There has been much written in the last few days in Delhi newspapers about an incident at College, first reported as a Ragging, then as a case of inebriated students doing something crazy and then as a minor prank in which the pranksters had been suspended by the College authorities.
From the reports that I read, it appears that four senior students sprayed some cologne on a fresher and then threw a match on him, causing minor burns.
Firstly, this could never have been ragging. Ragging that takes place in College does not extend beyond the first two to three weeks of a new academic years. In September, one is looking at the end of a whole term and no fresher would be ragged that late in a term.
This was very obviously misbehaviour of four students and the decision of the Principal to suspend the students was probably correct.
All of us old timers of the 50s and 60s have all been ragged. I do not think any of us were any the worse for the ragging we went through in the first two weeks of College, after which we made good friends with our seniors. Most of us who were sports oriented were soon sharing the playing fields with our seniors and enjoying a great relationship.
Ragging was hard, but it was also great fun as the seniors tried to outdo themselves in finding new and interesting, yet amusing ways to rag the freshers. No harm ever fell on anyone being ragged.
Ragging "officially" ended after Freshers Night in the Junior Common Room (JCR), which was quite a hilarious affair as freshers were dressed up in fancy dress and the competition to find the "Miss Fresher" was the highlight of the evening. That was the time we had no girls in residence (or College) and the Miss Fresher was the sweetest looking young male student. (Real names not revealed her, but Daisy was Miss Fresher in 1960 and Susy held the title in 1961. I do not remember the name of the Miss Fresher title holder for 1962! Anyone remember that?)
I was ragged by several seniors who later became my good friends.
When it came to my turn to rag, unfortunately, or fortunately, I was standing for the post of President of the JCR, so I did no ragging.
However, one day, I happened to be sitting in a friend's room where some jovial ragging was in progress, when Dean Rajpal walked in. He reported all present to Principal Sircar to take action against us, with possible suspension.
By that time I had been elected as President of the JCR. I met with Principal Sircar, not so much to plead my case, but to tell him what the other students were up to was just a bit of harmless fun.
Principal Sircar knew what the meaning of ragging was and dismissed the whole incident without any further ado.
The following year, I did no ragging except one case where one youngster I had never met was getting off ragging by claiming his close connection to me. I put him straight and that was the end of ragging per se.
Between 1960 and 1963 I know of no case where there was anything but light-hearted fun.
I wish those who are the powers that be will intervene to separate ragging from causing willful hurt, and that the process of breaking the ice between seniors and freshers can be done in an organised manner which is fun for all.
Ragging in end September - impossible in St. Stephen's College!