This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 27; the 27th Edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The topic for this month is ‘Once Again’.
– “Hello, Mampi?”
– “Ma, what happened? Why are you crying?”
– “It’s about Bubai.”
– “What happened to him?”
– “Bubai has returned from hostel and is saying he won’t go back. He is behaving very strangely and is always locked up in his room. Neither your baba nor I can understand what the problem is. Something must have happened at the college and he seems to be depressed. Please come home and speak to him once. He always shares everything with you.”
– “Don’t worry, Ma. I will take the next available flight out of Mumbai. I will also speak to him over phone. Trust me, I will make everything all right.”
Devika was very worried. Her kid brother was an outgoing and fun-loving boy. She had never seen him depressed or subdued. She could not fathom what could have happened to him. Unable to concentrate on the client meeting in progress, she decided to postpone the rest of it to another day.
It took 30 minutes for her secretary to arrange all her affairs at office, reschedule her upcoming meetings and book her into that day’s evening flight to Kolkata. Meanwhile, Devika tried speaking to her brother over phone, but became doubly worried when she failed to elicit much response from him. Her heart broke to hear his voice which seemed listless and unresponsive. “He is in a lot of pain,” thought Devika in despair.
When she reached her Lake Gardens home in Kolkata that day, it was already quite late. After a quick pranam to her father and a bear hug to her mother, Devika ran upstairs to meet her brother. Being 12 years elder, she had been his elder sister, role model, guide, best friend – all rolled into one. She was surprised to find his room locked from inside and the lights switch off.
Her mother came up behind her. “Ever since he has returned yesterday, he has been in his room throughout. He is not even playing computer games or chatting on Gtalk. He does not read books, watch TV or listen to that ipod which you gifted him last year. In fact, whenever I have managed to enter his room, he seem to be lying in his bed, silently gazing up at the ceiling and doing nothing!”
“What is going on, Ma? Last I saw him, he was so excited and happy to be going to IIT Kharagpur! I am going to your college, Didi; I have managed to be as good as you – this is what he told me. We were all so proud of him. What went wrong there? Please tell me in details.”
“Why don’t you first unpack and freshen up. Then we will talk in our room.”
Her father began with the background. “Everything seemed all right in the first one month. He used to call us daily and give updates. I also managed to video chat with him once or twice. He told us about how the faculty still remembered you as a meritorious student, when he informed them about you. He had also seen the trophies you won for the college, which had your name in them. He was really happy to have followed in your footsteps.
Then his calls became infrequent due to rising pressure in his classes. I am learning so many new things – is what he used to tell me during every phone conversation. He also topped the first surprise class quiz. Then suddenly yesterday, he returned home with bag and baggage and refused to return, to either college or hostel. Ever since, he has not spoken much to us. We asked him a number of times, but all he says is that he will not go back there ever again! We know you are very busy in your office these days, but there was no option for us but to call you. He is behaving so strangely!”
Devika assured her parents that they did the right thing by informing her and that she would speak to him first thing in the morning next. That night, as she lay awake in her room, she prayed to God that the reason for her brother’s change in behaviour be anything else apart from what she suspected. “Please God, let it be something like unrequited love or inability to cope with the pressures of an IIT. Anything but what I think it is.”
The moment Bubai saw his elder sister the next day, he was overcome with an inexplicable feeling of both joy and despair. She was just the person he needed at that time. Devika hugged him tight and cradled his head on her breast. She could feel that her brother was shaking with sobs. “Bubai, don’t cry my baby. Your Didi is here and she will make everything right again. You trust me, no? Please tell me everything.”
“I hate engineering colleges. I will do anything else – Bachelors in Physics or a Diploma in Mass Communication or study anything else. Just please don’t ask me to go back there again.”
Devika disengaged herself from the embrace and looked into his eyes keenly. She knew her brother could never lie when she was making direct eye contact. “You can do anything you like with your life. I will always support you. But, why do you want to leave engineering? I know it was your dream.”
Bubai did not want to give her the real reason; in fact, he felt ashamed, mortified and helpless whenever he thought about it. He had to hide it somehow from his sister. “Didi, I don’t like engineering. I don’t think I am cut out for the profession. I was thinking…”
“Oh c’mon, Bubai, you can never lie to me. I heard you were doing well in the subjects. What is the real reason? Is it some girl?”
Bubai was flabbergasted. “Girl? No!” He kept looking at his sister with defiance, as if to prove that he was not lying.
Attempting to keep the shake away from her voice, she asked her dreaded question as casually as possible, “Were you bullied there? Ragged by seniors?”
Bubai flinched involuntarily. It was all Devika needed for confirmation of her worst fears.
Devika stood at the threshold of her alma mater, memories flooding in. She was the first person in her family to gain admission at the prestigious institution. A brilliant student, talented debater, champion swimmer, genius chess player – Devika quickly became the star of her batch. Combined with her unconventional attractive looks, she received adulations from the boys and contempt from the girls. She too scorned at mediocrity and tolerated the company of only the best. There were not too many like her, so her circle was limited. Anshul, the best guitarist, Ashraf the best actor and Rohitabh the star football player with the best looks – the four of them made an enigmatic group. She was the reason why the rest passed their exams, Anshul was instrumental in procuring the best gaanja in town for them, Ashraf used his connections to supply the best alcohol in cheapest rates and Rohitabh’s good looks ensured that they had the maximum fun. Devika chuckled at the memory of how Rohitabh pretended to be gay, just to expose the closet gay, Kunal of their batch. “They do it from the rear, can you believe it?” Rohitabh had doubled up in laughter, along with the rest three. Anshul patted his butt and asked, “What else did he do to you, pretty boy?” “Before he could rape me, you guys arrived with the others, just to catch him with his pants down!” A second round of laughter followed.
The security guard’s questioning looks brought her back to the present. She smiled at him, saying she was an alumnus and wanted to visit the Dean.
“Good morning sir, I am Devika Sinha. Batch of 2004, Electronics and Telecommunications.”
“Hello, Devika, of course I remember you. In fact, every faculty from your time remembers you as one of the most gifted students of the institution. How have you been?”
“I am doing good sir. I also did my MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and presently working with Aditya Birla Group of Companies, looking after operations of some of the divisions. It is all because of the training and knowledge I received here.” Devika gave one of her smiles, which usually won over the recipient in a jiffy.” After exchanging a few more pleasantries, she decided to get down to business. “Sir, my brother Debayan Sinha has joined the college this year. He is also a very brilliant student and a very polite and friendly boy. But I must tell you with great regret that he has left the college and returned home, saying he does not want to come back here again.”
The Dean stared at Devika, shocked. “Why so? Why does not he want to come back?”
“It pains me to do this, but I want to lodge a formal complaint of brutal ragging by senior students of this institution against my brother.” Devika’s voice shook with suppressed rage.
“It is not possible, Ms Sinha. We have strict anti-ragging policy in place for many years now. There has been no serious complaint of ragging in this college. I am told that the senior students do engage in some harmless fun events with the freshers, but that is usually to acquaint them with the hostel life.”
“Please excuse me saying this, but you are living in a fool’s paradise. You may not have received any complaint but ragging has been going on in the hostel for ages. It is not just any harmless fun, but serious ragging which can be harmful for the psyche of the young minds, Even I have …..” Devika stopped in the middle of her outburst. Her heartbeat was racing and her mind was numb with rage. She felt alarmed at what she almost said. “…I have faced it myself,” she completed her unfinished sentence.
The Dean jumped to his feet. He was exceedingly shocked to know that serious ragging has been going on under his nose all this while. “Ms Sinha, I assure you. I will see to it that your brother is not made to leave college because of some insensitive brutes. I will investigate the incident myself.”
Devika accompanied the Dean when he called for an emergency student body meeting in the community hall. He informed the students of all four batches that Debayan Sinha, a bright first year student has made a formal complaint of serious ragging through his sister, herself an accomplished alumnus of the institution and he wanted the students to come forward with any information connected to ragging of this boy or anybody else. He also announced that the perpetrators, if they surrendered now, would only be censured but if were caught after investigation, would be handed over to the police since ragging was a punishable offence under the law. He promised to keep the identity of the informant students a secret, if they wished but urged all to come forward with any piece of information they feel could bring Debayan to justice.
Devika expressed her gratitude to the Dean and also wished to speak to the friends of her brother. She knew that if she had to find the culprits, she would have to conduct her own investigation.
She first spoke to Saptangshu who, according to Bubai was his best friend. “No Devika di, I did not meet him the morning he left. I came to know from his roommate. I thought he must be missing home or there could be some emergency. I never noticed any change in behaviour. He was always fun-loving and outgoing as ever. In fact, he had many friends in the batch and also senior batches. He was trying for a place in the cricket team and used to spend a lot of time with the seniors.”
Devika quickly noted the names of the seniors with whom he was particularly friendly. She knew the system of ragging in the college too well. Ever since it had been made a crime and strict anti-ragging policies were put in place, ragging had been taken behind closed doors, in small groups. It always started with the friendly seniors gaining confidence of the nervous freshers and then smilingly, asking them to perform some acts for their benefit. Eager to gain acceptance, the freshers obliged, even if they felt insulted in the process. This also ensured that none of the incidents were reported and in the stray cases they were, there would be no witness to testify that these seniors were bullying the victim. In fact, they were helpful and friendly would be the statement of all.
Devika looked at the three boys standing in front of her in the Dean’s office. They stood with polite deference but with a cocky attitude. “I hear, you are all part of the college cricket team. I also hear that you were very friendly and helpful towards Debayan.”
“Yes, ma’am. Debayan was a talented spin bowler and we were planning to include him in the team.”
“Cut the ma’am. Call me Devika. Since you were so nice and friendly, you must have invited him to your hostel room for a chit chat. He must have gone, thinking you were the friendly seniors who were calling him to share tips about the game or induct him into your exclusive big boy’s club. You may have thought, let’s have fun with the fresher and decided to indulge in some little ragging just for fun. Didn’t you?” Devika’s otherwise smooth and soft voice sounded steely and cold. She gave the three boys a long, hard stare, in order to intimidate them and force them into a confession, by telling them that she knew exactly what had happened. “What did you do to him? Parade him naked? Make him drink his own piss? Asked him to draw female anatomy? Make him masturbate in front of you? Gave electric shock in his genitals? Make him give you a blowjob? Which one was your method?”
A few seconds that passed in stunned silence, seemed like hours to those present in the room.
The biggest in size of the three boys opened his mouth, “Sorry, D-e-v-i-k-a, this is not what had happened. We never invited him to our room. He only met us in the cricket field or the corridors. We could never even think of ragging him. He was going to be our asset in spin bowling.”
“Don’t you dare lie. Either confess now or I will have the police make you confess. That won’t be pretty, dear boys,” Devika snarled with hatred.
The Dean intervened, “Ms Sinha, please control yourself. You three can go.
Now Ms Sinha, please understand, these students are one of the brightest in the college. I have questioned many students and even Debayan’s batchmates. Except that Debayan was known to speak to them and seemed to be close, there is not an iota of evidence against them. I cannot allow a police complaint unless the preliminary investigation revealed some sort of connection. You admitted that Debayan is not willing to make a formal complaint by himself. Unless that happens, I am sorry I cannot help you.”
Throughout the journey back to Kolkata, Devika kept on twisting and turning on the lower berth of the train. A number of voices from the past seemed to surround her in the chilled first class compartment.
“Oye Devika, your secret admirer, Sandipan came for theatre auditions today. I felt like telling him that you are perfect as my heroine, such fair and flawless complexion and cute feminine face!”
“C’mon Ashraf, admit that he is cute. I have never received such a well-written love letter from anyone, that too a fresher.”
Rohitabh chipped in, “Oh, he is quite cute, Devika. I feel like pretending to be gay again.”
Amidst the roll of laughter, Devika said with finality. “No guys, you back off. It is my turn now.”
Didi, nothing happened at college. I just don’t feel like studying engineering. Please don’t ask me anything more.
“Hi Sandipan, I hear you are brilliant in chess. Finally, I have someone to practise with and hone my skills.” Devika smiled at the face which lit up with happiness at this unexpected opportunity. “Let us meet at the common room of the South Hostel. It is relatively empty due to lack of fans and there won’t be any disturbance.”
No, Didi I was not ragged. Nothing like that happened. I have no complaint against anybody.
“Hey, relax. Don’t be so scared and stiff. Have you never held a girl’s hand? I know there are many boys who desire me, but I like only you. I also know that it was you who sent that love letter. No no, I am not going to complain against you. I really liked it. Come to my room tonight at 9 pm. I have single occupancy and the adjoining verandah is very easily accessible from the back garden.” Devika planted a kiss on his cheek making him all the more hopeful of that night’s adventures.
Why have you gone to my college and complained against ragging? I told you so many times that this is not the case. What? You spoke to them? Why Didi? No, I do not sound scared. No, they have not threatened me. Please Didi, I do not want to make any formal complaint against them.
“I had told you guys before, he is more a girl than a boy! Look at the size of his boobs!” Ashraf exclaimed.
“Let him pull down his pants and show us. May be, the answer to the mystery lies there.” Anshul advanced towards the trembling half-naked figure.
“This chhakka of a guy actually thought he could do you, Devika! What audacity!” Rohitabh uttered in amusement.
“Please, boys. Be softer. None of you are supposed to be in the girl’s hostel. You should have waited till he pulled his pants down before you showed up. You ruined all the fun. I had to work so hard to bring him to this stage of nakedness.”
“No fun has been ruined. He can still do what we ask him to do. Or else, we will ensure that he is caught in the girl’s hostel and rusticated with disgrace. So come here my boy and shed all your clothings. Rohit, where is that electrode? If he measures less than 4 inches, then I give the shock, if not, then you do the honours.”
“Thereafter, he is all yours, Devika. He loves you so much that he will do anything that you ask him to.”
Didi, please don’t ask me what happened. I cannot tell you. I can never say these things to anyone. Come back, please and let me have some peace.
In her dream-ridden and befuddled state, Devika tried to reach out to her sobbing brother to comfort him, but found someone else standing – someone with a cute face and an eager smile. Someone who left the college early next morning and whose father later complained to the college authorities of ragging. No one knew what had happened and no one could point a finger at Devika and the others.
Devika sat up jolted by the bad dream, tears streaming down her face. The perfect system of no-detection-of-ragging which had protected her and her gang from prosecution 6 years ago, have once again protected the culprits of her brother.
This is a work of fiction and has no resemblance to any person, living or dead or to any place or institution.