Ngoukadi Hostel, Maram a trail blazer

Henkhokai Singsit *

The year was 2013, and it was the month of August. As the side kick to the president of KSO general headquarters, Pu. Peter Mate, I visited Maram Hill town to attend the second foundation day commemoration ceremony of Ngoukadi girls hostel. We begin our journey at around 9:30 am from Imphal and on the way we pick up some acquaintances mainly comprising of student leaders from Senapati and proceed to our destination.

We reached Maram at around 12:00 noon. The cavalcade included president of senapati district students' association, L.R. John, former president All Naga students' association Manipur (ANSAM), Adani David Choro and President of Maram students' Union, P. Phungdi.

As we whizzed up towards our destination I was flabbergasted by the panoramic beauty of the undulating hill in its majestic ambience. The sylvan green throughout the vast expanses on the hill side silhouetted in dark sketch was a joy to watch.

I thought, how beautiful is the Manipur hill side! Relishing the beauty of the hillside simultaneously we were engaged in animated confabulations on mundane topics like the present political situation that the state is presently grappling with and interspersed with other sundry topics sometimes tinged with the chasm that remains between the highlanders and the valley people, and our pedantic view on it. I share little in the chat as I was captivated by the amount of wisdom my peers partake.

I thought listening was the best way of blending in with my peers, being new to the group. I had just step into the vestibule of students' activity being recently inducted as the information secretary of KSO General Headquarters. We reached our destination before we even realized. Might be the lively conversation and the panoramic view must have cut short the time and the distance.

This was the second time I have personally step foot in Maram, the previous one was the same year in the month of May, when I was deputed by my colleagues as an observer to ANSAM general election held at Maram Khullen village, a few kilometres from Maram perched on the peak of a mountain.

On reaching we were accosted by the proprietor of Ngoukadi Hostel, Mr. Ngatula Simon and his better half Mrs. Urerei Maram who were an amazing host. Nagas are known for their hospitality, but this was sublime piece of hospitality which has carved a lasting impression on me. Our host was a contractor who prefers to be called as a humble social worker and his better half a staff nurse. After the exchange of pleasantries and the ritualistic introductory we immediately proceeded to the Hostel which was at an earshot distance from the home of our Host.

The hostel was a concrete built house with a large lobby Hall where the programme was organised. At the both sides of the lobby were lined-rooms where the girls abode. I was particularly impressed by the lobby which was large enough to host a subaltern volley ball match.

I did not have the audacity to peep into the rooms meant for the girls and make an assessment for myself whether it was snug or otherwise as women's have peculiar ways and lifestyles quite different from their macho counterparts, a privacy which needs to be respected. But I assume that it must be comfortable and cosy inside. And this was corroborated after I manage to make a clandestine query from some of the girls, who revealed their fortune to be in one of the most sought-after hostel among the plethora at Maram.

They also revealed the kindness and congeniality of their proprietor. From a pedestrian point of view one can discerned the comfort and happiness one derived at such a hostel. Drawing an analogy from contemporary hostels/ boardings that are run at Imphal or elsewhere charging cut throat fees from the boarders and providing little in return. Hostels are being run with the sole motive of earning money and has been commercialised beyond measure.

The raison detre of running a hostel should be to provide a substitute home to students who had been separated from their family due to the exigencies of education that is not available at home. It gives feelings of revulsion when hostel are transformed for business purposes and the life of the boarders are made a veritable hell. My proposition to all hostels proprietors is that they pick a leaf from Mr. & Mrs. N. Ngatula Simon of Maram Ngoukadi hostel.

The proprietor confided to the visiting student leaders that the crux of running the hostel was to provide a homely atmosphere to students the thousands of students who converged at Maram for their academic pursuit. Money was not the driving force but the sense of altruism towards the students' community was the preponderant factor. True to his words, the hostellers were mostly from far off places like Ukhrul, Churachandpur, Imphal etc, and cutting across community.

I was impressed on coming across four students from my community and few Meitei boarders but the bulk of the students were from the Naga community. The warden was an amiable Meitei lady, Miss. Sangita who was also serving as a lecturer at Maram Don Bosco College. It was like a miniature Manipur ensconced within the four walls of Mr. Simon's home. And I doff my head in awe for him and his spouse.

The purport of inviting top rung student leaders was to encouraged and instilled among his ephemeral family ie., the boarders to strive hard and excel in their academic pursuit. Yeah, that was the rationale behind organising an annual commemorative function at the expense of lakhs of rupees. The programme started at 1:30 pm. It was an enthralling bevy of packages interspersed with songs, dances and skits. Some of the performances given by the students were simply regaling. The comedy on "Disconnected marriage" was a sublime one.

The regaling continues till 4:00 pm. It was heart warming on learning that the boarders were encouraged to take up extra co-curricular activities besides their academic activities. The principal of Maram Don Bosco College. Rev. Father Sebastian exhorted the students in their academic strive. It was followed by pep talk from visiting student leaders.

My President. Pu. Peter Mate dwelled on the feet that besides education students should also take individual responsibility in fostering communal amity inter and intra students. I thought the speech was well directed and a magnum opus After the programme we had a brief tete a tete with die students about their career and other peripheral topics.

No hospitality is complete without luncheon and drinks. As we left the hostel we huddled into the common room of our host who were munificent enough to fete us with foods and drinks, the perfect embodiment of Naga hospitality. Cloistered at a safe distance and the cold maram breeze wafting everywhere it was a perfect weather and as we caroused our self with drinks and bites.

I am at loss how many bottles were emptied that day as memories became fuzzy and hazy alter filling yourself to the brim. Tipsy and yet honoured, that was the time when I avowed to our host that I'll write about this eventful encounter. Presented with two bags of cabbage, cauliflowers, mustard leafs, we left for Imphal And it was already dark.

Post script- The essence of Journalism is. "write to express, not to impress " As a student of Journalism and as a student leader I have no intention of stooping myself to the level of what hangers on do, neither do I intent to curry favour with anyone. My writing is base on the fact that Ngoukadi hostel is a trend setter, exemplary in its essence, a paradigm which should be emulated by all hostel runners not only at Maram but for all wannabes.

After all Maram is an important education hub of the state with thousands of students making a bee line for it A beacon like Ngoukadi is needed where every parent can feel safe for their daughters, who are away from their glaring eyes. The onus also goes to the local folks of Maram in making their village a place where every student feels home.

I am not sure whether Ngoukadi hostel still exist all those days or whether it is still maintaining its illustrious standard If it is not I would enthuse both the proprietors to do some soul searching and reverted to their past

* Henkhokai Singsit article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a former Information and Publicity Secretary of KSO GHQ
This article was webcasted on September 09, 2016.

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