Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Purani Jeans, aur Guitar...

This Ali Hyder song never fails to conjure up old memories of my college days, all the way back in 1996 (a whole decade ago - depressing !!). Warning: short history follows !!!

1996 wasn't exactly the best time in my life, to say the least. My dad wasn't well, and my engineering aspirations had just been dealt a major blow. Since I'd pretty much decided that I wanted to do
something with computers (an Apple course called 'Graphix Thru Basic' had gotten me pretty much hooked), my entrance-rank ('SSLC-mark' and 'entrance-rank' are much-dreaded terms in Kerala, by parents and children alike !!) was nowhere near good enough. I had no choice, but join a B.Sc. Computer Science course somewhere. A couple of colleges were shortlisted, and we got conned into enrolling into one of these 'recommended' colleges in Coimbatore, TN. Now this was not one of those swanky, posh colleges; much to the contrary, it was a place where violent brawls were not all that uncommon, and the newer teachers were actually intimidated by some of the more rowdy students !!!

Somehow, I was not really aware of the dangers of 'ragging' at this time. All I had was a vague notion of what it could entail. Strange to realize how wet behind the ears one was then :). Well, I was about to find out !

The day I landed up in the college hostel, a couple of seniors had been suspended due to complaints made by a spirited first-year who'd decided that he'd had enough. The resentful seniors were ready to kick ass, and they got mine - handed over to them on a platter.

Looking back, it was the propensity for violence that shocked me more than the actual beating itself. The gleeful ferocity they employed to thrash the helpless kids was bewildering, and pretty frightening. A couple of my classmates definitely were affected by these random acts of savagery (pretty much anything could lead to a beating then) at that time. Since my defence mechanism was not to venture out of the hostel room much except for emergencies (meaning food), I was not picked on much (plus a lot of people 'protected' me when they realized I was good at academics). However, there were a couple of people who took a special 'liking' to me. I used to mumble the choicest epithets against one chap in particular, and never got friendly with that guy even after the battle lines were withdrawn. When I was in my final year, we got the news that this chap had drowned in a freak waterfall mishap (in Kerala). Strangely, guilt was the primary emotion that I felt - for thinking ill of him for so hard, and for so long.

Another guy who reserved 'special' treatment for me was a twerp of a chap (this rankles, even now) - one wide sweep of my hand, and he'd have been history. I almost did it once, before those supportive seniors I talked about lead me away. He took the utmost care to avoid me after the cessation of the ragging-period. This is one chap who'd better pray he never sees me again in his miserable little life !!

Today, even the ragging bit does seem fun, but then it was very frightening. An ineffective warden (whose English had to be heard to be believed) hardly helped. When I went to the college 4 years back, I was amazed to see the level of security in the hostel - 2 guards outside, special permission to go inside etc - jeez. The flip side - yeah, but of course - was that there was hardly any interaction between the seniors and the juniors, and annual days usually ended up in major brawls between the batches of different years (I miss the fantastic free-for-alls the most !!).

Of course, we had a whole lot of fun once the raggin'-period got over. Haunting the canteen, watching corny movies with friends, impromptu trips to Ooty, accidents, numerous heartbreaks and more - sheesh, college WAS fun !!!!


Pradeep Nair said...

Ragging is fun, except when it is saddism for some seniors.

Ranjit Nair said...

Pradeep, unfortunately today ragging has become almost synonymous with physical violence in most hostels. But yeah, ragging often does help break the ice with seniors, and forms for some great memories.