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E-Pao! Features - Adventure Sports In Urban Manipur : Prospects & Challenges

Adventure Sports In Urban Manipur : Prospects & Challenges
By:- Shri Yambem Laba *
FRGS President, MMTA



BACKGROUND

The Battle of Waterloo was already won on the playing fields of Eton. This singular statement of Lord Wellington after defeating Napoleon at Waterloo spoke volumes of the spirit of Adventure inculcated in the minds of the English beginning from their School days at Eton.

The fact is that the Duke of Wellington was already prepared mentally to overcome a larger adversary and against all odds and in this case Napoleon's larger French Forces in 1815. It was however only in 1941, that the British systematised the concept of adventure as a tool towards meeting an end leading to the birth of the Outward Bound movement.

Outward Bound is an adventure movement. It is about taking on challenges, meeting the unknown but more importantly it is about learning. Learning about yourself and most of all about your potential.

It was in 1941 that Kurt Hahn developed the Outward Bound School in the United Kingdom, basically to train young British seamen to survive the North Atlantic Ocean during World War II to handle the hardship that they might face.

His programme of experimental education raised the self confidence of participants who later when put to test were successful in saving their own lives those of others earlier, it was discovered that the survival rate amongst survivors of British ships sunk by German U-Boat torpedoes was dramatically worse off for young sailors than the older and presumably less fit men in the life boats. Hahn recognised that the young men had not developed an understanding of their own physical, emotional and psychological resources.

The older men were able to draw on their life experiences and inner resources to survive the hardship of the Atlantic in an open lifeboat. It was thus with a motive to build self-confidence and self-awareness and not just physical fitness and using the outdoors as the Classroom to allow each participant to reach their potential in a controlled and safe environment that the Outward Bound movement took shape.

Today, the Outward Bound Movement have struck roots in more than 28 countries and more than 2 million people worldwide have completed an Outward Bound course. Besides being a holistic approach to education, the Outward Bound programmes make considerable demands upon your intellectual, physical and emotional resources and endurance.

You will learn from each event and responsibility you encounter. You will be a role model to participants and wider community and will be expected to attain and uphold on core values of Integrity, compassion, excellence, resourcefulness care of the environment, service to others and the belief in human potential.

OUTWARD BOUND ADVENTURE SPORTS/COURSES

The ideals of the Outward Bound Schools were incorporated into Adventure Courses which were introduced for the first time at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, (HMI) Darjeeling in 1964.20 years later in 1984, it made its first appearance in Manipur with the Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association (MMTA) organising the 1st Adventure Course in the Leimatak Valley.

The aim of the course is to bring the young person to face himself by giving him a series of exercises that are new to him and that force him to extend himself, to go beyond what he would normally do physically and mentally.

He is in a way put into competition with himself he is made to realize the low standards which he usually sets for himself and sees the dormant potential lying within him. Because the course is concentrated in a short period and because some exercises are very demanding the young person cannot but be shaken out of his normal reactions and attitudes.

Joined with others in activities he is made to feel great responsibility for the team efforts. Hence as he changes his attitudes and goes through the process he is automatically engaged in 8 social awakening his need to co-operate with others and to feel responsible for them.

Of importance also are the surprise exercises in which the students are given something totally unexpected-something perhaps enjoyable, something perhaps not so enjoyable. This forces the young person to realize that he can face the unexpected, can be ready for anything.

CHARACTER TRAINING

Considered from the educational viewpoint the experience of the adventure course teaches a young person many valuable things: -

(a) Finding out one's true character and its possibilities. Any self-knowledge that a boy acquires is of immense benefit to him in shaping himself for dealing with other people in life. Hence any situation which can be evolved in which the boy comes to learn more about he himself is a valuable educational situation.

On the adventure course the boy is brought up against himself. When he is rock-climbing and begins to feel the risk and danger, he knows that the fear comes from he himself and so he has to deal with himself and change himself. He learns that there are no limits to his endurance and to what can be done out he has the determination to do it.

On treks he finds out that he can keep going even though very tired and carrying a heavy load. This is a very valuable insight for a boy-to know that he can always keep going. If he carries this insight over into his daily life there are no limits to the progress he can make.

(b) The discipline, which is combined in the rock-climbing and trekking, teaches a boy the meaning of discipline as a necessary prerequisite for doing anything worthwhile.

(c) Perhaps one of the greatest benefits for a boy's character is the sense of achievement and joy which comes from accomplishing something, which he would have not thought possible for himself.

(d) Linked with the joy and satisfaction which comes from overcoming obstacles and doing difficult projects is the growth of will power. There is always a temptation when trekking to sit down and rest when tired.

But when the boy says that he will continue up to a certain point ahead he is constantly exercising his will, building up his strength which will be carried over in all the activities of his life.

From this he can take a legitimate pride in himself. Young people are uncertain, hesitant they need support to be strong, good people-this pride in a strong will gives a boy his confidence and strength.

(e) The feeling of comradeship and sharing with others is developed through the division of the boys into different patrols of seven or eight members each. Since a boy is carrying the entire rice ration for the patrol, he will feel he is helping the others and is one of them. Thus the course brings about co-operation and integration among boys.

Thus we see how by incorporating several adventure sports items in the form of adventure course, we are able to provide the youth with the four attributes of Endurance, Courage, Comrade-ship and Excellence.

It is done by exposing the youth to both the imposing might and beauty of nature through outdoor exercises like Trekking, Rock-climbing, Watermanship, camp and Bush crafts and Jungle Survival. The youth also interacts with society through community work and environmental programmes.

In the end the youth emerges with a firmer base and stronger determination to stand and face the challenges of life and provide leadership when the situation so demands.

URBAN MANIPUR

When we talk of urban Manipur we would be refereeing both to the geographical spread of the area and the target audience i.e. the youths from the urban areas of Manipur. The urban youth is already a pampered person relatively speaking already used to the ease and comfort of life by relying on artificial and mechanical appliances.

The urban youth needs" roughing it out", by making him trek through the beautiful scenes of nature, handling equipment making camps, cutting woods- in short taking away from the youth his reliance on artificial and mechanical appliances and thereby cutting off the ease and comfort, he is used to.

We thus see a need to take the urban youth away from his prescribed code of life cycle and expose him the thrills and challenges of adventure sports providing him with a "break".

PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES

While we have seen as to how adventure sports can be utilised as an Outdoor Education and help shape the character of the individual youth we must now see as to which type of adventure sports can be best suited and adapted to cater to the needs of Urban Manipur.

MOUNTAINEERING

Mountaineering is the art and science of climbing high mountains which normally involves ascents and descents on rocks, snow and ice faces. A Mountaineering expedition to any Himalayan peaks is one of the most exciting adventure activities.

The easiest way to get to tee mountains by enrolling oneself for the numerous courses offered in Mountaineering at one of the premier Mountaineering Institutes located in Darjeeling, Uttarkashi, Manali and Batote in Jammu & Kashmir etc.

These courses are subsidised by the Govt, of India and by that account one get a chance of a lifetime to get the technical knowledge required for mountain climbing at a cost almost marginal

TREKKING

Trekking is the art of living, travelling and surviving in the great outdoors and being one with nature. You could trek in any terrain, mountain, desert or the jungle. Manipur offers a magnitude of- trekking routes-the notable ones are the Shiroy Trail, the Koubru Trail, the Thangzing Trail and the Khoupum Trail. Each of these trails offers enough challenges and can provide unique experiences each on its own. Trekking is low cost in nature and can provide a wider spread effect per unit cost.

ROCK CLIMBING

Rock climbing deals with mastering the techniques and experiencing; the thrills of climbing on exposed rocks which may be only a few metres high boulders to a few hundred metres high rock faces of different gradients. And although it started as a part of Mountaineering, Rock Climbing is toady an internationally recognised sport on its own.

Further with the advent of artificial climbing walls it is now possible for youths to participate in climbing with zero risk and to compete with each other.

In Manipur the natural climbing areas are located in Laradan while the artificial climbing wall, the Kangla Rock and Sports Climbing Wall is located at Minuthong near the Khuman Lampak Sports Complex. The Kangla Wall the only one of its kind in the entire Northeastern region has catered to the needs of hundreds of youths of the region besides that of the State.

CYCLING

Long distance cycling across the country (500 Kms or more) is a challenging and exciting adventure activity which will bring you closer to nature and the realities of life across the country.

This is primarily suited for Manipur, which has a large cycle population and is not costly as compared to other mechanical sports and is entirely pollution free.

WATER SPORTS

Water could be equally and perhaps even be more challenging. Manipur is blessed with the Loktak Lake where the thrills of Wind Surfing could be matched with that of Kayaking or Canoeing, where on a one to one basis one can take on the challenges of the water and make your Kayaks/ Canoes respond to your commands, enabling you to move about like an eel through the water.

The presence of rivers like the Leimatak and the Barak also offers ample scope for white water rafting shooting rapids and negotiating small falls, fighting the waves, wild feelings, the sheer exhilaration of coming through with complete safety margins.

The presence of large water bodies in the Imphal urban areas like the Kangla Pat, the Ningthem Pukhri and me Rowing Canal in the Khuman Lampak Sports Complex offers adequate scope for these water sports to be conducted in the vicinity of me urban areas.

AERO SPORTS

The entire sky above us is there open for us to conduct various aero-sports programmes to achieve our life's ambition to soar free as a bird high up. These sports take various forms like:-

(i) Para Sailing/Para Gliding. The thrills of being swept off your feet and to float- in the air being pulled by a jeep into the air for a short exhilarating ride under a Para Sail before floating back to mother earth or one can takeoff from a mountain top and land in the valley below on a Para Glider. The presence of Koirengei Airfield in Imphal and the numerous hill ranges like the Langol and Nongmaijing Ranges in the adjoining areas provides adequate scope for me popularisation of these forms of aero sports in Urban Manipur.

(ii) Hang Gliding/powered Hang Gliding. These two form of aero sports has the potential to liberate you to fly free as the bird and the presence of numerous hill ranges in the adjoining areas provides adequate scope for the popularisation of these aero sports in Urban Manipur.

(iii) Micro lite Flying. These low cost- miniature aircrafts which flies on the power of a small motorcycle engine, the wind and your own technical prowess has the potential has the potential of giving you the feeling of flying your own aircraft.

While we have seen the prospects mat each of me various forms of adventure sports has in the Urban Manipur areas we would need to have a look at the challenges it offers. The first challenge is in the form of lack of financial support to carry out the various programmes.

The state Government does not have adequate finance to back up such activities and we cannot- pass on that responsibility to the participants. So mere is an urgent need to tap me resources offered by the Govt, of India for such schemes whenever and wherever possible. There is also a need to concentrate on those types of adventure sports, which require minimum investment with maximum coverage as a short term plan.

Another setback in the promotion of adventure sports in the State is the volatile Law and Order situation. The large presence of armed groups and security forces personnel cannot but act as a deterrent to the outdoor activities like trekking and jungle safaris etc. The other challenge is the lack of co-ordinated planning for the promotion of adventure sports in me State whereby resources both in terms of financial as well as trained manpower can be shared and distributed according to a fixed layout.

CONCLUSION

We thus see that Manipur offers ample scope for the promotion and development of adventure sports and while the constraints are mere it is but for us involved in the field to overcome them. To this end we must draw a road map and launch a concerted campaign.


* Yambem Laba, a renowned Journalist and President of Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association (MMTA) , wrote this article.
This article was webcasted on 09 November 2005.


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