July 1968, that’s fifty years ago, when we got off the train, with my two friends, at Rourkela railway station, for an admission to the engineering college, then R.E.C, now NIIT.
In the college, there was a spot selection happening for the remaining seats for admission to the first year. There was quota system, and we were from a school in Ranchi and my two friends, Vijay and Vinod were with better marks than I had. The quota got over just before Vinod’s turn came and both of us got left out. When we had given up, I met , a professor, head of the selection committee, who happened to be my father’s friend, to say a courtesy hi. My father had accompanied us to the college. When he heard our story, he said there is one seat in Kerala quota going vacant, let me see whether I can push you in there. He went in and came back and said you are in under the Kerala quota. My father and I, requested them to try and get my friend Vinod in. It did not work and I felt miserable of the unfair destiny, a friend with better marks, more deserving, did not make it. I recovered, only when he got admission in Sindri and lived, perhaps a more meaningful life by serving in the defence, after completing his engineering.
This particular experience opened up a debate in my mind, we make our life or is it destiny. There are many other occasions in my life, destiny has won. I have nothing to complain about my life, whatever has happened has happened for good, even the downtime and flops It’s the weak and miserable who blames fate whereas people who has made it, believes and argues that its they who have made their life, choosing the right options . Another school will say, its Karma. At different stages in life, I have taken different sides, we mortals living a materialistic life will never touch the truth. With my experience, I can guide you (if you need one) to react and respond positively with no guarantee of the outcome.
This engineering course is of five years duration, unlike today’s four. I don’t think the additional one year we spent in the college has made us any wiser than the present generation. I had heard about ragging and there were some seniors hanging around near the counters ready to pick up the freshers, once they complete the formalities of admission. As soon as I completed mine, I saw a group staring at me, I looked at them and smiled. “You are smiling? Do you know you are not allowed to smile until you pass your first year, come with us.” I said “I will come , let me meet my father, he is there” , I said pointing to one side. “Ok, say tata to him and come back here”. With my heart beating wildly, I moved away from the group and ran out of the college premises and headed towards my relative’s house. I do not remember, now, whether I sprinted all the way or did I take a rick to reach my safety, leaving father and friend behind. At around 11 o’clock at night my father and friends came home and found me fast asleep and next day morning we talked. I had a one line story of “ I got scared of ragging and ran away from the college and reached home, safely”. Well, they had a longer one, a four hours with every moment filled with anxiety to know about the missing son and his safety.
When they did not see me for an hour after the close of all the admission activities ,they started looking for me, asking around a few whom they met where could I be. Some one said, may be in one of the hostels attending a “welcome treat”, and there were 5 hostels. A few seniors accompanied my dad in the search operation, going in and out of all the hostels and all other potential ragging joints, when a chap told him,” I saw a guy going out, around six o’clock, he looked like in a hurry, may be that’s your son”. Well, he may have said it to stop the operation and get away hoping they may find me at home. What my dad went through that evening, was the worst in the history of ragging because he was the wrong guy. Once they took it as resolve that I may have reached home, all were too tired to accept any thing else, the seniors took my dad and friend for a grand dinner in the hostel. When they reached home and saw me sleeping, the relief was like the air going out of an overblown balloon. What was that, destiny, karma or ?
It took me a week to move into my accommodation in the hostel with three room mates, Aspi (parsee from maharashtra), Madan(Orissa) and Keppen (Nagaland) One good thing about REC those days, you had 50 % seats for the state and the rest from different parts of the country which made a terrific mix under one Indian umbrella.
Next day, on my way to the hostel, I was stopped by a few seniors and taken aside “You ran away that day and put us in trouble with your father, come with us”. They took me to final year students hostel, hostel number 2, if I remember right. I think there were 5 of them in a single seater room at that time, some of them sat on a cot and two of them stood by my side, one of them bolted the door from inside. I was in a fight or flight situation. Flight was ruled out, only option was fight. Ran some movie fight scenes through the mind, my favourite actor was Devanand, unfortunately the scenes that came to mind was where the hero gets beaten up. I decided, let us surrender and wait for their orders. One of them said, “here sit on this chair”, which was next to a table. I s(h)at on the chair. “ Your father is working in Hindustan steel, that is what he told us when we met him on the spot selection day”. I shook my head with a mute “yes”. “He is Mr. Das and he has cleared the written test for graduate trainees post in Hindustan steel” and the gang leader paused looking at me. Am I supposed to turn to Mr Das and shake his “glad to meet you” hand or look down and mutter yes Sir. Before I could decide, the spokesman continued , “he has got an interview call and you write to your father saying Das is a good friend of yours and get him the job”. That sounded like an order. I said “yes, give me his full name and other details like his application number, interview code etc and I will send him a letter” and I got up. He had his hand on my shoulder and gently pushed me back to the seat. “Here is the paper and pen, I will dictate, write (right) now”. I took the dictation on the plain paper and wrote the address on an envelope, which was also present. After the signature on the dotted line at a gunless point, it was smiles all around except mine which was frozen. “Thank you, we will post it, if any body calls you for ragging tell them you are Misra’s friend, no body will touch you and meet these gentlemen” he said looking around. ” Relax, lets go for tea”. I said ,” I will come again, excuse me”. “Ok, Jao, will meet again”. I walked away with a secured protected feeling.
On my way back to my room, I was stopped by another gang and I followed them, relaxed, armed with Misra jis name at the tip of my tongue, ready to fire. This was the second year team, just qualified to be first time raggers, freshers. When they started talking I understood, oh Malayalis (these days known as mallu), country cousins. Being first timers they were learning. I went along with their orders, sing a song, sit on an imaginary chair and few other acts. While, my emotions were working against them, though not strong enough to bring in Misraji, I did not show it. After an hour or so, it was over and these guys were a complete turn around, ended on a happy note, passing on all their text books for first year, free with love.
Finally, after five years I passed out as an Electrical engineer with average technic skill, however, its the life skills that I picked up at my alma mater, that took me places.