I was ragged mercilessly in my MBBS. To say that I was brutally ragged may not be entirely accurate, but it is not very far from the truth either. I was forcefully kept awake most of the nights, was made to sing lewd songs, dance half-naked to the same numbers and was abused in "various” (I am leaving it purposely vague) other ways. During those days of torment, I told one of my friends that ragging is evil and that it has to be banned. He doubted whether my convictions would hold after the tables are turned and I become a senior, but I was pretty sure that my stance would not budge. But now that ragging is actually banned in India, I remember it with a degree of fondness that is surprising!
The ugly side of the ragging is quite notorious: seniors physically hurting juniors, making them use narcotics, sexually molesting them and pushing them over the edge to leave colleges in some instances and to commit suicides in others.
Many of the medical students enter the college without learning any social skills. These skills are not there in their core curriculum and the students cannot afford to spend any time for things outside it. Each of these students would be living in a tiny capsule of their own universe and the less time they spend interacting with others, the better are their chances of getting into the medical college. They live for themselves (obviously I am only talking about the majority) and are practically insulated to the harsh realities of daily existence. They cannot properly face rejection, loss or failure. For these students, ragging used to be a primer for the world ahead.
I unabashedly admit that I was such a student. But the ragging I received in my first year has indeed helped me bond with my seniors, it removed some inhibitions in social interactions, and it acted as an immunization against whatever challenges the world threw at me later in my life. It helped me to face criticism, humiliation and failure. I thought I ‘grew up’ with ragging. (In the second year of my MBBS, I made a few feeble attempts at ragging myself, without actually hurting the juniors. All these attempts ended unpleasantly for me and amusingly for my juniors and before long, I realized that ragging was another art I was not adept at. I ended my medical studies without ever successfully ragging anybody save myself).
Despite its shiny silver lining, the dark cloud of ragging has to be banned. But what little benefits it spewed out should not be forgotten. There should be a mechanism to recreate two of the most favorable byproducts of ragging: the harmony it festered among the students and the mental strength it gave its victims. The same things can be achieved by making cultural and sporting events mandatory in the early phases of medical education and formulating structured programs to help students cope up with the stress. Attempts in this regard are already being made by some medical colleges in the western world, but a lot more still needs to be done. Once these measures are properly implemented, I would not care for ragging any more.
P.S.: Written in the memory of one of my classmates who was not stupid enough to face this world.