Revisiting my almamater: D M College

Prof Lal Dena *

D.M. College Of Science, Imphal in April 2012
D.M. College Of Science, Imphal in April 2012 :: Pix - Bunti Phurailatpam

The Dhanamanjuri College named after the dowager Maharani of Manipur, Ngangbam Ningol Dhanamanjuri Devi, the first wife of the late Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh, is one of the most premiere colleges of the whole of North East India. During the reign of Maharaja Budhchandra Singh, his younger brother Maharaj Kumar Priya Brata Singh, popularly known as PB, was a member of the Manipur State Durbar holding the portfolio of education and also an important member of the Council of Ministers set up under the Manipur Constitution Act.

PB approached the British Political Agent C.Gimson to request the land northward of the western Kangla to be de-notified for allocation to construct a new college for Manipur. This was done, and the College campus was thus established in 1946. However the building could not be constructed because of lack of funds, and dowager Maharani Ngangbam Ningol Dhanamajuri Devi was approached. The Maharani thus donated a sum of rupees twenty thousand enabling the project of construction work to begin.

In spite of many initial problems in terms of fund and want of competent principal, the college had soon become one of the best and biggest colleges of the country from the nineteenth sixties. During that time, Shri S.N.Kaul, a man from military background and a well-known disciplinarian, came as the new principal and he was quoted to have said that he came to Manipur to reform the institution and instill discipline among the teachers and the taught.

All the teachers were selected through the Union Public Service Commission, New Delhi and the people of Manipur were indeed lucky to have the best brains coming from different parts of the country as their teachers. The college has really been a blessing for the people of Manipur and North East India. How many eminent leaders, ministers, IASes, IFSes, missionaries, etc., have been produced so far, we cannot count.

The other day I happened to have a chance to revisit it after fifty years because I had to take an MIL (Hmar) class there. I went well in advance so that I had enough time to go around the college. The first thing I noticed was the statue of Maharani Dhanamanjuri whose generous donation as mentioned above enabled the construction of the college.

It is really thoughtful of the College authorities to have erected her statue. A few yards beyond at the Botanical Garden which was not there in my time, I stood for awhile and looked up the front tall structure facing the east. It is a simple design but really looks majestic. How was it conceived? Whose architectural design was it?

My friend, Dr Debabrata Roy Laifungbam told me that it was a German architect who was commissioned by the colonial officials to design the main building, which still stands today. To quote Dr Roy, "The bespectacled 'kraut' came over and stayed in Manipur for several months in 1946. My inquisitive Mamo Yaima (PB) used to visit him often to see the progress with his work, but he always found the man sitting doing nothing except to look at the sky and hills the whole day long. This state of affairs was not satisfactory to Mamo Yaima but he did not raise issue with the silent architect who spoke little English.

After some months, the mysterious German suddenly sprang to life one fine day and started to draw. Mamo Yaima was delighted and found the opportunity to approach him and put to him questions he had been dying to ask. The German gave him a rare smile and told him that he had been observing the trajectory of the sun and the weather patterns for months so that he can design a main hall that used the sunlight to keep it bright throughout the day without artificial lighting! Thus we now have a main hall at the D.M College with skylights to keep it bright throughout the day through all the months of the year. My uncle never remembered the name of this brilliant architect". That is how the the college building was designed and constructed. The main hall is now used as examination hall.

As I walked along the corridor turning southwards, I passed through our big class rooms. I felt so nostalgic that I was soon carried away to the days of 1960s. In my imagination I saw Ojha Chandicharan teaching us Hobbes' Leviathan and Ojha Ibobi teaching us Pythagorous, Plato's Philosopher king, etc.

I also remember Ojha Ibetombi Devi, fresh from University and a very good-looking lady with her reddish lipstick, teaching us European History. Ojha Arambam Lokendra's flawless English lecture in our honors' class is still ringing in my ears and I still regard him as my Guru.

I could not forget my English teachers, particularly Ojha Mukherjee. The last lesson he taught us was John Keat's poem "Ode to the Nightingale." Well aware of his fast deteriorating health and the fact that his days were numbered, Ojha Mukherjee, putting on Nehru's type of long jacket with a Gandhian cap, came to our class and I cannot forget his comments on this particular stanza of the poem:

Darkling I listen, and for many a time,
I have been half in love with easeful death,
Call'd him soft names in many amused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath,
Now more than ever seems it rich to die;
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad;
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain-
To thy high requiem become a sod.

Deeply so absorbed in his teaching, Ojha Mukherjee perhaps thought that he found himself in the same situation as the poet was. While explaining the verse, I saw him closing his eyes and tears started slowly flowing down his wrinkle cheeks. This dramatic scene is still vivid and fresh in my mind. Oh! what a great teacher was Ojha Mukherjee! May his soul rest in peace!

When class was over, one could see a multitude of cyclists - boys and girls pressing their cycle bells non-stop. Boys pretended to overtake girls, giggling and teasing them. What a beautiful sight! Girls wore different colors of phanek and shawls. It was indeed a feast of colors!

After sometime I came to the Boy's' Hostel (Old Hostel), which is now converted into the D.M.College of Arts where I stayed for some time. I walked along the verandah and peeped through the windows to see my room, now a class room and came across the opposite kitchen hall which is also converted into class room. Where was the tanky where we used to take bath in the open air? Because the hostel had no separate bathrooms that time. Where were Leipung Khangnga plants whose fruits we used to pluck and make muruk-metpa? They are no more to be seen. Where were those beautiful angels Memas, Indubalas, Radhes, Geetabalis, etc.,?

I remember in the packed class-rooms we used to throw paper rockets at them behind and the sweet smiles we got were our only rewards. By this time, they must have been grandmas or idou-ipens! The days of our youth are no more, however much we long for them! The manager of the college canteen whom I know very well was no more and I saw only his photo hanging in the wall. I talked to his son; like father like son. After all our human life is just like Paharigi Leiranggi awaaba, ngarangna pomjabi, ngasina satchabi, hajengda ngairedo, nangbo, asoiba! For there is a time to be born and a time to die.(Ecc.3:2). We cannot avoid them.

Pressing on I came across few other new structures in the campus. As the old hall in main building was used as examination hall, a new huge structure for recreation hall has come up just by the northern side of the College of Arts. Other new additions are the Multipurpose Hall and the Dave Literature Center.

My almamater does not remain the same as it was in my time. It is now bifurcated into four separate institutions, namely, D.M. College of Science, D.M.College of Arts, D.M. College of Commerce and D.M. College of Teachers' Education, yet still retaining its uniqueness with its sound infrastructural foundation and location. The sooner it is converted into a deemed university or state university, the better for the people of Manipur.

For the Manipur University's in-take capacity is now limited with the introduction of semester system. Let the new university compete with the Manipur University. And it will be highly appreciated if the state government starts renovative measures and initiate the process of beautification of the campus towards this end without further delay.

Long live my almamater Dhanamanjuri College !

* Prof Lal Dena wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 19, 2014.

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