Student logo se kyaa zyada paisa lena?” (Why should I charge students so

much money?)

The auto driver`s statement sums up the essence of Manipal – a university city

in Karnataka. A suburb within Udupi, 65 km to the north of Mangalore, this

campus town was conceived by Dr. T.M.A. Pai in the 1950s. The university

started with a medical college and went on to include engineering, hotel

management, mass communication and other courses. Since then, it has

produced successful professionals like Satya Nadella and Rajeev

Chandrashekhar .

A local peanut seller at Tiger Circle remembers Nadella visiting his shack

regularly. “I know that he`s rich now. These people (students) joke that I

should`ve charged him a few pennies more,” he says. Whether it is the auto

rickshaw guy or the peanut seller, both of them are aware of the limited

budget students have. In fact, the entire city functions in such a budget-

friendly way that you end up shedding less than 300 rupees a day.

Although a small town in South India, the restaurants in Manipal offer cuisines

ranging, from North Indian to Mexican, catering to the taste buds of an eclectic

mix, which includes international students from Japan and Malaysia. An auto

ride from Kasturba Medical College (KMC), the first private self-financed medical

college of India, to the breathtaking End Point costs just 90 bucks. As the

students don`t have to worry about food or transport, they are left with only

one option: studying. Or is it?

“DeeTee, Cafe 18, Zeal Bar, Remix,…” Kunal Sharda, a final year engineering student at

Manipal Institute of Technology spells out the order of club hopping that they

indulge in every Saturday night. “With affordability comes cheap booze,” he

tells me with a wink. The following Saturday, I pay a visit to DeeTee, only to

find that it is just a large hall flooded with students from the 19 colleges of the

university. To make matters worse, the head banging on the beats of We Will

Rock You drove me out of the club.

As I wait for Kunal, I stare at the clear sky. Away from all the hustle bustle,

traffic and hours of commuting in Mumbai, I realize that I love Manipal for its

serenity. “Man, you are from Mumbai! That`s such a happening city,” Kunal

and many others keep telling me. Though I nod in agreement, I continue to

stare at the sky, humming an old Hindi song, while they go back to banging

their heads.

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