This article belongs to Sweet Grace column.


             Isn't it strange that   while most  school children detest Monday mornings  because they have to go to school after a hectic week end, they look forward to the re-opening day after the dog days' summer vacation?


             This is what a  Kinder garden kid said in answer to my question.  After a few days into the summer vacation, they get bored not knowing how to spend the day. All their friends are all over  the city and some  have gone outstation.  "Who are we to play with?" 


             "No. no," she adds interrupting me. "I can't make new friends in my colony.  There is no one of my age group.."


              So, the young scholars go head over heels at  sighting their famous class friends on the first day of school into the new academic year.


              All colleges too  reopen in late  June in the Southern part of India. And what a contrast? The new entrants would dread the opening day here.  Reason?  Ragging by the seniors.


               It is not known when exactly Ragging was introduced in Indian colleges. There was nothing of that sort when I joined an Arts and Science college in the 1940's, at least not in my college.  But it is very much in vogue currently.


              And, I had a taste of it on the very first day in the Military Academy when  I set foot there for officer's training. We had no welcome of any kind but there were guides to tell us where to go and what to do.  Our rooms were shown in the respective hostels.  By the time  we returned to our room after dinner, the time was  nearly 2130 hours. Having had a hectic day of  familiarizing  ourselves with the lay out the academy and the places of various activities, we hit the bed straightway.


               Only on the following morning, my next door cadet apprised me of what had happened during the previous night.  The seniors woke up all the juniors  shouting that there was a big  fire and they were required to put it off. All were made to run in pajamas looking for the darned fire.  "Where is the fire"/" one fresher dared to ask.  "Get moving and you will find the fire.  Understand?"  a senior hollered. Having run round the hostel about four times and not finding any fire, they were told to go back to sleep.


               I didn't know a thing.  I was too fast asleep even to hear the thundering noise on the corridor. And no senior thought of peeping into my room. I thanked my stars.


               But I couldn't escape  the tremors of  the ensuing two days. The seniors were after us constantly once the training hours were over.  We were required to address them all as ‘sir' and every time.  A senior would often summon you, go through a dress inspection, point out some fault in the turn out and  order you to go and polish the boots nicely again and return with a different attire for another inspection.  Some defects would be picked out in the next one also.



               The third day was the day of horror. We were told  to clean and dust our respective   room. "The fan blades must shine and reflect the  light."  Next, we were lined up and taken for a run round the academy for well over half an hour, non stop.  This did not however tires us out.  At the age 17 and 18, we viewed this kind of punishment  as fun and  more of an  entertainment  than  a  ragging measure.


                Guess what a happened on the fourth day !.  The seniors wished you (instead of the other way round),  shook hands, patted you on the shoulder very affectionately  and inquired if we liked the food.  "Yes, Sir."  "Oh, no more ‘sir'.  OK?  We are now brothers and cadet trainees.  But don't forget I am a senior and you ought to respect me and carry out all the orders I give you.  All right?"  And with that he shook hands  again and took a couple of us to the canteen for a small treat.


                 The purpose behind the three days of ragging  was to put us in our place. No physical harassment, no verbal  abuse and no kind of humiliation. Everything was done in good faith and  humour  and with good intention – respect and obey your seniors.


                 But elsewhere in the civilian sector, ragging became a terror.  There have been cases of one or two students running away from the college !  Some cry-booby types had even attempted suicide unable to bear the gruesomeness.  And this was the case for around 40 years until a law was enacted in the various State Assemblies in recent years banning it.


                   Despite the  prohibition, ragging goes on unabated but on the  quiet .  The juniors dare not complain.  And the college authorities cannot initiate action until a complaint had been lodged officially.


                    I  am in  favour of  healthy ragging actually and only for the first 2 days. The aim of the game is,  ‘respect seniority and obey orders'. This axiom would act as the guide star in  the professional life in later years.  So long as it is performed with healthy intention and honour, the juniors would even enjoy it. For instance, in an engineering college the juniors could be asked to calculate  the area of all the class rooms; to solve  some ten equations in calculus in 15 minutes.  The lady students could be asked to dress up for a fashion parade.


                   If the new entrants are treated with dignity and affection, they would not only love it but also take a liking to the institution and perform well in their studies.



                                                      By: Israel Jayakaran [Sweetgrace]