My Life at N.E.D. - Episode 1: The Lightning Dash

October 8, 2023

I was immediately impressed by his poised demeanor and self-assured presence.

I can’t remember if I had heard such an authentic American accent in Pakistan before. As he introduced himself, he said that he did his undergrad from N.E.D., and his graduate studies from a famous U.S. university of which I can’t remember the name right now. And that he was “Inshallah” going to be enrolled in a Ph.D. program at another famous U.S. university soon.

At the age of 17, on my very first day at N.E.D., I found myself amidst a cohort of top H.S.C. graduates from across Pakistan. To give you some context, even though I was a good student myself, I was barely able to get into Computer Systems Engineering program at N.E.D., surviving the cut off by 2 marks if I remember correctly. So basically everybody around me had better results than me at HSC, and I was sitting in the same room as arguably the best students in the country of that age group. And now this guy, our lecturer, was probably as impressive as they get.

It was one of those pinch-me moments for me.

Suddenly, I heard someone screaming from just outside the lecture hall. “Rangers… bhaag”! Which roughly translates to “Police is here, run for your life!”.

What I saw next bamboozles me to this day. The guy, our “lecturer” took off. I think it must have taken him less than a tenth of a second to get out of the class and disappear. Usain Bolt would’ve been proud of that swift departure from the room.

What the heck!

It turns out that this was a pretty common thing on first day of the first year students at the campus. This guy was a senior student pretending to be an instructor. We were being introduced to the rites of passage of the life to come at N.E.D. This initiation, often termed “ragging,” was a quintessential facet of N.E.D. culture. Today you can read up on Reddit or Facebook about this experience of life at a university in Pakistan. And it’s probably similar in other institutions and countries. But remember that this all happened in the pre-Internet era! Being the first in my family to attend a university, and given that my acquaintances from N.E.D. had conveniently omitted this detail, I was genuinely unprepared for the events of that day. And the collective silence that enveloped the class as he spoke indicated that others in the class were equally in the dark about this rite of passage.

This drama repeated a few times on that day. In fact, later in the day when we finally had a “real” instructor in class, it took us a while to believe that he in fact, was a faculty member :-)

N.E.D. was turning out to be a weird place from day 1. But later I found out that our batch was probably lucky to have escaped without much damage. The batches before us suffered much more than we did.

It’s unfortunate that as we recovered from day 1, things kept getting worse throughout the year.