Approximately one year ago, right around this time, I cursed them. I cursed them harsh.
I hurried up the stairs and glanced at the teacher who was waiting on the top with a smile.
Teacher : Eathu departmentaa?
Me : Engl- English. English Department. First Yearaa.
She smiled at me and pointed towards the room on the left. I ran (okay, I admit, I walked fast) towards the place and stood near the door. It had already started; The meeting. My first day at college had just begun.
The thing that they (our seniors) used to scare us with had a length of two words : Fresher’s day. They used to say it, I clearly remember, like some shabby young mattancherry gundas who, armed with nothing but their fists and a whole lot of ‘show-off’ skills, go around threatening people.
“Ninne njaan pokkum. Fresher’s dayil kaanaam.”
“Da (to his accomplice), njaan ivane sketch ittitund. Ivan aalu athrem sheri alla. Varatte.”
All these dialogues accompanied with the biting of the lower lip and the slow sideways shaking of the head.
(I have to say that the tension felt during fresher’s day was very less compared to the tension felt on the days preceding it)
And so, we were made aware of the anti-ragging rules, the speech rhetorically delivered by the HEAD OF OUR DEPARTMENT (who, as I will later on discover, is an amazing person. A woman who can rightfully be called as TEACHER). And with that boost in confidence, most of us were mentally prepared for the rendez-vous. The next day, they entered and the high, thick glass walls of confidence shattered at their sight. They were mercilessly picking each student and dragging them outside. There they crowded around the prey and did not let it go until each of them had got their portion of meat. I gulped down hard and kept saying to myself:-
“Bullies are babies”
“Bullies are scared”
“They are nothing but show-offs”
Luckily, one of our teachers came to our rescue. The teacher shooed off the seniors and stood guarding by the door for sometime. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Little did I know about the group of senior boys who waited outside the class. After class, they called me and my friend and ordered us to reenact a small portion of the Mahabharatham, where Bheeman and Dhuryodhanan fight and one hits the other on the theighs. We were asked to do this with sound effects. I fulfilled their desires with a ‘shoom’-‘swoosh’-‘thang’ and ‘aaahhh’, here my friend fell to the floor. There was an applause from the seniors and we departed.
Outside, in the cycle stand is where I got the real kick. A bunch of them – I do not know which department they belonged to – stood there near my cycle. One of them asked me how my day went – in their usual threating tone of-course. The trouble started with my answer (the trouble was however inevitable).
Me : Kozhappamillayirunnada!
I do not know why I said that. But the two words at the end ‘da’ got me into this trouble. Don’t you have any respect, they said. Didn’t your mom teach you some manners? Is that how you call your seniors? If we had said the same thing to our seniors, we’d been beaten up by now. I smiled at them and opened the lock of my cycle.
“Angane veruthey onnum pokandaa”
Said one of them as he quickly locked it and took the key. Then I was given a lecture on manners from each of them. Some also resorted to light violence; they gave me some light slaps and some tried to cling on to my shoulders. I received a lot of orders from them during the entire lecture; I was told not to rest my head on my arms and other stuff. I was given threats of beatings.
“Nee vaada puratheykku. Njangakku avide vechu theerumaanikkaam”
At night, due to “some” mortification, I yelled curses at them.
“Decency illatha shavangal. How dare they! This is injustice. Everyone has a freedom. Everything has a limit. This has got to stop. Ragging has got to stop. Aa thendikal. Avare kittiyaal-”
And this continued for a few minutes.
Today, it was our first encounter with our juniors. All of my friends went to the first year classroom.
“No. There must not be any ragging. One should only have a friendly conversation with other people. One should respect the freedom of others”
Thinking all that I too went to the first year classroom. And there I saw, like my first year, a group of people crowded around a student. Inside, I found my friends who were “conversing” with the juniors. Some of them used the “threating tone”. Others just shook hands and asked the juniors where they were from. I could hear a few songs being sung. I went over and sat down on the bench. Near me, a shy first year student tried to avoid eye contact with me. I went over to her.
What’s your name?”
“Hi, I’m Adithya”
“Hey. Don’t be scared. They will just ask you to sing or do some activity. Simple as that”
“Who me? Why no! I’m not scared. I mean, I don’t feel this as ragging”
Animating my face, I replied in a dead serious manner and with a threatening devilish smile : “Aano? Angane aanalle. Enkil oru paatu aavaam. Athu kazhinjaal dey avide korachu sthalam und. Thaan avide onnu dance cheyanathu enikku kaananam. Va, pettannayikkotte. Samayam Illa.”
Eyebrows down, I bit my lip and shook my head sideways.