(Note: I dont intend to write a journal about my 4 years at IIT. There are only a few things are interesting enough to be told- actually its just one- ragging! The first part of the post is just intended to break the ice. All and sundry about ragging goes in part 2!!)

It was the same old hateful raajma, along with the same boring butterscoth ice cream, which had already melted by the time it was delivered to my seat at the mess. I'd decided to eat at the place that had feeded me for 4 years, and that I loved to hate, on the last day at IIT Roorkee, just for the kicks. As I ate the last piece of the chapati (thats what they called it, though i didnt figure from what angle it looked like one), memories from the very first day came rushing to me.

It was an excruciatingly hot n humid summer day. I was just a boy unprepared to take the reins of my life in my own hands and be dumped in a 'hostel'. A rank of 454 in the hyped up JEE had got me a course in computers at IIT Roorkee. Not bad. Not bad at all. That's how it seemed at that time atleast. It was a long and painful journey to the place which was gonna be my home for the next 4 years. I had never known a tradition much observed in our country before that day. During the last week of June, millions of bhakts (so to say) travel bare-feet to haridwar to fetch 'kaawad' (holy water) right from lord shiva's feet, and bring it back to their homelands before "shivratri". The indian govt., in order to keep its Hindu vote bank happy, shuts down most parts of the highway to give these bhakts a clear passage. Elaborate tents are set up at every mile and free food, water and bedding is provided to these people. So its basically not really a big sacrifice on the part of these 'bhakts' as it seems at first, but only an annual feast, a picnic they'd love to go on year after year. As a result of their devotion to lord shiva and the govt's devotion to them, the roads are closed and earthly mortals like us have to bear the brunt. Consequently, a 5 hour journey turned into a nightmarish 10 hour one. In any case, I thought thats probably the worst I've seen. But then I was goin to enter IITR, and the worst really couldn't have been defined at that time.

A day's work was what it took to clean up the shoddy room that was alloted to me at the hostel. Yet, I was happy that my rank got me the best possible room in IITR, and whats more, it was one of the rare single-seated rooms. I could have some privacy atleast! The room wasn't really what troubled me much though, it was the idea of common bathrooms and toilets that caught my fancy (or ill-fancy). I just couldn;t adjust to the fact that I wouldn;t be able to drop my towel after a nice bath and swerve to some music a la ranbir kanpoor. Weird right? Not really. But then I also had to survive the summers without so much as a proper fan. And i almost fainted in the evening when a swarm of mosquitoes n insects of all shapes and varieties came buzzing by, greeting every part of my body. I didnt know then that this was to become the routine for the months of july- october every year for the next 4 years. Adding to my suffocation was the dust, the bustling crowd of parents and all kinds of weird to-be hostel-mates.

We were all supposed to line up at 9pm outside the hostel for an 'attendance' as if we were in an army school. I was stupid enough to think shorts and sandals were good and comfy in that heat. I was made to run to my room to change them to something more formal, not together, but one by one...coz the warden at the hostel didnt had the habit of telling the rules all at a time, but in spurts!! The 'formalities' - attendance, proper clothes and shoes to the mess, continued for about a month. The attendance, which was kept as an excuse to make sure everyone was back at the hostel at night and was not loitering in some senior's room being ragged, was the first to be flouted. It was followed soon by the attire that one wore to the mess. The shoes gave way to sandals first and chappals next. The trousers gave way to shorts, and students doing so were given an apt term- 'kachchhadhaari'- coined by someone witty enough to do so.

It was only the second day when rumours of ragging had started doing the rounds, and stories of oppression were told in hushed voices, in the evenings when there was nothing else to do...

To be contd...


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