Belting out Traditions

“Whack!”

“Hey… why are you hitting at my back, hit lower you @#$@%!”

“WHACK!”

“It’s not hurting at all, hit harder!”

“WHACK!!!”

“Ow! Owowow! That’s better!”

“Whack!” “Whack!” “Whack!”

As I was walking on the main road of Indian School of Mines,
Dhanbad, I saw this interesting – and perhaps disturbing – scene where a
student is getting whacked with a belt on his bottoms by others, probably his
friends.

I walk ahead a bit, another similar scene is visible: one
boy, four others surrounding him, one holding a belt, whacking him just like
the previous scene. When the perpetrator is done, one of the others takes over
and starts whacking.

I’m a bit worried by now. Is there some mass ragging
campaign going on, or are they some students vigilantes who’ve created kangaroo
courts to punish wrongdoers? If that were the case, why did the first student
ask for more properly aimed whacks? What exactly is going on?

Kushagra Bharadwaj, a final year student, and his classmate
Abhishek try to pacify me. “Relax, it’s ok. That boy’s just getting some GPL. Everyone
knows it’s going on” says Kushagra. Abhishek continues, “It’s a tradition. The
boys know they deserve to be whacked. They should be proud of it.”

Er… proud of getting whacked? “Yes. They have just been
placed. Our placements are going on, these boys have been placed in some
company or another, and now that the news are out, all their friends –
especially those who haven’t been placed yet – are getting jealous and want to
exact some ‘punishment’ on them” explains Abhishek.

“It’s an ISM tradition. Most of them know that this would
happen. They must be wearing extra layers to take the sting off. Whenever a
student gets placed, his friends must whack him – otherwise his happiness will
not be tolerated by others who haven’t been placed” states Kush.

Traditions and culture endure beyond times where they were
defined for some reason or another. ISM students have taken a path where they
have made it a fun thing to do, a story and a tradition that binds them to
their alma mater. Whether it was born out of jealousy or enmity doesn’t matter,
today it is a matter of pride for them – a proof of point that they have been
placed, and will not need to worry about a job upon graduating from college.

Traditions like these play an important role in institutes
where students are with their batchmates and classmates 24/7. From IIM
Ahmedabad’s students getting nicknames by their dormmates, the reasons for
which are not revealed to anyone else, to JNU’s Holi celebrations including
Chaat Sammelan & Tamatar-Keechad, college students have come up with
traditions that bind them together to stand against the whole wide world. They
may not be secret, but the fact that they have undergone those traditions
themselves as compared to the rest of the world is enough to make these
students stay friends forever.

Do you know of any such traditions yourself? Does your
institute have any such tradition too? Discuss them in the comments below.

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