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BEING the new kid at school takes its toll on you. Physically and mentally, of course, but also on some level, it tests your sanity. There are hardly any feelings worst in the world. The fact that you do not know anyone there, have no idea about the place, you are filled with nostalgia about your old school and when these things get tangled up with the constant dread of getting ragged or hazed, fear starts swelling up.

At school, ragging isn't really a big issue. Bullying is, but that is uniformly rebuked. Ragging or Hazing is something quite different than that. Ragging is, as Wikipedia describes it, “is a term used to describe various ritual and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group.” To 'join' the institution, freshmen all over the world have to endure this process. Seniors surely take delight from it, that is evident. Even some freshmen look forward to their years as the rag-gers.

There is practically no limit to what people do to make junior students a 'part' of the clan. In the US, fraternities and sororities even 'brand' students( yes, that is very middle age-ish. But who's going to say anything about that?) Branding is something that stands out from the typical stripping, dancing, isolation, alcohol consumption and public humiliation that goes around.

The worst cases are in Sri Lanka, where around 72% of all students have been ragged at least once in their lifetime. India and Pakistan is not so far behind, and Bangladesh is catching up too. The thing that ragging does is it gives you stories to tell and births a 'culture'. Everyone wants to brag about something. Why should it be something innovative or creative when we can torture naïve fearful bunch of young guns, right?

At a reputed business school in the country, ragging is quite an experience. A friend went there to find out if he got in, and when he heard that he did, the seniors there made him buy flowers and ask a girl out. I still don't know how he managed to talk to the girl later on.

Another guy was asked to dance and he stripped his shirt! I was there, and looking back I think that was completely unnecessary. The guy on the other hand, was probably trying to impress girls with his invisible six packs. In that case he succeeded.

At another public university, ragging is not taken so lightly. Publicly humiliating the students is common, so is dancing in the cafeteria and smelling socks and things like that. Some things are done to such an extreme, that students are even reluctant to talk about it. Students living in dorms are the worst victims. Night raids can provide enough traumas to last a lifetime of nightmares. Private universities are a bit better compared to that.

Hazing is illegal in many countries like US and India, but that never stops that from happening. There are so many shocking pictures of hazing on the Internet that it is a miracle those guys aren't in jail already.

In school reporting a bully is a brave thing to do and is encouraged. At college, no one wants to speak out about these pointless rituals. It's never an issue until someone gets hurt. Until then, it's 'somebody else's problem'. People justify hazing by saying that it helps the students learn the values and rules, to become familiar with the seniors and helps them bond. Yeah, nothing says 'bonding' like being scarred for life. That's exactly how we should promote higher education.

By Orin

Book Review

Be My Enemy

A few years back, Dhaka introduced the short-lived and highly underrated Paintball Xtreme, in a setup right opposite the Bashundhary City Mall, which at its final stages of completion at the time. Those who got to experience this rather pricey activity will have noticed how it brings out that dog-eat-dog basic instinct in the players. You've felt it before, even if it wasn't paintballing per se; whether you were shooting zombies in a video game, or trouncing someone at a game of badminton, or even in a mad moment when your car overtakes the one right in front of it. It's part competition, part blood-lust. And when you introduce some real stakes into the mix, oh, like a lot of money that you have invested, or even your life, well, that's when the gloves really come off, and even the meekest person can turn into a tiger.

Christopher Brookmyre takes this concept, tosses in one wise-cracking journalist, one supercool badass former spy, a whole bunch of politically motivated, but seemingly unremarkable civilians, and a bunch of violent, sadistic criminals to bring you a game of Survivor like you've never seen before.

The story is one from the Tim Vale/Parlabane threads, set somewhere between his books Boiling a Frog and Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks. Even if you haven't read either of the two, it doesn't really matter; each of the books are stand-alones, with ample explanation of who the characters are. To get back to it, the irrepressible John Lapsely Parlabane, the bad boy of Scottish media, is feeling rather restless. No one has tried to kill him recently, and he hasn't even come across a worthy adversary to take down. So when he is invited to test the authenticity and effectiveness of Ultimate Motivational Leisure, which is said to be the last word in role-playing war games for corporate clients, he grabs his old friend, Tim Vale, and jumps aboard with a bunch of bored yuppies, just for the chance to snipe at somebody. The old adage of 'Be careful what you wish for..." comes true for him when, during an exhausting capture-the-flag romp, masked gunmen appear out of nowhere, using real bullets. Suddenly, it's no longer all fun and games, and the danger is real and present. What's worse, the criminal mastermind is actually someone in their party.

Anyone familiar with Brookmyre will know to look for lots of gore, crass humour, visceral humour, and suspense and action that just won't quit. The characters are at once larger than life and yet instantly relatable, and the dialogue comes fast and furious, peppered with a lot of Scottish dialects.

Cons? Well, at some parts, the political ranting tends to drag on a bit. Brookmyre has a serious problem with Thatcherite politics that he keeps bringing into his Parlabane books. Other than that, the book is relevant, hip to current trends, and basically a very entertaining read. So polish up your bargaining skills and head straight to Nilkhet to hunt down your copy.

By Sabrina F Ahmad

Where Am I?

“GO left at the first intersection, right at the second, then left again." That's what she had told me, right? And I had followed her directions to the last letter, right? RIGHT!? Wrong, apparently. That's when it hits you. You're lost.

We've all gotten lost sometime or the other. Everybody has their different experience of it. But what everyone agrees on is that it's scarier when you're younger. A lady in her early forties claims to have not only gotten lost when she was small, but also nearly drowned while trying to catch a dragonfly. Getting lost at amusements parks is a unique experience in itself. A friend claims to have gotten lost in Shishu Mela when he was a kid. Remarkably calm, he decided to go home, which, he was convinced, was just round the corner. What followed was an epic tale involving a juice vendor selling blood, and other such absurdities.

Another thing that we've all been through as kids is when we went shopping with our parents. We would inevitably see a toy, which had brighter colours and flashier lights than the piece of junk that we had back home. We would stare at it, wide-eyed, not even noticing our parents walking away... At that age, when being lost meant not only not knowing where you were, but also being separated from your parents, it was scary indeed. This writer has an experience of being lost in a supermarket as a child. I mean, all the aisles look the same, right? It was fifteen whole minutes before I had realised that I was circling the oatmeal biscuits for the twenty-ninth time!

Now that we're older, the situation is somewhat different. There are no sudden panic attacks in the middle of the shopping mall wondering where mummy is. We still get lost these days, though in more innovative ways. A friend claims to get lost only when he receives directions from his father. Another says he has amazing sense of direction and never gets lost in real life. However, he admits to have gotten lost while gaming. And everybody seems to have gotten lost in Uttara and/or Lalmatia.

Whatever the circumstances, whatever your age, you are bound to have gotten lost at some point of your life or the other. Sometimes you discover something new (like Alice discovering Wonderland). Mostly you don't. But at the end of the day, being lost for a while just makes you feel that much better when you return home, safe and sound.

By TheAlien4mEarth

Love is Divine

My sorrows are gone
Because of Shujan
Well, that is my beloved son
Only one
All parents love their children
More than their lives even
But to me it appears always
I love my son more than any parents else
Although that is not right
But I love to think that way day through night
The parents are the best friends in need
The children can ever get indeed
Let the children lean to love likewise
Their parents, dear and near ones

By Md. Ali Husain



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