Gender & Identity, Life

I was a victim of ragging during the first week of university in Pakistan. I couldn’t stop it.

This was when my nightmare began.

The term ragging is probably an unfamiliar word in America and the UK, but the practices are just the same as hazing. Except that it doesn’t happen to the freshmen in any sort of group either sorority or fraternity. In South Asian countries – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia – it happens to every single freshman.

Ragging happens to every single freshman. Click To Tweet

Getting into college was tantamount to that start of new life. I was deliriously happy on my first day in college. There were thousands of plans on my mind, typical plans such as making new friends, acing every semester and to have a good time.

But unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

It started with orientation week for the newcomers. A tiring, torturing week which felt like forever. This was when my nightmare began.

It was a week with almost no sleep. Our day started in the early morning and ended after midnight. The seniors who were in charge of orientation week were with us all the time. I didn’t mind the events and activities for us as I knew how important it was to get us settled in our new place and environment. But keeping us all night just for ranting was absolutely absurd. Usually, the seniors who were in charge of the freshmen did it for petty reasons, mainly to show us their power of seniority.

On the first day of orientation week, one of the freshmen made one unforgivable mistake – she questioned as to why we had to wake up at four in the morning if the orientation activities start at eight. Because of that, all of us were punished. For three hours, they ranted about how rude and disrespectful we were for questioning their actions.

Their ragging during orientation week was more than keeping us up all night. There were ridiculous punishments and demands from the seniors. Some of us were ordered to dance in front of everyone or fetch them food or drink whenever they wanted it. One other freshman got lost at one point and asked for a senior’s help with directions. These seniors were more than glad to help, with one condition – these new students had to squat walk until they reached their destination. There was just no way to escape the ragging. Seniors were everywhere. The freshmen were tormented by physical humiliation, verbal abuses and threats from the seniors at all times.

We were all pressurized by physical humiliation, verbal abuses and threats from them. Click To Tweet

I thought once the orientation week was over, the ragging would stop. But I was wrong.

Unfortunately for me, I was placed in the same dorm room as a senior. She took a strong dislike to me.

There was one time when I went to my room and she waited for me, with her two other friends. I was surrounded by them and interrogated for what seemed like an eternity. She accused me of disrespecting her that day because I didn’t smile and greet her ‘good morning’. To them, I needed to be put in my place.

After hours of insults and verbal abuse, I was warned to smile and greet her next time. But not just her, her friends demanded the same thing. Do it, or suffer the consequences – those were the exact words they said. Intimidated by their threat, I agreed. But still, I had to be punished for my mistake – I had to do their laundry for as long as they wanted.

Living with her was torture. I was practically her slave for two semesters and did all her bidding – buying her food for lunch, running errands for her and washing her bed sheets. As a freshman, I was powerless. I tried to get used to the bullying but there were times when it reached the point when I considered quitting college. I looked forward to my classes, just to get out of my room but dreaded the moment when I had to go back. Every day I put on a brave face but silently cried at night.

As a freshman, I was powerless. Click To Tweet

Once I asked a counselor’s help about being ragged. But his answer was disappointing. Instead of support, all I got from him was this answer – “it was just a phase of my college life.”

Luckily, it didn’t last forever. I was finally free from the ragging in my second year.

I was assigned to be in charge during orientation week in my third year. As a senior that time, I had the authority to do the ragging to those freshmen.

But I didn’t do it.

The first year of college scarred me. Those newcomers never deserved the same, awful experience like I had. They came to college with high hopes of bettering their life, not to endure this stupid tradition.

The ragging did affect me in some ways. Now, I’m stronger and tougher, more resilient because of my experiences. I’m more empathetic towards those who have been bullied and wronged by the seniors. Now, I’m against bullying and more perceptive to any act of bullying. It was lucky for me to survive my ordeal, but there were few who didn’t.

Sometimes, I wished I could stand up for myself instead of bowing and scraping like a slave for the whole year. I’ve realized one thing – their seniority shouldn’t define their superiority. They deserved respect, but only when they earned it, not because they had more experience in college.