nice room. We four started assigning corners to one another. We arranged our beds, started cleaning the place a little bit. I was missing my Mom. I was almost in tears for being so far away (!) from home for the first time in my life.

We heard foot steps. That was a group of seniors lead by Mr. X. He was looking different.

- "So, you finally shifted?"

- "Yeah" ( With a Binaca Smile )

- (With a Scream)"Chup Be. Say YES SIR. Kahilaa Yeah !!"

That was my first encounter with RAGGING.

Our seniors told us the ethics ( supposed to be ) behind the ragging process - " To make you guys SMART. "

They explained:

People come from different colleges from different parts of the country ( more appropriately from different parts of Orissa, as most of the out of state quota seats used to be allocated to the in-state guys, since no one used to turn up from other states at that time ). Many of you guys haven't stayed in hostels and do not know how to live independently. So this is a method to make you guys understand the importance of staying away from home, from parents, managing things on your own and to face different hurdles in life. ( We never could understand the philosophy behind this when we were being ragged and could never understand when we were ragging why people cannot understand such a simple thing ).

The ragging process went on for a couple of months till 11PM every day. We were warned not to be seen anywhere near the Back Post. We were not allowed to smoke ( Smoking was the smartest achievement for a first year student, the most popular symptom of being an Engg. college student ) in front of the seniors ( though they knew who all smoked and used to come to us with smiles asking for a cigarette and offering cigarettes to our seniors was kind of winning a fort for us - High level contact ). We were also not allowed to take bath under the water tanker next to the hostel mess, to shout in the mess or to talk to the girls of our class. Being in proper dress code ( Tericotton pant, shirt duly tucked in (inserted), all buttons closed, leather shoes, clean shaved etc. ) was to be observed without arguments. Jeans with T-shirt and hawai chappal was a distant dream. We even wished a Good Day to a couple of our classmates ( we didn't know each other very well at that time ) in order to be on the safer side. Because, if you don't wish a senior, you are entitled for a 1 a.m. ragging session.

Tired of ragging, we tried every opportunity to break the rule, but invariably failed. Even I tried to fall sick, so that I won't have to report at the Cricket field every day at 3 p.m. ( We used to do the fielding only and the seniors were enjoying hitting the ball in all directions ). But that also didn't work. We tried going out for SHOPPING ( mostly restricted to a lock or a bucket or a note book only ) every evening to avoid the pre-dinner ragging session, but we were caught and detained till 2:30 a.m. one night. One of my seniors ( who became one of my favourite elder brother later ) used to tell us - " Tum saale 65 walon ko mein jaantaahun. Hum bhi kabhi first year mein the." ( Our room number was 65 and we were popular for coming out with innovative ideas to bunk ragging sessions. May be because of that we were favourites of our seniors, as they had a hard time trying to catch us).

We would go thru hell during the ragging session, but used to laugh a lot over the most recent ragging session. Unknowingly, we started enjoying this. We knew, our seniors are all lovely personalities. They themselves are trying their best to be tough.

Then the ragging was over one day, when after a vacation we came back to hostel and straight away went to the back post with jeans, T-shirt ( without tuck ) and hawai chappal. We did meet out seniors in the back post. They smiled.

It was a different kind of response - a friendly smile.

We all became good friends. We shared jokes, teased one another, shared one another's happiness and pain. There was the garden feast, picnic, birth days and so many more to remenber and smile. They were very good friends and our elder brothers. We went to the mess in shorts, played cricket when we felt like playing and going to back post with our seniors for tea was a 4-times-a-day event. We were no more seniors or juniors. We all were a part of a whole BIG family.

We passed our second semester and were promoted to the second year, the most vital one as far as bossism is concerned. The MCA JEE results also came out and we were actually seniors. As the exams were also over and there was no pressure from the studies point of view ( we used to study for 15 days, just before the exam and that was a regular practice in REC ), the only thing that was exciting was to wait for our juniors to come.

Now we were in the driver's seat and were all excited about the ragging process. We started formulating plans for ragging. One of our batch-mate knew that there is supposed to be a ragging meeting before you start the entire operation. So we too had one. We decided different aspects of ragging like, what will be the severity, till what extent can we go and who will lead the ragging etc..

Then started out preparation for the ragging.

Since this was our show and only chance to rag, we did not want to miss a single opportunity. As all my other batch-mates wanted to be in the safer side, my room-mate and I decided to lead the ragging process ( we were definitely fools ). We bought shorts and deadly looking printed shirts from Sector-5 market. We modified our smoking style to Deewar-like style ( the way Amitabh was smoking Bidi ). We started putting a touch of gravity on our face and voice. We even practiced to drag our slippers while walking.

We put a new poster on our door which was showing dracula, gorilla, snakes, lions and all ferrocious creatures and was saying, "Welcome, Enter At Your Own Risk." Our room was the DEVIL'S DEN.

It was a whole lot of new excitement.

Then came our own test, to test our new "avataar". We wanted to try our effort on somebody and see the results. Who can we test rag ? Definitely not our seniors and we were the junior most in the hostel at that time. So, who is left ??

Mess-boys !!

Yes. We will try this on the mess boys. We all were at our best that evening in the mess. We were waiting for our plates, but we didn't shout, we asked for " Roti " and we didn't shout, we asked for "Onions" and we didn't shout. It was the look, that was working. It was the voice with the new found gravity in it, that was working. We terrified the poor mess boys to the maximum extent. Even the senior most of them ( 8 years old ) could not make out why we were behaving like that.

We got the best attention and service from the mess boys that day. May be they realised that, this silence was the beginning of a big storm.

We were loosing track. As per our plan, we knew that they would ignore us in the mess and we would call them to our room and rag. But they were giving us the best attention and the plan was failing. I called the senior most mess-boy and asked him - " Aabey, ruti aanibaaku yete samaya laagey ? Peeaaja maagiley jaaiki kana aanuchhu ? Kaalithu, aame aasila bele table rey thuaa heithiba. (Shout) Bujhiloooo-oooo ? " Couple of my friends would pat me on my shoulder - " Leave it Swapna. " I asked him to come to my room with his team. They need a lesson to be taught.

I was very happy. It is working.

We all were waiting for the mess-boys to reach. It would be the first hand ragging experience. Our tables are arranged at all four corners of the room and we all had table lamps. We switched on the table lamps and turned them towards the wall and put it close to the wall, so that they emit very little light. The room was mostly dark ( We were inspired by the Hindi horror movie - Purane Killey ka bhoot ). We were in ragging-special shorts and T-shirts and were smoking. The room was full of smoke and we had the tape recorder on, which was playing an English music.

We heard foot steps. They all came till our door and started discussing among themselves about who will open the door first. We were excited - it was about to begin. Finally one of them opened the door, came one step in and was shocked by the interior decoration. He turned and went out of the room immediately. My room-mate shouted - " Aabey, tama mananku kana saley nimantrana patheibi ?? " They all came in, one after the other, in a queue, their heads bent and fear on their face.

"Excellent !" We thought.

We started ragging them with all horrifying activities like shout, sudden get-ups from chair, charging towards them ( but without touching them, 'cause, you touch the mess boy and you are out of the hostel. They probably didn't know that. Otherwise they would not have come ). They were terrified to their death and were almost in tears. We released them after 2 hours.

They ran. We smiled. "Yes, IT IS WORKING."

Ragging the mess boys became a kind of a regular routine job for us. We called them in groups and each group used to come to our room whenever it was their turn. We ragged the ward-boys too. They are kind of seniors compared to the mess-boys and would not come to our room when called. So, we used to shout at them in front of the mess or anywhere we saw them. We got attention in the hostel - in the mess, near the water tanker where we used to take bath, in the reading room, in the TV room and every where in the hostel. We were confident that we can handle our juniors.

We were the bosses.

Finally our juniors came to the hostel. It was the most awaited day of our lives. We all including our seniors went to their rooms to rag them. We shouted, we screamed and we conquered. The ragging process continued till 2 a.m. We enjoyed ragging the juniors. It did give us an idea about our juniors, their likings, dislikings, openness and scope for our friendship with them.

After the ragging process, we all seniors were together in our room discussing the ragging process. One of my senior was looking very disturbed. Somebody from the first year batch had misbehaved him during the ragging process. That guy had threatened him that he would complain this to our HOD. We were not worried about HOD's impression, because we were never in his good books. But we were feeling bad that this had to happen on the first day itself.

Our juniors didn't have the spirit we had. Ragging had already taken its turn.

We went for another round of ragging, the next day and ragged that guy to the full extent. He was the target and we made him cry that day. We decided to boycott him. I had a couple of friends from my college days, in my junior batch. We all were real close friends during our college days. They provided this guy with all details about us and they all decided to go to the HOD, complaining against us. Some of my batch-mates held me and my roommate responsible for all this and there was a difference of opinion among ourselves.

Things were just getting messed up. This was definitely not the way we had planned for the ragging.

We were called to our HOD's office, we gave him all facts and a real picture about this guy, how he misbehaved our seniors and how the entire batch is behaving in the hostel etc.. It was a war between the two batches and some of the " kajalapaatia bhadraloka " took full advantage of that. I lost some of my very good friends during this process of back-stabbing.

I vowed not to participate in any ragging process in my life. It's not worth it, if you don't realise the spirit behind it.

The ragging process was over in the course of time. We officially organised a welcome party for our juniors. We patched up, but the scar was always there. We would smile at one another, whenever we met, but the warmth was missing. We were not sharing a relationship with them as we used to with our seniors.

It was depressing and our spirits were down.

The bottom line was, we failed. We did not achieve anything after such vivid preparation for ragging. It was nice to rag the mess boys as they used to laugh and run after we finished ragging them. We understood the fun behind the ragging process when we were being ragged by our seniors, but our juniors did not.

Five years after passing out from REC, when I look back to my REC days, sometimes I smile and sometimes I feel bad. It was filled with events, it's kind of a mixed feelings for me, real hard to decide whether my REC days were good or bad, nice or ugly, healthy or pathetic and should I be happy or sad over those days. I don't know how my juniors will react now, if we meet at some cross road, even I am not sure how I will behave when I meet some of them.

WAS THE RAGGING REALLY WORTH THIS MUCH ??

I DON'T KNOW.

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Review/Comments

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By: Bigyani Das

I had heard horror stories about ragging in Engineering Colleges, but mostly from outsiders. However, hearing such stories from the people who experienced it, is really something different. By reading the author's story, one could feel the real sentiments of the students who has to really face the situation, and the sentiments of the seniors who has to hide their softer hearts just to act perfectly in their roles. I must thank the author for sharing his many immotional experiences with us, in particular, his frustrations and sentiments before getting into MCA program.

I think, in some stage of our life we all experience that frustration, and then suddenly some miracle happens and then the world changes around us making our vision completely altered. However, the most striking fact is whether these frustrations really bring those wonderfull things later? I don't know the answer myself. There is a saying that "Failures are pillars of success". But, does it work for everybody, in every stages of life? It does not. Once back home, you can get this answer yourself.

About the question " WAS THE RAGGING REALLY WORTH THIS MUCH ??, I have a few comments. Since the term "ragging" itself sound destructive, getting it into discussion has many controversial effects. Probably ragging acts on some kind of people and makes them smarter. But, what about its effect on some immotional guys. I have heard that some student at IIT Kharagpur jumped from the roof and died. Is the ragging worth to go to that extreme? It's not.

However, I have my personal feeling that on certain group of people, if you impose something very strictly, they tend to work harder to do it perfect. It's like "Kandhare padile bajei sikhiba". However, it also works adversely on the other group. If you impose them very strictly, they will not do anything at all. So, it's very important to have a formula for both these types of people, recognize their characteristics and then apply rule A or B. I hope all the enginneering graduates who has the terrible experience of ragging and others who had heard the horror stories of ragging, please work towards elliminating it. Although officially it has been elliminated from all educational institutes, but seniors causing immotional trauma's to juniors can be seen everywhere in India, in most of the work places (I hope you have read the article by Debi Prasad Misra).

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