[Reader-list] FIRST HAND: Of ragging and women

Shivam Vij shivamvij at gmail.com
Fri Jul 9 13:27:31 IST 2004

'My first day in the hostel was the worst day of my life.'

     Author: requests anonymity
     Institution: a girls' hostel in Delhi
     Years: 2003-04	
     Written in July 2004

Not being a resident of Delhi was already a disadvantage for me as a
fresher at Delhi University, and my seniors at the girls' hostel made
things worse. The unfriendly seniors would snap at you on making the
tiniest of mistake; making eye contact with them was a heinous crime.

I had never lived in a hostel and was unaware of any such thing as
ragging. And so my first day in the hostel turned out to be the worst
day of my life. We had to wish our seniors whenever we encountered
them. This was mandatory. After leaving my luggage in the room, I came
down to attend my mother's phone call. This perhaps was the biggest
mistake I made. I was stopped by a group of six girls and was asked to
keep down the phone and instead attend to them. In a rather shocked
state, I told them I was speaking to my mother but to my surprise, one
of them snatched the phone and put it down. The others looked at me
piercingly. What followed was a bunch of abusive words, which hit me
every time I think of that incident. "You have the audacity to speak
up, you bl… fuccha!" (Fuccha = 'first year' + baccha.)

"You have a big attitude problem, babe, we'll sort you out, just you
wait," they shouted to their hearts' content and then asked me my name
and whether I knew their names, courses and their respective colleges.
I said I did not, which made matters worse. I was ordered to find out
their names by dinnertime, otherwise I could forget about my food. I
stood bewildered for a few seconds after the cyclone disappeared, and
then ran for my life from the scene of the crime.

Surprisingly, after things got better (post-freshers' party), we
became good friends. The session in the hostel began in July,
coinciding with the beginning of the new session at Delhi University.
For the fear of being ragged, a majority of the freshers did not go to
the dining hall for meals and even if some of them did manage to
muster up enough courage to go, they would come back crying. It was an
unforgivable crime for a fuccha to even think of entering the TV or
the table-tennis room. Sleeve-less shirts, short skirts and shorts
were banned for the first years not by the management, but by our

The incident about my first day in the hostel had earned me a bad name
among the seniors. I could hear them hiss if I passed them by, "Yes!
She's the one, thinks she's very smart, you know she spoke back, and
uuuuooooo!". This would instigate the other seniors and I would
receive the pleasure of being personally invited to their rooms and be
ragged. Being unpopular with my seniors, even the first years started
blaming me for their ragging. I realised that it was useless to cry in
my room throughout the day, and so I decided to go down, eat my meals
and get ragged. I was also one of the bold lot who dared to go and
report ragging to the warden and the manager. But nothing happened,
some girls were mildly scolded. They found out who had complained and
issued a warrant on my name.

After the warden and manager left, my name was announced on the
microphone (used mainly to announce for the girls to come and attend
to their calls). When I came down there was a group seniors ready to
pounce on me. I was scolded severely to be the one who had the courage
to complain. Each one of them asked me their NCC (name, course,
college), and to make matters worse they asked me absurd questions,
like the spellings of their names, the names of their dogs, their
boyfriends' names, their boyfriends' cellphone numbers — too foolish
and too many to list. Any answer I would not know, they would start
shouting at me. Finally, after grilling me for two hours, they let go
of me.

I went back to my room and broke down, cried for hours, my roommates
did sympathise but nothing seemed to work. When I told my parents
about this incident, my mother seemed upset, but my father told me to
face it. He said, "What you've gone through, never let your juniors go
through the same thing, because you know exactly how they would feel."
Having taken all possible but futile measures in order to stop myself
from being ragged, I decided to give in. My friends and family told me
to just go with it, and so plunged into a group of first years that
would be called daily by the seniors and be ragged.

Believe it or not, ragging is in a way 'legal' in this hostel; the
administration was very much a part of it by doing nothing about it.
They instead justified ragging with the 'healthy interaction' theory.
Ragging was to be done until the time the third years got their
farewell and the first years their freshers' party. And to aid our ill
luck this party took place in January 2004! So, from the beginning of
the session in July, till our winter break two months before the
exams, none of the first years could concentrate on their studies. The
ragging fever subsided by December as the seniors were bored of
ragging us, and some of them also became normal with us, and a few
even decided to try their hands at friendship.

It was the coming of the New Year that spoilt it all .The third years
wanted a farewell party desperately before the final exams, but they
did not want to give the first years a freshers' party, because they
didn't consider us worth a freshers' party. But thankfully, the
management interfered and made it clear: no freshers' meant no
farewell. So, our beloved seniors decided to oblige us with a
freshers' party, but there were certain conditions that followed.

All the first years were summoned to the dinning hall, one day, and
one of the third years stepped forward and delivered a speech on a
bond. I had heard about the concept of signing a bond in this hostel,
which has certain conditions set by the seniors for the fucchas .The
bond in a way 'legalized' ragging; it was meant to be an agreement for
the last 'interaction' between the seniors and the first years. For a
period of a week, from 10:00 p.m. till the choice of the seniors, the
first year batch would daily report to the television room, where
there would be a healthy "interaction" session. This seemed pretty
simple, but along came the specialty of the terms penned down on that
piece of paper, which even I had signed. All the first years had to
wear tri-coloured suits (the dupatta, shalwar and the kurta, each of a
different, contrasting colour), apply thick coats of kajal, oil our
hair, and make as many possible plaits in our hair.

We were given five minutes to discuss the matter, and so the first
years came up with this absurd theory of going with the decision of
the majority. The majority was in favour of signing the bond. When
asked how many would be not signing the bond, only one person got up
and had argued with the seniors; she was abused and asked to leave.
The third years announced that this girl was not to be spoken to by
any one in the hostel, she would not be a part of the freshers' party;
she was to be excommunicated. All signed the bond. We were told to
report the next day to entertain ours seniors in comical attires and.
In order to have sound sleep, all first years managed to borrow and
arrange their next day's outfits.

The next day, at 9:45 p.m. all first years stood in a straight line,
clad in their ludicrous outfits, with full eye makeup and the required
hairstyle, outside the TV room. We entered the TV room when ordered to
do so, and were asked to be seated before the seniors. We were laughed
at, but could not laugh, because we were objects of amusement and
entertainment exclusively for our seniors, during the "happy hours"
(the time during which we would be ragged every night). We all had
made lists of the NCC's of our seniors, and learnt them by heart. We
were asked to first to narrate the NCC's of all the girls present in
the room, and after that, they started ordering us to do ridiculous,
senseless and disgusting things.

Being accustomed to the abusive language, most of the things were not
so much of a shock but at this stage. But I found this sadistic idea
of taking revenge and eventually satisfying your ego, very dumb. If
you have such feelings then you should be actually getting back at
your seniors rather than make a batch of people younger than you in
age suffer.

During this week, our seniors made us do hideous and absurd things.
They would pick any one at random, or in a group, and make them do
silly things which gave them immense pleasure. Some of the things
which we were asked to perform were: have bath in front of them,
mercifully with clothes; act as if you are constipated; act out scenes
from movies; present the pole dance from the movie Kaante wherein a
girl would be made a pole and the other would be the pole dancer; and
the 'mujra' from "Devdas" was a favourite. We were made to swim on the
floor, and sometimes even act as lifeguards saving lives. The worst
situations given to be acted out were: act as if you are delivering a
child, and after the delivery the husband's and your reaction when he
discovers it's not his child; enact scenes of a honey-moon couple
spending a night in a special suite. Imparting the best of their
knowledge, our seniors gave us lectures on 'hitching', being a
tradition of this hostel. How to stand while taking a hitch, what to
say, how to sit in the car, these were some essential points that were
touched upon.

 Then there were 'competitions'. In one competition, we were to hurl
the worst known expletives at each other, and the one whose count of
abuses exceeded the other, would win. I still remember this situation
they gave us: imagine you are a pimp who has to convince the customer
that his particular whore is better, and therefore fight with the
other pimp, put him down and win his customer. Now all this seems so
ridiculous and juvenile. Such senseless activities carried on for a
week and then the freshers/farewell party ended this ragging drama
forever, for our batch. Drinking, smoking, doping and some dancing
were the main features of this party. After the party the third years
called some of the first years to their room and now acted pretty
friendly, saying they were always there for us, the shocking part came
out when they specified the areas of help: "Drugs, cigarettes, liquor,
clothes or boys, whatever you need just let us know."

I had completely forgotten my unpleasant experience of ragging even
though it ended only a few months ago. I had forgotten my pain, and I
thought I would rag my juniors mildly, but won't make them go through
what I have been. But when I heard of this Stop Ragging campaign, I
tried to reflect back at the one year that have I spent in this
hostel. I realise that this entire episode, termed 'ragging', was the
worst time of my life. But it seems that now I've grown over it, I
don't have that venomous and sadistic feeling each senior has in this
hostel. I know I've had a bad experience, I know exactly how it feels
to be ragged, and I will make sure my juniors do not go through any
ragging at all.

(This first hand account is part of a database of articles on ragging
that you are requested to contribute to. The Dossier on Ragging in
India will be put up as a website and distributed as a CD. Our mailing
list is at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/anti-ragging , where you can
respond to this article. You can also write to us directly at
pace4change at yahoo.com )

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