Ragging someone at university is not funny

Published: December 6, 2014
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Anti-ragging rules do some good till the culprits find a way around them and bypass these rules. PHOTO: FILE

“Congratulations! Not only on starting your life at one of the best universities in the world, but on proving that you are the cream of the crop.”

After a brief standing ovation, the opening ceremony ended.

We came walking out of the auditorium as if we didn’t need to wait for the future; we had already become the leaders we came here to be. The opening ceremony was followed by a hi-tea session with snacks where the students discussed how they were going to “utilise” their time now that they had acquired admission into such a prestigious university.

The bittersweet day ended and soon enough it was midnight; we went to our respective hostel rooms to catch up on our sleep so we were prepared for the challenges of tomorrow. It was a few minutes past midnight and I was doing the same thing when I heard a knock on my room door.

I stood around idly for a few minutes, thinking that the person probably knocked on my door by mistake; I didn’t know anyone who would come to my room at this time. The intensity and then the frequency of the knocks started growing eventually turning into loud banging. I was sure the university didn’t have room service, so I asked loudly,

“Who is it?”

The banging stopped immediately.

A few seconds passed and it started again. Without asking any more questions, I unlocked the door and opened it. In front of me were three giant-sized guys staring down at me like I was a morsel of fresh meat they were going to devour.

“Nice to see you,” was all I could manage to say.

Before I move on with my story, I feel I should explain my university campus a bit in order to help you understand my experience better. As we move out of the hostel, there’s a pathway leading to the gate. To the right of the gate is a long pathway that extends round the huge campus.

The three guys shoved me out of my room, barely giving me enough time to lock it behind me, and made me march around the pathway – just a part of it, fortunately. Any sluggishness displayed and I would face a punishment too erotic (and painful) to describe. I felt bad at first but the embarrassment subsided when I saw my acquaintance, another freshman, marching towards us from the opposite side. The fact that we were all in the same boat in becoming a laughing stock for the seniors was amusing. Uncontrollable mirth escaped me and that was followed by another ‘punishment’.

Three hours of continuous exercising was more than I had ever done in my life; hence, the muscle ache in the morning was excruciating. The good part was that I became friends with the other freshmen I saw experiencing the same torment as me the night before. The bad part was that it wasn’t over yet; which meant I would come across more hostel residents experiencing different ‘incidents’ at night, make more friends and be stuck in a vicious cycle I never intended to be part of when I gave the admission test.

What you have to understand here is that different people take different things differently, so different ways are needed to teach them. Most of the hostel residents, including myself, might not have liked the ragging experience, but it brought us together. On the other hand, some took it seriously. This isn’t what they signed up for (well, neither did we) and they just weren’t ready for it.

We, the fresh crop, were put in helpless situations where we would be forced to act inappropriately by generating fear inside us, despite knowing the fact that we could escape. This smartly triggered ‘learned helplessness’ is a form of psychological torture. The response to this varies amongst individuals, and for those having a low threshold, it turned out to be a disastrous takedown of their self-esteem.

Everyone recovered in the end though and learnt to cope with being ragged. The seniors, however, managed to grant their fair share of frustration to many of us — frustration ready to be unleashed onto the upcoming freshman batch. It’s like a never ending process, like a tire on a road, with no friction to stop it; it might not be extremely problematic for the coming batch or the one after that, but it definitely has the potential to harm someone badly. And this is why friction is needed.

Anti-ragging rules work to a certain extent, but then these bullies find ways around them and get back to business. The only way around ragging is to understand why people do it. Seniors usually rag freshies because they want to prove to the freshman that they are superior to them. Their trivial objective, in my opinion, is to escape the miserable opinion they have of themselves by making those with low self-esteem suffer. Unfortunately, this pitiful action is then successfully passed on to their victims as a system to vent their frustrations. I do not believe it will put a complete stop to ragging, but if there is a counsellor on board, a certified therapist who can assist students, gauge their behaviour and explain causes to them, then perhaps, ragging will not be as much of a threat. The fear of being watched by someone who is judging your personality and character is just the right type of ragging these bullies may need.

Syed Ahmed Imran Majeed

Syed Ahmed Imran Majeed

A second year medical student at Aga Khan University, Karachi. He enjoys travelling, writing, watching movies and is Interested in psycho-social matters in the society as well as education and health in Pakistan.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.