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A historic Gujarat college fighting for survival

By V.N. Balakrishna, IANS,

Mehsana (Gujarat) : The magnificent building bearing the hallmark of European architecture is the college where Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi and former chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela studied. But, battered by the 2001 quake and overrun by bushes, the beautiful M.N. College near here is now struggling to survive.

The college, the oldest institution in north Gujarat that came into being in 1946, is located in Visanagar in Mehsana district.

The college was set up with generous donation from late Sheth Maneklal Nanchand. Its founder and former principal V.K. Gokak called it the ‘Queen of the Desert’.

“This magnificent building is older than Gujarat University at Ahmedabad. The college was designed on the model of M S University,” principal I.M. Patel said. “The then Diwan of the state, B.L. Mitter, on the request of some eminent persons including the main donor Sheth Maneklal Nanchand, built the college.”

The college came up at a time there was no such institution in the area. Even after decades of sun and wind, the building still maintains its aura and radiates its past glory.

Large cracks scar the building, a reminder of the massive quake that hit Gujarat in 2001. Even after so many years, the cracks have not been filled up for want of funds.

The dilapidated state of the once grand structure is upsetting the alumni.

Those who graduated cannot help but remember the glory of the golden days, especially the time spent under the neem trees flanking the college. Many students have died while those alive do not tire of narrating the stories of the great institution.

Sudhaben Adhyapak, who had done her graduation in 1961 and is settled in Vadodara, says: “We were only eight girls in the class then. In 1958, when I sought admission, we did not wear kurta pyjamas or sleeveless blouses like modern girls of today. We wore simple saris and were serious about our studies. One had to remain four years in the college of which two years were for intermediate and two years for graduation courses.”

The government-run college also has Education Minister Anandiben Patel among its alumni.

Another alumnus is 87-year-old former income tax officer B.B. Chavda, who says he was one of the first batch of students at this college. “We were 18 students in the college when it started in 1946,” he says.

Chavda feels the ambience of this college was no less than that of the Fort area of Mumbai near the University of Bombay or the campus of M S University of Vadodra.

Another alumnus Rajuji Parmar, 70, says that in the absence of any conveyance, students either used horses or horse carriages to go to college.

“Many had to travel 10 km to 25 km to attend the classes. Many students came from far and wide right from Sirohi in Rajasthan to Patan, Mehsana, Idar, Himatnagar and Palanpur. The students stayed at hostels in Sayaji Rao Ashram (inn) which had a separate section for students who came from far-off places,” he said.

(V.N. Balakrishna can be contacted at [email protected])