By having a fresher obey his command, the senior feels a sense of authority.

Akash had never known fear as a child. But in his first week at college he often felt his breath racing and the sweat breaking out all over his body. And he was not the only one. It was the ragging season and groups of seniors roamed the campus in search of prey. Akash didn’t want to be ragged, he didn’t want to dance, or propose to a girl, or spout a dialogue from a movie, or sing some silly jingle, or answer silly questions. He hated making an ass of himself and feared that was exactly what would happen. Of course, he couldn’t dodge for long and one day, his time came. “Hey you! What’s your name?” After some questioning, came the demand: “Sing kolaveri!” Akash protested, “I don’t know Tamil songs!” And got bullied further: “Even the Japanese know kolaveri! Where are you from — Mars, Jupiter?” After some jibes and jokes, the seniors got bored. “Okay sing Sheela ki jawani.” Akash sputtered out a line or two and was let off.

Dharini was told to propose to a senior. Although she was nervous and quite disgusted, she pleasantly and promptly complied. She was much appreciated.

Kavya got aggressive and angry and refused to dance like Kareena Kapoor. Her tormentors said they would come back another day and her nightmare continued every day. One day Kavya marched up to the Head of her Department with a complaint. “It is between you and the seniors,” she was told. “Just tolerate it and it will die down. Don’t make an issue or it will only get worse for you.”

At Afzal’s college, the freshers in the hostel went through another kind of nightmare. They had to write out assignments for their seniors, make copies, bind them into booklets and submit them before a deadline.

Afzal himself had to do the same assignment consisting of 12 pages of writing three times — for three different seniors, each time changing his handwriting and rewriting the text slightly to sound different. This not only took up all his time but also a considerable amount of his limited resources as he had to buy paper, sketch pens, pens, pencils and pay for the printouts, xerox and binding.

Fortunately all of this lasts for a month or even less.

Committees

Even more fortunately, not all faculty respond like Kavya’s HoD did. College managements are aware of the mischief ragging can cause and most colleges have counsellors, anti-ragging committees and faculty members accessible to freshers all the time. Their cell numbers are prominently displayed on notice boards and posters all over the campus. Note down these numbers and names as soon as you notice them — don’t leave this task for another day.

Some colleges have a policy of timing a test series for second year students in the week that freshers join. Others announce a holiday for second years for a few days during joining time. All college rules are loaded in favour of freshers.

Most students are nervous at the thought of facing ragging. Remember, fear can be easily apprehended and while most seniors may sympathetically let you off the hook, there may be some that might want to push your limits. You might find it easier to face them if you are not afraid. The trick is in remembering all the time that they are just a year or two ahead of you in the college and that most of them are for the first time meeting people younger and greener than them on the campus! Take the harmless questioning, the quizzes, and small silly demands (sing, dance, do a salute, bow to me) calmly.

No need to suffer

But never forget that you need not suffer insults or humiliating demands from anyone. Don’t allow anyone to get personal or hurtful or physical. If you are unfortunate enough to face any of this, first look for support and get away from the spot as quickly as you can. Don’t get aggressive with your aggressors. Then bring it to the notice of authorities and your parents. Make a noise about it — but in the right way and in the right forum.

Above everything, always move in small or big groups, never alone, till you are comfortably settled.

Next year when your college gets ready to welcome a fresh crop of students, and you are now seniors, recall how your stomach churned in your first days in college. Refrain from ragging. That is the only way that we can ensure that this ugly practice dies a natural death.

The author is writer, editor and publisher for children. Email: sumathi.sudhakar@gmail.com

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