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Biblical Baptism 

(The reason to write this real life incident that happened in my medical life career is that other day I was surfing through and I came across a article written by Santegudde cricketers about ragging that is prevalent in educational institutions more so in professional colleges. It may not be eye opener to all but it reinforces the importance that it will bear in our society and may help to our youngsters who aspire to study higher education. All credit to Santegudde cricketers to bring this article and lively flow of the incidents and very palatable language)

By godís grace and support from my family and friends I had made in to the medical college doorsteps to study medicine and to become doctor wayback in 1982. Never in my life, I was separated from my parents or had an iota of idea of hostel life. It was a bold decision to leave parents and brother and sisters and stay in a hostel for the next 6 years of your life. I was staying in the hostel even before I got admission to the college during the interview time. We had that mind boggling interviews for admission to St Johnís medical college that lasted 5 days. It was traumatic to last 5 days of grilling interviews. To add salt to injury, one has to put up with the humiliation and ragging that was going on before one got admission to Sain Johns in Bangalore. Before I got admission this ragging or orientation(the word framed by the seniors) took place before my dadís eyes. He was sportive after little bit of reassuring to tell him that is the norm in a medical college when new students get in.  Finally, my dad left the premises and Bangalore after admitting me in the hostel and leaving me to fend on myself.

We had the peculiar type of orientation or ragging than other medical colleges. Orientation to the new entrants lasted for 45 days from the day of the admission. It involved from answering the questions, being modest and humble to seniors, serving coffee or tea in mess hall, cleaning seniors dirty rooms, entertaining the seniors in mess in front of all hostel audience,sporting the trendiest hairstyles (patchy rat eaten appearance in the scalp), washing their two wheelers etc. Among all, the hair cut given by the seniors with moth eaten appearance is more difficult to swallow as it was there for every one to see, atrocious with the side locks cut short. You are the object of mockery and fun for this trendiest hairstyle. It had its ups and downs but it was very traumatic in the early days of hostel life. One side you would miss your parents then this humiliation in hostel. It was very difficult to cope with especially keeping awake until the wee hours of morning and then attending the classes. It was usual to fail the class tests during this period.

The year 1982 saw dramatic changes in discipline in professional colleges. That year Karnataka Govt has barred ragging in medical and engineering colleges after the directive from Supreme Court and things came to such a pass that we had cops patrolling the hostel premises in the night. Still our seniors and hostelites were undeterred and still managed to trouble juniors. On the brighter side of this, the seniors in the hostel later become very friendly and helpful after the 45-day period. Until then you will be looked in disdain and contempt.

For me it was hard initially and at times I thought about quitting the medicine and start some thing elsewhere. It was doing lot of physical work until late night and then attending the classes in daytime. There are umpteen times I have gone to lecture classes late and invited the wrath of professors or stepped late in the anatomy cadaver dissection classes. People have placed pieces of cadaver meat in lab coats and scared others. In medical school it is not uncommon to see the whole skeleton in our rooms to study the bones and osteology and the whole skull.

My friends and myself have been subjected to scare with the skeleton. Our seniors used to make us sit on the femur( thighbone) for hours. It is hard or impossible but one has to do those types of rigorous exercises. We have been made to clean the rooms with toothbrushes. It takes ages and does not make sense but we have been made to do the impossible. Every evening we have to go to the ground and do the warming up and play football. I used to enjoy football since I played football before but we have been subjected to do more physical part rather than real play. Every one has to attend the mass at 7 PM and then straight head towards the mess hall and wait in the queue for the dinner. There too our job was first make plats available to the seniors and then pick the plates for ourselves. After entertaining the seniors they used to pick us as group of 2 and take us to their rooms. This used to go on until 3 am. But still that ďname and shameĒ culture to complain was non-existent.

Our warden happened to be our Anatomy Professor that time and he used to make raids in some rooms with out any notice. Many of our immediate juniors have been caught or have been reprimanded for their rash behaviour with the juniors. We had our own St Johns oath, which is obscene that one has to blurt out every time they ask us to do. But the ragging has never reached physical in our hostel or aggressive nature and we have been asked to wash cloths, clean their untidy rooms or to do their homework. This life went for 40 days. But our warden has been hearing that still some ragging was going on. But he did not have the evidence to substantiate that.

It was one of those Saturday afternoons where after the classes all juniors have been huddled in one common room in all four blocks. It was happened to be the last day of ragging. After that day we would be let free. We can do what we like. We can even swear at our seniors and next day they would help us with books, teach us complex subjects and accept us in their open arms to their mainfold. But before that we had this baptism. You may wonder what this baptism that is taking a real dip in one of the dirty pond and coming out of that water. As you emerge through water you will be given a hand by the seniors to invite you to St Johns. This has been the tradition of St Johns for 20 years. But before that happened they had littered the floor with water and every one has to swim on the floor with water crawling on the floor. Though it was hard and humiliating many entrants and juniors were enjoying and having a ball. The news had fallen to our wardenís ears and before one could sense he was there barging in to the hall where juniors were taking a swim. No one had the presence of mind or premonition that he would be there. This infuriated him to no end and he was fuming with anger. He has shown the doors to the seniors and when every senior disappeared he took the juniors to the task. He asked them to report next day. All of a sudden all that cacophony and racket has come to a standstill. Our warden was so angry and I have never seen my Anatomy Professor that angry any time after that.

 After he left we did have the baptism. What an experience to take the dip in that dirty pond water. It reminded me of the biblical years when John the Baptist baptised all people in that Jordan river including our Lord Jesus. Anyway, I thought it was worth and we had a lively entertaining programme. That was the end of the ragging for 45 days. I felt the journey has ended. It did help me to develop the personality that I am and made us humble and modest. One has to be thick-skinned individual to go through such arduous ordeal and come out unscathed.

(Ragging is bad practice and the issue whether it should be eradicated or encouraged is contentious. If it is done in good spirit and does not reach physical proportions then it is acceptable. Considering the number of deaths, suicides and left many more who have been maimed in both body and mind, I strongly feel it should be banned in total. Unless the concerned authorities do some thing, it will have serious repercussions and dangerous consequences. Time being the topic is debatable but if you have an orientation programme that is aimed at new entrants to adapt the new entrants to the new environment, then it is acceptable. Otherwise this evil practice will be a proverbial thorn in students and in their parents flesh. I do not know what present conditions prevailing now. I did have the experience 20 years back. This is not a story but did happen in my medical career and aimed in having awareness among our youngsters when they set their foot in medical or engineering colleges. This practice is prevalent even in St Stpehens College, New Delhi, Xavier's College, Bombay and Loyola College, Madras other than professional colleges).

Dr.Derick Dísouza,United Kingdom.(Pandeshwar)


For a glimpse of the life at Barkur as remembered by Barkurians, check archives

Barkur, located in Udupi Taluk, Karnataka, India. 576 210

Copyright Kishoo, Barkur 2002.