The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University


Rohan Parikh (Junior Correspondent at Free Press Pvt. Ltd.)

Fake Lies is a satire series about Ashokan life and culture (or lack thereof).

There is a great upheaval at Hoshak University. It has recently come to light that there exist more secret societies on campus than do clubs, (including the inactive ones — so that’s a lot). We have discovered, not only do these subalterns speak; they prefer to shout, rave and scream. These exclusive fraternities stand to change student dynamics on campus forever.

The great unveiling began last Sunday with the expose of the Hoshakan Intellectual Secret Society (HISS). The leaked manifesto proclaimed that members of HISS have superior intellectual prowess and that they get laid a lot. Understandably, the Hoshakan community flipped out, but it is not yet known which of the two claims they have taken more offense to.

The hate directed at HISS ended up giving it a lot of attention, giving it something of a cult status. Their name was on everyone’s lips. Other secret societies, while valuing their anonymity, did not like all the attention HISS was getting. As a result, more than a dozen secret societies have made their existence public, hoping to catch some attention. Yet, the result is not entirely what was expected.

Illustration by Arushi Jain, Batch of 2018

This development has created a great amount of mistrust among students. Friendships are turning sour, lovers suddenly find themselves unable to trust their partners, and public places like the mess and the library are swarming with people on the lookout for double agents.

The liberal spotlight is glaring down on the societies and their members. Yet it is unclear who gets to take the moral high ground of inclusivity since almost everyone seems to have been involved. No one knows who belongs to what society; all everyone is sure of is that they all have an ‘underground’ life, and the chief worry is that someone else’s society is more secretive than theirs.

The induction process for secret societies is as varied as it is inventive. Typically, societies pick individual with certain ‘key characteristics’ which are ‘prerequisites for membership’ to their community. In other words, existing members get to handpick their friends for membership. We found that Hoshak’s Administration team has been a great source of inspiration for the manner in which induction processes are conducted in these societies. The Administration denied comment.

Of course, several tangible criteria also exist for determining worthy candidates. Based on several anonymous reports and interviews, we have managed to compile information about the induction criteria of some of the societies at Hoshak:

Sophists International (SI) shows a bias for people who are metro-bred, drink alcohol from a cup, can do a compelling boogie-woogie, and wear kurtas at least twice a week. Freshmen Solidarity Against Indifferent Seniors (FSAIS) are biased towards people who are from metros, but only from the northern part of the country, drink alcohol directly from the bottle, can do a boogie-woogie and also rap, and can pull off a punk attire. Best of Hoshak (BoH) prefers people who are metro-bred, but have shoulder length hair, can drink alcohol from a cup or a person’s navel equally well, can do a boogie-woogie while rapping, and have blond highlights in their hair. Sortition Love (SL), on the other hand, prefers — as the name suggests — a randomized lottery for inducting members. But the other societies are outraged at this prospect. After all, what kind of an arbitrary criterion is that?

Secret rituals — activities that define the ‘spirit of the community’ — are practiced with great rigor. Some rituals act as a rite of passage to the inner echelons of the society. Mass email spamming, demanding extra ketchup sachets at the popular food joint Beetlenut, and publishing a rant on topics like inclusivity in the college newspaper, Predict, are some of the rituals conducted by HISS, as declared in their manifesto. Other activities like never eating at the mess, feeding puppies outside campus, and fighting elections are also rumored to be rituals conducted by various other societies.

Earlier, people performing these rituals would be labeled as a person’s eccentricities and ignored. But now, everyone is on the lookout for suspicious activity — every movement is a potential clue to busting a secret society. Sometimes, this obsessive hunt takes a turn for the worse.

Two nights ago a student was seen singing Christmas carols in front of the Vitruvian Man near the library. A passerby was suspicious. Upon apprehending the individual, he found she was drunk. Unwittingly, he assumed that too was part of the ritual. The situation spiraled into a brawl and ended with a third student intervening in the nick of time. Passers-by who noticed the drama from afar later confided their observations to one another and to us — they had just seen three people performing an obscure ritual. It is, they believe, the key to decoding their identity.

While each secret society, in their zeal to feel like a secret society, has gone to great lengths to draw up manifestos, create extensive rituals, and conduct laborious induction processes — create a brand, basically — they are at a loss to show how exactly it is different from a private party where some people are invited, and others aren’t. The Administration believes the students find solace in the feeling of ‘community’, since it’s a great escape from Hoshak’s suffocating narrative of inclusivity. At least in their respective secret societies, people can say out loud what they all feel: everyone is equal, but they are more equal than the others.

We spoke to a third-year undergraduate who has defected to more than five secret societies in the past year. “It’s always the same thing with these societies,” she quipped, “they always break down into smaller circles — communities within communities. And soon no one can trust one another. Relations between society members inevitably become nasty, brutish and short.”

These prophetic words, however, do not seem to echo the larger sentiment. Hoshakans seem to be too busy chasing their own tails, not realizing they have come full circle. At this point, the Free Press can’t care enough.

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