“It’s a memorable experience; the plus point is that you get to make many lifelong friends,” my relatives added. The year was 1995 when Bangalore was not a metropolitan city. This was way before Cafe Coffee Day existed and all us college students would hang out at Shanti Sagar and Sukh Sagar for tea or filter coffee in a steel tumbler. I would commute back and forth by the KSRTC bus and then walk 2 – 4 kms to get home which was either a shoddy paying guest or a run down hostel.
Making new friends
Sure enough, I made friends really quick as we were all around the non judgemental age of 17-19 years. We had enrolled in the 5 year Fine Arts program where we explored subjects like illustration, clay-modelling, painting, life study, still life, photography, art history and many more. Since I was new to town, I had grown dependent on everyone to translate from Kannada to English.
During the first year, there was talk of ragging and that we needed to be cautious; sure enough, one fine day the seniors were waiting for us outside our classroom. They began yelling orders and abuses while beating us and pulling at our clothes. My quick reflex was to fight back and I managed to sneak away. Complaints were raised by several students and the ragging stopped all of a sudden. Occasionally, we witnessed the boys being severely harassed. Some were stripped down to nothing and paraded or exhibited. Even though everyone was laughing it off, I could see the humility and pain in their face. Surprise attacks were made on girls during study gatherings where t-shirts were being lifted to expose breasts. Again complaints were raised, the press were informed and things quietened down.
Cultural and Class Differences
It was in 2nd and 3rd year that I felt cultural differences that caused rifts among our classmates as most of the students came from upper class conventional families that prioritized caste and religion. Some students even displayed deep rooted hatred towards people from other states. I had quite a few encounters with girls in the toilet who often slapped me around, insisting that it was people from my state who were dirty; as a lower caste, I am supposed to clean up after everyone defecated. I was sometimes forced to pee in my clothes and even made to walk outdoors in blood stained jeans during my period. I sometimes locked myself in the toilet just to hide. I didn’t realize that I was one of the most vulnerable or easily influenced students. That’s because everyone had figured out that I was on my own and that I trusted people quickly. Not knowing their language made it easier for them to take advantage of me.
Girls are each other’s biggest enemies
The year was 1998, we were in 4th and 5th year. We were around 22 years old and some of us had part time jobs and were quite independent. It was around this year that I figured out how insane my female college mates were as they teamed up with boys to play sexual games or tricks on unlikely students. Fresh cream and chocolate were applied on the boy’s private parts and girls were blindfolded and tricked into licking or sucking desserts off what they thought was a stick or a tube. The crowd was roaring with laughter as they watched how the blindfolded girl was duped and never informed about what she really had in her mouth. The senior girls had also joined in the fun to orchestrate ragging in verbal and physical forms, even using sex toys to arouse blindfolded girls.
As you all might have guessed, ‘Life study’ was a subject where we had live models pose for sketching and considering the kind of society we lived in, our models were always fully dressed. Our professor had once suggested that if any of us was willing to pose we could have a figure drawing session through our own understanding. The seniors had a secret group where girls and boys would volunteer to pose nude.
Shivers ran through my spine when I heard that. What if someone ragged and forced us to pose? And sure enough during 5th year of college, the girls in my classroom decided to gang up on me. I was completely taken by surprise as they stripped me topless in seconds in front of the boys during screen printing class, telling me that I needed to stop feeling shy and shed my inhibitions. I stood in shock as one of the boys offered to cover me with his T-shirt. No one quite knew how to handle this (yes, complaints were made) but the ragging continued as I was beaten unconscious in the toilet; this time when I came to, I found myself naked, surrounded by my own female classmates who had pulled out their notebooks and charcoal pencils to sketch me. I struggled to get up and argue only to be thrashed unconscious again on the back of the head. Not sure how long I was out, when I woke up, I was fully dressed and while I tried hard to recollect on what had happened, the girls in the toilet began to thoroughly confuse me, asked why I seemed befuddled and told me to hurry up for class. They were playing mind games. The girls did not give me a chance to discuss how or why I was unconscious and neither did they bother to tell me what was happening. I was left confused.
The students who ragged also hid in a park adjacent the bus stand during the evening and all I could remember was blacking out while I walked past to catch my bus back to my hostel. I regained consciousness to a blurry sight of some of the girls and boys from my college sitting around me in the park and sketching me while I was being exhibited in the nude, lying on the ground on my back. I had a momentary struggle only to get knocked out cold again (not sure how they managed to do that). Unsure of the time frame, I regained consciousness to find myself fully dressed and everyone acting normal. It felt like a temporary black out. I actually began to wonder if I had just fainted or tripped over a stone. “Wait what happened just now?” I asked one of the guys who helped me up and he told me nothing had happened and that I was going to miss my bus if I didn’t hurry. However, while I boarded the bus, I could hear a huge roar of laughter and triumphant screams from a crowd at the park. That made me realign my confusion to doubt.
Of course, it took a long time for me to realize that the girls were assisting the boys as well. The frequent beating (and probably drugs) on the head had caused temporary amnesia (my self assessment) which was probably the reason why I would go about the rest of my day like I normally do. It’s like waking up from a bad dream. There were one or two girls who I had considered as friends but something didn’t seem right; they were all co ordinating! There were discussions amongst the college mates where I was not included and my queries were ignored.
I felt uncertain about everything. My so-called girl friends seemed like they were picking up arguments just to rough me up and slap me around. The blacking out continued. Once I woke up butt naked near the college parking lot and there was biryani all over my body. “Looks like someone has done something to you,” said one of the batchmate girls. Another horrific incident was when I had blacked out after drinking a glass of sugarcane juice from a street vendor at the bus stand. I have no recollection of what had happened the whole night. I woke up in the painting department the next morning and found students sitting around me sketching while I was made to pose nude. I was furious and began throwing things at everyone. Then they explained that I was already fast asleep in the nude when they had walked into the classroom and that they thought I was a volunteer!
It was many years later that I managed to catch up with one of the senior girls and asked her about all the strange things that I felt was happening to me and she stood silent for a long time, pondering whether it was ok to tell me everything and finally she retorted that some of the girls were being used for their bodies for life study. She said that the college kids who did all the ragging were carrying things out in such a way that the victim didn’t really know what was happening to him or her.
Basic human needs
To add to all the drama, three immature boys from my batch, who demanded that they wanted to have fun during final year, began to rag me as they noticed I was quite aloof and was living on my own in Bangalore. I got down from the morning bus and half way up the footpath to our college, the boys snatched my backpack and stole my lunch box. During lunchtime, I was made to starve everyday. My clothes were pulled at and I was forcefully dragged along with these guys, forced to sit with them and being ordered to talk to them.
My pleas were ignored and for some strange reason, I was also being ignored by the college professors. I realized later that everyone was involved and that I was being chosen as a target for ragging by everybody. My personal guess is that the college professors were also involved in the forced nude sketching sessions. Since my backpack was taken away, a couple of times I had to beg for coins on the road in order to buy a bus ticket to go back home. There was no sympathy.
The pranks went a few notches higher when the trio blind folded me, stripped me down to nothing and while I managed to struggle and set myself free, I ran out the door to save myself but ended up streaking infront of all the students, asking if anyone would help me and finally one boy offered his T-shirt and promptly took me to the principal’s office, but nothing had been done about the incident. My temporary amnesia or maybe post traumatic stress was playing up as I would go about my daily college routine, giving my college mates the impression that they had had me.
Were these Rumours?
There were strange stories that I had overheard about how some students were trying to reenact a ping pong show they had witnessed during their holiday in Thailand. Apparently cigarettes were inserted, a rubber sucker and even a rocket launched from a stick inserted in the private parts of some of the students. Girls’ bodies were used as a platter for food and desserts, which led to group oral sex acts. Girls and boys were blindfolded and tied on motorcycles and taken for a ride semi nude. Some were dressed in costumes or even had their body painted and photographed. Some were forcefully made topless and played with like a doll. College juniors were made to line up and take turns to touch breasts while the victim was blindfolded and made unconscious. On other occasions, girls were stripped and smeared with cake cream to be licked off. The list is endless.
Were students being drugged, sedated and bodies being used for swinging parties? No one knows for sure. Or maybe it’s just a rumour. Can my classmates and friends who I had known for 5 years turn out to be so cruel? Though I lived in doubt for several years, I had put everything behind me to move on with my life goals but for some reason struggled with relationships, intimacy and income. If I could turn back time, I wish I had the courage to discontinue college instead of enduring through all this.
Why was I singled out, I often wondered, while other girls remained untouched and secure. I had revealed too much about my family, me being alone in Bangalore and my finances. No one had advised me to be more discreet. I did not recognise or identify the kind of drugs that were being used then. Drug users have impaired judgment and might become abusive. I think alcohol and drugs were the main reasons why ragging persisted successfully and remained undetected.
If you feel people are keeping secrets from you, avoid them. Always have emergency numbers in place, or contact details of the nearest police station. Even girls can be toxic; so it is better to be alone than to be with bad company.
More about our Guest writer, Roshna Chandran
Roshna is s B2B and B2C business news writer, covering topics on fashion, grocery, retail and spa industries. She has a background in Fine Art and a Master’s degree in Ancient History & Archaeology. She founded Under The Mahua Tree, an online eco-friendly store based in Kannur, Kerala.