There I was, staring at the prestigious logo of the College of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, adorning the red brick wall at the front gate. I had to stop for a moment and let it sink in, it felt good! I was brimming with mixed feelings of jubilation, confidence and anticipation. Just driving through the rises and drops of the shady entrance road, with the dry leaves crunching beneath the tires of my car gave me goose bumps. There was certain serenity in the air, a soothing calm.
I was stopped by a stern faced guard, asking me to roll down my window. “Saab, sticker kahan hai aap ka?” (“Sir, where is your car sticker?”) Holding out my student card proudly, I told him that it was my first day, and I will apply for it today. Completely ignoring what I said, he roared, “Saab, gari side par park karain, aur entry karain”, (“Sir park your car on the side and get yourself entered”). I was rattled a little, thinking “Come on, give me a break will ya!” I had just shown him my card and was in a goddamn uniform, surely they can relax the rules for a couple of days. But I guessed it was understandable, given the prevalent security situation in the country one cannot be too cautious.
Parking my car where I was instructed to, I came out of it and placed my first step as a student in the premises of the college. I was a university student now, I was feeling all grown up all of a sudden. In my head I was thinking, “Maybe I should start looking for a part time job as well, start planning for my field of my specialization and maybe this is where I’ll meet my fairer part”. I was already planning ahead! But then I realized that all this time I was walking tactlessly and had ended up at the end of a gallingly long line. I didn’t know what this term “ENTRY” referred to, so I gently tapped onto the shoulder of the person next in line and asked him, “Bhai jaan, ye entry say kya muraad hai?” (“Bro, what is meant by entry?”) He turned and stared at me, he had this rugged look about him. But the stare he gave me sank deep into my soul, he gave me such a nasty look that I had to look down feeling ashamed. I didn’t know what I had done, but I felt embarrassed. He asked in a manic tone, “Are you from degree 34?” Hesitantly I nodded. He replied sardonically, “Tum andar chalo, tumhain btata hoon main” (“I’ll tell you once we go inside”). I was taken aback, I did not know what I had done to incur his wrath, but I cursed myself for doing it, anyway.
Well, somehow I got to know about the process, although I didn’t dare ask anyone else. I drove my car through the gate for the first time, and there it was! A beautiful vista welcomed me, a clean spacious parking lot, guarded by vigilant men in uniform, with a lush green field in the background; I was over-whelmed to say the least. Then a sharp whistle pierced through my ears, I looked back in the mirror and the front gate guard was telling me to stop. I stopped and upon inquiry I was told that I had to “SWIPE” my RFID card. Oh my! Suddenly I felt I was a part of some action movie, where the undercover spies have to swipe their cards to unlock the doors. The motion of the hand, the beep, and viewing my particulars displayed on the screen, it just felt dandy!
So, I parked my car, took my bag and started walking towards the buildings. Looking on to the majestic off-white edifices, with the clumping noise beneath me while walking over the antique looking bridge, the sight was just magnificent. There was a lot of hustle and bustle, chit chat going on around the buildings. I looked around and saw “Department Of Mechanical Engineering” written boldly over the first building to the right. There it was, my dream, my destiny, my first stepping stone towards a brand new world….. “Where do you think you are going?” my thoughts were interrupted rudely by an aggressive voice.
I turned around and there were a bunch of guys sitting around a white bench. One of them gestured me to come over. I walked over and waited for them to start talking. They just stared at me, like hyenas eyeing a prey, and I swear one of them even laughed like one as well. They had evil leers stretching from side to side on their faces, and were ogling at me from top to bottom. “Where’s your Goddamn wish? Has no one ever taught you any etiquettes?”; barked one of them at the loudest of his voice. I was stunned by the rude behaviour, so smiling politely I said “Excuse me bhai jan, I think you’re mistaking me fo……” “Cut your bloody smile, what’s so funny here? And you don’t call anyone BHAI JAAN here” he said in a vengeful manner. Then I noticed that that there were many others just like me standing over there as well. I swear I thought it was his birthday and for some reason he wanted me to wish him. Just as soon as I opened my mouth to wish him happy birthday, one of the “cool boy” gestured, and the boy standing next to me screamed like a maniac, “Asalamualikum Sir!”. Instantly a psychotic roar came, “LOUDAAAAAAARRRRRR”, and out of nowhere we all were shouting “Asalamualikum Sir” over and over and over again like some mindless sheep. Suddenly the beautiful panorama I was painting had an ugly, unwanted smudge, which regrettably is still there somewhere in my mind. Soon enough I got to know that I have just had the privilege of “interacting” with my senior most degree, if you can call it that!
With that began the most torrid week of my academic life. I completely forgot about what my aims were, how excited I was to start a new chapter of my life, how was I going to start socializing a little more. Gone, vanished, vamoose! All I could think of was how to get a thing done without passing through the corridor, or the hallway, or the canteen unseen from the thirsty eyes constantly on a hunt. Throughout my lectures I frantically looked over to the clock to see how many minutes are left before the carnage resumes. Everyday my new classmates used to tell horrendous and sometimes downright stupid stories about what they undergo in the hostels and in the busses, and I thanked my stars that I was a day scholar with my own car.
But we hardly had any time to talk to each other. As soon as the instructor left, we started searching for jokes on the internet, and started to plan about new ways to “entertain” our “beloved” seniors, so that we could get off the hook without some dignity left; when we inevitably got the royal summon by the self-proclaimed “SIRS”. Ok, I admit some of the pranks were funny sometimes, but most of them were contemptible and outrageous. They damn cared about our self-esteem, our pride and dignity. They made us say disgusting things, made us do terrible acts, all the while exposing the filth and frustration hidden in their own wretched, twisted, perverted minds. All they wanted was to have a good laugh and that’s it! Some of us decided to give them up and inform the administration, but then their threat of “dis-ownership” rung in our ears. “Nobody will talk to you, and no one will help you with anything for the next four years if we did so”; so were we warned. So, we all waited and suffered in silence, hoping against hope that from somewhere a faculty member would show up and catch them red handed.
Two years on now, when I look back at those first couple of months in this college, they make absolutely no sense to me. I was edified by a senior that this is “a part of grooming”. If they think that this is what grooming is then I certainly feel sorry for their posterity. One more “respectable” senior explained to me that how that hazing period was essential for “bonding and developing understanding among the peers”. And here I was thinking all these years that to give someone a smile, a warm handshake and talking to them politely meant welcoming them, silly me!
Today I look around, and I don’t know about other guys, but for me the only seniors I truly admire and respect are the ones I didn’t even get to see in those two months. Some of them are now inspirational for me, and have truly been like big brothers. But I only met them after the humiliation and mockery period eased up! They never shouted at my face, never made me do silly things and never bruised my dignity and honour. I believe that the only honourable man is the one who respects others before himself. Of course there are some exceptions, but to tell you the truth, even the look of the seniors who revealed the lewdness in their retarded minds in that early period sickens me. I know it is nothing as compared to the ragging in other institutions, and maybe in some other countries it is far worse. But this is not about the severity of the action, it is about the principle. What do you expect from me when a man does nothing but hurls abuses at me and shouts at me for straight five minutes just as a “bonding gesture!” I mean having a little fun never hurts anyone, but I request my “most worthy and respectable” peers to know their limits. They must realize when enough is enough, and when you are crossing the line from being funny to being disgusting and sordid. I hope this is read by my indented target audience, and I sincerely hope that after this they will spare five seconds out of their precious time to think over the stuff before barking at freshies! Cheers!