Here is a snippet from a telephonic conversation between a mother and a daughter (newbie at Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal ) from three years back:
Mother: Hello beta! How are you? Are you eating well? You didn’t lose weight right? How are your friends doing? And how is Manipal?
Daughter (after giving a long discourse on the oily food in mess, on her overwhelming weight issues and her new-found friend’s biography): Haan mumma…Manipal is awesome. It’s always raining here; I guess I should buy a bigger umbrella! It’s green all around. I hardly stay in the room. There are so many places to visit. There is End point, Manipal, Frustration point, Railway Bridge (the list goes on for a good fifteen minutes). All these places are surrounded with trees and lakes. The area around my hostel is lush green too! My skin is almost acne free now because of the pollution free air (she looks into the mirror and almost tears up while saying this). It’s just awesome mumma!
~mumma is exhilarated with the description and asks her daughter to send her pictures of the meadows and the fields and her acne free face.
Now here is a snippet from a conversation between another mother and a daughter (again at Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal) from last year:
Mother: Hello beta! How are you? Are you eating well? You didn’t lose weight right? How are your friends doing? And how is Manipal? (Yes, all mothers are by involuntarily, by nature, alike and will always ask the same questions, despite the passage of time)
Daughter: (giving a similar discourse on oily food, weight issues and new found friends): mumma..Manipal is good. It’s not as green as it’s famously perceived to be. But the infrastructure is awesome! We have Marena, Food court, state of the art library (the list goes on for a good half an hour)! And the best part is that the college authorities are constantly building new structures. There was a forest behind my hostel, which they have cleared to build a new hostel block. There is a rumor that this block will have a helipad and a swimming pool on the terrace! I will take a room in it as soon as it is built! Oh..mumma..i love the place! But the construction dust is aggravating my acne problem (Yes, the main issue in every girl’s life is-ACNE!)
~mumma is impressed and pictures Manipal to be Las Vegas! Though she is a little saddened by her daughter’s acne problem, she asks her daughter to send loads of pictures of her standing in front of each of the building described above, so that she could mail them to her relatives; whose children were unfortunate enough to be studying in the shoddy hostels of the IIT’s!
The above conversations will give you a fair idea of how much Manipal has changed in the past three years. From a place which was widely known to have some of the greenest campuses in the country to becoming an infrastructural giant. The change has been huge and almost shocking. The toll this change has had on the flora and fauna of Manipal is almost heart wrenching.
There are souls, who adamantly believe that the infrastructural development of a place is synonymous with the respect and recognition that a place gets, nationally and internationally. To argue otherwise would be foolery. Urbanization is a necessity. It forms the crux of the social, technical and educational development of the college. But, is deforestation and extinction of some extremely rare species of birds and animals a justified price to pay for urbanization?
Today we have an international standard sports complex, hostels with every amenity imaginable, libraries and classrooms with round the clock air conditioning. But we seem to have forgotten that these impressive structure lie on graveyards of trees and animals, which have made Manipal their homes since centuries. We have invaded their land, altered it to suit our needs and are stoic enough to turn a blind eye to the issue. And if this continues, the long walks to end point, the times spent in Railway Bridge, the long pleasant drives to nearby hill stations, the soothing breeze at wind’s point and the lakes, inspiring town advertised, in Manipal’s promotional videos will soon become a long forgotten page in Manipal’s glorious history.
Very recently I met with a former student of Manipal Institute of Technology. He had studied here more than two decades back and he happened to be a family friend, so I volunteered to take him on a tour of the campus. When we reached AB5, he stopped suddenly. He stared at the building for a while and looked and me and said “The place where this building stands now, was a beautiful meadow. I was told that it was later named frustration point by a few of my juniors. Anyways, the place had one of the most beautiful views in Manipal. The sunrise and sunset views from the place were legendary. And there was this ancient Banyan tree on which I and my friends had carved our names. We had some really good times here. ” he smiled and trailed off into memories of Manipal’s understated, yet mesmerizing beauty, that his juniors like me would never have the privilege to witness.
So is urbanization costing Manipal its scenic beauty?
Urbanization is not only costing Manipal its scenic beauty. It’s costing Manipal, its very identity! And the sad part is that we are too busy, basking in the magnum of Manipal’s development, to give this issue any thought.