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Manipal: From a Barren Hilltop to an Internationally-recognized University

April 30, 2007

  • The vision and mission of the late Dr Tonse Madhav A Pai gives rise to a mighty educational township

Red arrow shows the location of Manipal

"You must be mad and out of your senses to start a medical college atop a remotely located barren hill," screamed Dr A V Baliga at Dr T M A Pai when the later had met him in Bombay - now Mumbai - in 1951 to discuss the setting up of a medical college, recalls Madhav Vithal Kamath, renowned journalist and current chairman of Prasar Bharati. He adds that Dr Baliga had also retorted, "Where will you get the dead bodies for dissection or the professors to teach at a place which nobody has heard of?"

The visionary

Sheer determination and resilience of Dr Pai persisted and after running around between the presidencies of Bombay and Madras, in 1953, he founded India's first non-Governmental, non-missionary, privately-funded Institution - the Kasturba Medical College.

A Gowd Saraswat Konkani Brahmin, Dr T M A Pai was born on April 30, 1898 in the Tonse village between Kallianpur and Brahmavar. Among one of the first few doctors to practise medicine at Udipi, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the union government and is known across the country for his futuristic vision and enterprising zeal.

Today 'Manipal' - the name of a barren hilltop has become the name of an internationally recognized university. "We had never even dreamt of such a phenomenal growth of this establishment. It is purely a result of the extraordinary vision of Dr T M A Pai," says Kamath.

Dr A P J Kalam

With over 85,000 students from 53 countries around the world, Manipal today houses the largest international student population in India. Admiring the foresight of Dr T M A Pai, president Dr A P J Abdul Kalam remarked, "Manipal is like the Nalanda of yore. I am happy to see engineering, medicine and the other disciplines being taught in the same campus, an ideal environment for research to

M V Kamath, Dr H S Ballal

"Dr TMA Pai was responsible for laying the foundation for public-private partnership in education. Several other institutions modelled on the same lines across the country have today put India as the leader in Global Education," points out Manipal University's pro-chancellor, Dr H S Ballal.

He feels, "So strong was the vision of Dr Pai and his value for time and money, that today Manipal has set up off-shore campuses which have brought appreciation for India from all quarters." Recently media in the USA had reported PM Dr Manmohan Singh's appreciation of the quality and excellence of the twinning programmes of Manipal University.

Dr Pai with son Dr Ramdas Pai - the legacy continues

"My father firmly believed education is the best form of investment and it is the educated youth who must run the country and change the future of millions of Indians," says Dr Ramdas Pai, son of the late Dr T M A Pai and the present chancellor of the University and president of Manipal Group.

Dr Ramdas Pai

He reminisces: "My father used to go to great lengths to make sure the youth got the opportunity to get professional education. He gave loans to those who couldn't afford, from the Syndicate Bank that he had founded himself." (It was then known as the Canara Industrial and Banking Syndicate Ltd. - Editor)

Dr Ramdas proudly adds: "We fought corrupt politicians who blocked government assistance to us and were successful because of the great passion and the humane touch Dr Pai had."

The last governor-general of India and later founder-president of Swatantra Party, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari with Dr T M A Pai during a visit

N V Ballal, the PA of Dr T M A Pai right from 1950, recalls: "'Sir' never discriminated against anyone based on caste or religion". He says emotionally, trying hard to hold back his tears: "Even till today, I am amazed at the kind of commitment and systematic discipline that my boss used to display even during severe illness."

Former prime minister the late Indira Gandhi, while on a visit to Manipal. Also seen in the pic are Dr Ramdas Pai and the then-registrar of Academy of General Education, Dr D Veerendra Heggade

Almost three decades ago, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Manipal and commented: "When one sees such tremendous work, one often does not get the right word to express happiness. I can only state that this is the work of men of imagination, vision, enthusiasm and drive which is greatest need".

It is indeed a remarkable role played by Padma Shri the late Dr T M A Pai for the people of this region. The educational and banking genius is remembered for his famous words: "Education is the greatest single factor in freeing India's talent for service to our country."

In the book 'Pais of Manipal' written almost 40 years back in 1967, author Selden Menefee writes: "Dwelling into how it all happened, one must realize that it was an intangible something - that touch of a genius in the make-up of Dr T M A Pai. In this person were combined an unusual talent for business, a rare ability to deal with people and win them over to his point of view, and most of all, a bulldog quality of determination to make a success of anything he undertook."

Dr Ramdas Pai with the writer, Divvy Kant Upadhyay

Adds the author, referring to Dr T M A Pai as a legend: "With new leadership in this direction, India, with its wealth of human ability and physical resources, could lead the way among all the world's developing nations, as Manipal has led the way in South Kanara, and districts like South Kanara have shown the way to the nation."

It is indeed amazing to note that this thing that was said about this region almost 40 years back has come so true. It is indeed a matter of honour and pride for the Indians on the west coast of India.

Divvy Kant Upadhyay - Archives:

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