An unnecessary tradition

Ragging. A word spelling fear for freshers in college. Entertainment for their senior counterparts.

The Oxford Student’s Dictionary defines rag harmlessly as: play practical jokes upon. The American Random House comes closer to its actual use in India: To torment with jokes. (Torment: noun, (something that causes) severe bodily or mental pain or suffering)

When a student first enters college life, he is apprehensive of the new set-up. School and colleges might be both institutions of learning, but there is a great difference between the two. In a school, a student’s field of thought is fenced by his teachers, parents and numerous other factors and hence under greater scrutiny. In a college, on the other hand, the same pasture is wide open to the influences of the outside world.

So most people taste their truths of life here. Moreover, in college hostels, one is more or less alone and free to do whatever one likes and the good, the bad and the ugly all surface.

To the new student, a college is an unfamiliar place and ragging was introduced to ‘familiarize’ the new atmosphere. On the first day of college, seniors would play harmless jokes on newcomers to put them ‘at ease’ and laugh together. It does work in a way as there is some sort of interaction between the seniors and juniors. Otherwise a junior might have spent his entire college life with any senior. Ragging is supposed to be a very good method of breaking ice on the very first day of college. One is acquainted with one’s seniors and is a companion in being ragged with his classmates. It is good clean fun if practiced in the right spirit.

However as power corrupts, students can’t be trusted with such an originally harmless thing in their hand. The jokes become rougher and continue throughout the year instead of the first few days. The net result is that ragging has ended up a nightmare for its victims and is merely another form of harassment.

‘Pretend to be a motorcycle’, ‘imitate a bird’ and ‘how would you propose to your girlfriend’ might sound harmless and even fun. But what is definitely not funny is ‘walk on the narrow railing’, ‘murga bano’ for long durations and troubling some poor student all night or multitudes ganging around him. Physical abuse has to be totally out. Ragging now propagates goondagiri and dadagiri. More violence to the youth. Distractions for both the violator and victim. In most institutions atrocities go unchecked as seniors commit several excesses. Victims who show resistance are in for more trouble.

Some reason that all this toughens the student, but it might also break him forever. Certain scars have lasting impacts on tender lives as cases of suicide are not uncommon. What is much worse is sexual abuse which is reported now and then. This leaves lasting mental agonies and many a times, unrepairable psychological damage.

So ragging, far from familiarizing the student and putting him at ease, makes him uncomfortable and afraid of the system. It also makes oppressors out of some who are encouraged to pursue such activities after passing out. From a harmless word, ‘rag’ is now quite ugly.

Ragging today is an irrelevant college tradition and should be done away with. Senior students would have been ragged by their seniors who would have been ragged by their seniors. So they rag their juniors who rag their juniors. It’s high time we came out of this vicious circle.

Merely passing laws against ragging will not be enough. The concerned authorities everywhere have to deal with the matter firmly. Even minor cases shouldn’t be left off the hook. A sincere effort is needed from the Education Ministry down to the heads of the institutions, teachers and hostel staff. It is finally the students themselves who can bring about a real change.

Or maybe the Indian Dictionary should define ragging as:

Senior students tormenting their juniors in educational institutions

(This appeared in a student’s publication called Cheel in Jodhpur in July 1993)

A career in India

Do you want to pursue a serious career in India? You might need nearly a decade of specialized study.

In most countries, a matriculate is assured of being at least a clerk and a BA a handsome teacher’s post. In our country even a doctorate is uncertain of something of his choice.

In the good old days, schooling used to begin at the ages of 4-5 years and a person would start earning before the age of 20. Not anymore. Today schooling starts at the age of two and nobody knows when the process of education will end.

Do you want to become a lawyer? It’s three years of graduation plus three years of LLB, which is six years. The total is eight years after matriculation, and a matric was ‘really educated’ once upon the time. A doctor? It’s four years of graduation plus a year of internship plus two years of specialization, which is 7 years. A Chartered Accountant? It’s three years of graduation plus about four years of CA, which is seven years. Then hardly anyone completes their CA on time. And with those who do, it has become a fashion to collect additional allied degrees like ICWA, CS… so God knows how much time they will spend on that. Want to be a scientist in an institution or a professor in a university? It’s three years of graduation plus two years of PG plus at least three years of doctorate studies. To those eight long plus years you can safely add a year’s delay in the form of strikes and about two years to really settle down in your respective career.

Again, an engineer today isn’t satisfied with a simple BE/BTech. He’ll either go for post graduation, doctorate or for an MBA/IAS. Now a “technocrat-bureaucrat” or a “technocrat executive” sounds good, but is practically not so. He’ll only be a hard-core bureaucrat or executive. All he has done is wasted a couple of years and at the same time blocked a seat which could have gone to somebody else.

So where are we heading? Who wants to be educated anyway? All they want is a good job which is provided by either a professional degree from a reputed institute or clearing a competitive exam. Basic education ends at matriculation, so a BA or BSc has just wasted 5 years after 10th on non-professional education, nothing which will really help him with his future job.

With the current trend, in the future a baby will start some sort of schooling soon after it is born and it’ll be an achievement if he gets a good footing in his career before the age of 30.

(This appeared in a student’s publication called Cheel in Jodhpur in July 1993)


Darkness darkness everywhere
and not a light to think
Walls walls everywhere
and not the slightest chink
Loose ends loose ends everywhere
and not a thread to link
Eyes eyes everywhere
and not the time to blink
Yellow yellow everywhere
but not the shade of pink
Keys keys everywhere
and not a lock to click
Boats boats everywhere
and still we’re going to sink

(This poem appeared in a student’s publication called Cheel in Jodhpur in July 1993)