It was in the early seventies that my cousin Joshi joined a college in Trichur for his Pre degree. My aunt and her second son Michael (Joshi’s elder brother) went to drop him at the college. All three were sad, ’cos that was the first time Joshi was leaving home. Also, there were fears and anxiety about ragging.
After putting his suitcases in his room and meeting the warden, aunt and Michael started to leave. Joshi walked them to the car, subdued.
“You’ll get over homesickness in two days time”, Michael told him.” After all Trichur is not far from Ernakulam”
Silently, Joshi nodded in agreement.
“I only hope they don’t rag him”, said my nervous aunt, as they reached the car. ”Joshi, if they do, just let us know. Papa will take care of it”
“Come on, Ma, stop worrying and making him nervous. This college is run by priests and ragging, if at all thre is, it will be very mild”
“But why should they rag at all?” asked my aunt, her voice slightly hysterical.
“Keep quiet ma and get into the car. Joshi, nobody is going to do anything to you. Just take ragging sportingly. OK?”
Joshi nodded sullenly, looking around at the senior students, some of whom were playing badminton while some watched, and some stood in groups talking. One group was looking at Joshi.
“Look at the guys on my left. They have been watching us for sometime. I’m sure they’ll pounce on me the minute you leave”
Aunty got really scared.
“Shall we speak to the warden” she asked. Her voice shaking.
“Stop it ma. Stop being so protective”, said Michael angrily. ”Joshi, be a man. I told you no one will harm you. All this is part of life”
“You can say that and go back to the safety of our home. I’m the one thrown to the wolves”. His eyes were moist.
Aunty was on the verge of tears.
Michael took her firmly by her elbow and put her in the front seat. He was about to close the door when he saw Joshi leaning forward to plant a kiss on his mother’s forehead. So Michael went around, got in behind the wheel. The goodbyes were over. Joshi shut the car door on his mother’s side and stood back.
Michael started the car abruptly to avoid any more emotional goodbyes and the car shot forward.
My aunt put her head out of the window to wave to Joshi, and then let out a terrible scream.
“Michel stop! Stop! They’ve already started ragging him. He’s running behind the car asking us to stop. They’ve pulled off his mundu and he is running with only his shirt on”.
Michael slammed the brakes and jumped out of the car and ran towards Joshi.”Aarada ninney shalyapeduthunnathu (Who the hell is troubling you?)
Joshi pushed him aside and rushed to the car.” Where are you going, Joshi?" shouted Michael running after him. "You cannot run away from trouble all the time. Go to them and get back your mundu”
“That’s what I’m going to do. Mundu, my mundu. It got caught in the car door and you drove away with it?”