Phek is plastic free and determined to stay that way. Every alternate Saturday, the routine for the youth organisation in the town is social work and cleaning the town. The townspeople, in turn, help the students by upholding the plastic ban. At the town’s solitary petrol station, there were hoardings proclaiming anti-litter messages such as: What’s the point of your education if you still litter the town with your garbage and let others to pick; the next one read, I don’t throw garbage because I love my town. Stop littering the town. Learn to clean, learn to live a healthy life; and also, What do you gain by littering the town? What do you lose by picking up the litter?
All the messages are loud and clear and it was obvious that the people had taken it to heart. The town was clean and well kept. Pink Cherry trees blooming abundantly as the road snaked up to the village and town of Phek made a very attractive reception committee. Above it all, the church building stood like a sentinel over the township. By the wayside, there were brown and orange marigolds braving the cold almost defiantly. The mauve and yellow and white cosmos flowers had had their day but there were still a few blossoms to remind the onlooker what season it was now.
Phek faces the Saramati range and the panorama can shift from clear and impressive views of the highest mountains in the Naga Hills to fog shrouded valleys of slow-moving clouds. There are a variety of trees, the alder being a frequently sighted denizen. Although the mercury dips at night, the morning dew disappears quite rapidly in the rays of a warm sun that pulls temperatures above fifteen degrees in the daytime. Possibly fed by dew, which I am told is very good for winter vegetables, peas thrive in the kitchen gardens in Phek. The famous Pfutsero cabbage was seen again and again along the roadside markets. However, well-loved winter vegetables, such as laipatta, runner beans, peas and pumpkins were to be found.
The biggest area of improvement was to be seen at the Phek government college which. It was the joint work of the college staff and students and the townspeople and village of Phek. Both members of old and new Phek and Phek village as well as the church communities have taken an active involvement in the college. Groups arriving on separate days for social work have been an immense asset to the college as the work of clearing and cutting the overgrowth from the monsoon days would have taken many weeks of labour. The villagers and townspeople cleared the overgrown vegetation, cut steps and constructed attractive sitting places of bamboo at different points in the landscape. Phek college being situated at a spot where it commands very good views towards the east, north and south, all the sitting places help a visitor appreciate the beauty of the college site. Not only that, but the community has extended the message that it is there to support the institution and donate towards its growth. The community involvement has helped the college authorities to see the hidden potential in Phek college and it is a happy situation for both sides.
Not many colleges can boast of being situated in close proximity to a protected forest area where mornings are brought by birdsong and nights close to the sound of insects and the infrequent animal call. Boars sometimes roam through the protected forest area. The wildlife sanctuary soothes the human spirit. The college now makes very good use of an open Amphitheatre where its musically gifted students sing folk fusion songs and dance folk dances. Students of the college are not at a disadvantage where their academic instruction is concerned as many of the teaching faculty hail from top institutions of India: most of them being degree holders from Hyderabad University, JNU, NEHU and so on.
The advantage of a so-called backwater is that it can become an admirable combination of the best in urban and rural life. The college is now equipped to receive educational materials through its wifi connections and access to educational channels on television. At the same time, the members of the college community continue to enjoy unpolluted air and skies, clean water, organic vegetable produce and the odd pheasant or game meat from time to time. Phek is already on its way to becoming a desirable destination for academicians and for the nature loving traveler.