Long ago, but not so very long ago
The world was different, oh yes, it was
You settled down and you built a town and made it live
And you watched it grow, it was your town
Time goes by, time brings changes, you changed too
Nothing comes that you can’t handle, so on you go
You never see it coming when the world caves in on you
On your town, nothing you can do
Main street isn’t main street anymore
Lights don’t shine as brightly as they shone before
To tell the truth, lights don’t shine at all
In our town
Sun comes up each morning, just like it’s always done
Get up, go to work, start a new day
You open up for business that’s never gonna come
As the world rolls by a million miles away
Main street isn’t main street anymore
No one seems to need us like they did before
It’s hard to find a reason left to stay
But it’s our town, love it anyway
Come what may, it’s our town
– “Our Town” by James Taylor
Only a few days back when I was going through my old hard disk which I found while shifting my house, I found a video which was named 12345. Confused by it’s name, I opened the video which in turn opened a stream of memories. For the next five odd minutes while the video was playing and around ten minutes afterwards, I felt numb, and in no way could I describe the emotions that were flowing through my mind. A combination of sadness and happiness, of loneliness and togetherness, of pridefulness and humility, of suffering and enjoyment mixed in bittersweet memories which made me smile and cry at the same time.
Then a couple of weeks back Facebook reminded me that eleven years ago on 17th of July 2005, I had embarked upon a journey along with 112 others, a journey that would change the course of our lives.
These two events forced me to write something about this experience of mine, which shaped me into a good professional that I am and enhanced the way I look at things.
Born and brought up in Pune, I had completed my twelfth from S P College and engineering from Vishwakarma Institute of Technology, and was still oblivious to hostel life. After working for two years I was looking forward to continue my studies. For company work I had been away from my home for a couple of weeks a month, but apart from that I had not lived alone and words like hostel, seniors and ragging had no meaning in my dictionary. I really didn’t know the meaning of being home sick when I left for college with my mother and father, to a place called Nagpur which though was 700 kilometers from Pune, still in the same state of Maharashtra, and more or less equidistant from Delhi, Chennai, Kolkatta, Bangaluru, Mumbai and Pune. After reaching the college I was allotted a room. My parents talked with some of the professors and even some students in the second year (seniors) of the same course that I was admitted to. The Devils painted a rosy picture about the college and about the support they would provide me. After a few hours my parents left and my new journey started.
The Devils who had promised to take care of me and help me out in any way possible started to show their true colours.
They used to keep us (our whole batch) awake at night and order us to do some nonsense things. Though I have written the word “ragging”, I assure you that no limits were crossed and the professors too had an idea about what was happening there.
All we used to know was that someone from our batch went to city, or disobeyed an order and for that our whole batch was being punished. Then there was this guy called “bal ki dukaan” (Sandeep Singh) – with long hair who did something which resulted in the whole batch getting a hair cut, for Rs 10 each at a village shop in Mausa Dorli.
When we came to college for the first time, we were asked to bring a presentation with us which we had to present in front of the seniors. Someone from my batch (Amit Khanna) who I knew not by name but by face at that time, had presented on the topic of ragging. He had used some photographs from the net in his presentation. Well, coincidentally two of the photos that he had shown were of our seniors dressed in girl’s clothes and those two were on the receiving end during their engineering days. Some of the seniors recognised their batch mates, and that night, hell broke loose.
I remember this specific instance during the ragging period very clearly. We were supposed to salute the seniors in a special way during the ragging days, and by mistake, I raised my arm and gave a salute to our College Director. He called me, and told, “There is no need to salute us, only your seniors.”
Another instance involves a senior of mine, Vasu Gopal. I had a moustache back then, and as a part of ragging, he asked me to remove it. I replied him that this is one thing that I will not do, whatever the consequences. I didn’t know how, but he agreed this and left at that. After some days, I removed the moustache and he thought that someone had forced me to do it. He became very protective and asked me to name his batch mate who had asked me to remove it. I told him that it was my decision, but he was not willing to listen. In the end he did agree to what I said, and as a punishment, he gave 2 of his shirts and one bed sheet for washing.
Now, no way was I going to wash those clothes. So, the clothes were lying on the table in my room. Vasu came after two days and enquired whether I had washed the clothes. I told him that the clothes are washed, and its the best I can do, though I had not even touched them. He said that he will come again after two days during which I had to wash them. Same day, my friend Alok came to my room and asked about the clothes lying there. I told him that they belonged to Vasu. He took one shirt with him and went. Vasu came after a couple of days and after seeing that I had not even touched the clothes, took them with him, forgetting that one shirt was missing. Meanwhile, Alok washed the shirt, ironed it and started wearing it himself, even in front of Vasu. Alok from my batch and one of the senior (his name was also Alok) were school buddies. Rumour has it that Alok from my batch had gone to senior Alok’s marriage wearing the same shirt, and there Vasu had come with his wife. Now, Vasu’s shirt which Alok was wearing, was a gift from Vasu’s wife who was his girlfriend at the time the present was presented. And obviously, Vasu’s wife recognised the shirt, and the rest as they say is history.
Sometimes, ragging was fun, even for us (those being ragged), and at times, it was difficult to keep a straight face with so much comedy of errors happening. The “Dedh Inch” episode of Ashish Nagpal for instance was one where I could not control my laughter and only the remembrance of the episode brings smile to my face.
All in all, that time, when we were new to our college, that ragging helped us unite as a batch, and also created a special bond with our seniors. What was to follow after a month of ragging, was going to be an exciting time, a journey of a lifetime, with many twists & turns. But lets wait, for some time for that episode to unfold.
Meanwhile, enjoy the video…without the song, as it is copyrighted material