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When Manipal Speaks – Manipal-O-Pedia

Shubham Natraj | Staff Writer

In an event that was centered on our quaint, little yet cosmopolitan anomaly of a town here in the district of Udupi, notable individuals from around the city were invited to give a series of talks about subjects they were passionate about, and Manipal in general, and how the both are related. The second edition of Manipal-O-Pedia brought several fresh perspectives on Manipal to the Sir M.V. Seminar Hall in Academic Block 2, MIT. The event attracted a significant audience and commenced to a room full of people eagerly anticipating what The Think Tank had in store for them. The club, a relatively new addition to MIT’s student bodies set the bar high after the first iteration of this event last year and had a tough act to follow.

Dr. Prabhakar Sastri

Dr. Sastri chose to speak on Manipal itself. He traced his journey to and through Manipal, and dwelt on the factors that make it special. He was an engaging orator and gave the attendees a unique perspective on what attracts people here; the reasons that brought an individual who has lived in multiple metropolitan cities to this town. He talked about how Manipal returned to him the ability to use his time at his own discretion, as opposed to wasting three hours daily in trivialities such as raveling through traffic. It was also referred to as the intellectual capital of the country, owing to the presence of every conceivable academic discipline. Dr. Sastri also pointed out the ecological diversity – specifically avian as something unique to Manipal.

Madhushri Mudke

The next speaker was Madhushri Mudke, a medical professional turned environmentalist and researcher. Her area of interest was frogs. She presented an alternative viewpoint on the much-maligned amphibians and enthralled the audience with anecdotes and pictures of rare frogs. “Frogs are indicators of environmental health. A healthy frog population at any point indicates the environmental stability of the place. Disappearing or unhealthy frogs at any point indicate problems,” she informed the audience about the importance of the little creatures. To put this into perspective, she observed that at least 200 species went extinct in the past 40 years. The Western Ghats around Manipal being a major biodiversity hotspot, Ms. Mudke brought to light a few of her awareness programs and conservation initiatives.

Ved Dubashi

Ved Dubashi, a third year student of MIT and president of The Astronomy Club discussed a myriad of interrelated topics including astronomy, sciences as a whole, their relation to development and civilization and humanity’s next step – extraterrestrial colonization. He provided an insight into the importance of space exploration in today’s world. The notion that the earth may not be able to sustain humanity for very long was a serious consideration. Ved’s talk gave us a hint of the desperate times that lie ahead – which may include dropping nuclear bombs on Mars’s polar ice caps to artificially induce global warming and make temperatures suitable for humans.

Dr. Gayathri Prabhu

Dr. Prabhu, an Assistant Professor at the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities used her time on stage to address a grave and exceedingly relevant issue – mental health. She begun with instances from her own life and moving on to incidents with students, she talked about how depression, often overlooked or ignored is a pressing issue that is not given its due. She spoke about her journey founding the recently opened Student Support Centre, so students could have a safe space to undergo counselling without fear of judgement and away from the hospital environment. Her dedication to the cause was truly inspirational and left the audience really affected. She illustrated her point using a simple statistic – four people contacted the SSC for help within four days of its inauguration. She noted that it took a lot of strength to ask for help especially in issues as stigmatized as mental health and entreated everyone present to be talk and be verbal about mental health, as it might help someone find the courage to ask for help.

In an unfortunate turn of events, Delmon Xavier Ferrao, the founder of Falcon Fitness was not present as he had recently injured himself. The others, however more than made up for it. Manipal-O-Pedia with its vivid array of speakers was an uncommon and enriching event. They spoke from personal experience and left attendees with food for thought. It was received well by the audience and The Think Tank continued with its streak of successful events.

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