May 13, 2021 2:51:11 am
The Wilson College community as well as nature enthusiasts in the city are in a state of mourning over the death of Professor B D Vakharia who succumbed to Covid-19 on May 10. He was 78.
The founder of The Wilson College Nature club, one of the oldest nature clubs in the city, Vakharia is being remembered as a passionate botanist, and an educator with out-of-the-box teaching ideas.
A Professor in the Botany department of Mumbai’s Wilson College from 1965 to 2002, Vakharia, following an initiative by students Farhan Thakur and Shubhada Kalyani, started a Nature Club in 1979. The club, which had only 15 students as its members then, now boasts of 400 members.
In his 37 years of association with the college, Vakharia was known to encourage his students to experiment, question, and learn outside the boundaries of college education. In 1982, the exhibition on Wonders of Nature organised by the club was covered by Doordarshan and had the fifth Prime Minister of the country, Morariji Desai, as a visitor. “His vision was to get students to learn through experience. He used to organise low-cost nature trails and camps so that every student could attend them without any additional financial burdens on parents. I have no background in science but it was Professor Vakharia’s vision to involve all students to understand nature, have fun and undertake activities to nurture the environment, which drew me towards the field,” said Sudhakar Solomonraj, a former student and now a teacher at Wilson College, who has been heading the club since 1990.
Vakharia remained staff in-charge of the club till 1989 and organised nature trails, tree plantation drive, nature orientation camps and exhibitions on forests. He encouraged his students to experience the wonders of nature first hand and used to personally join them on nature trails in the wilderness until 1997. Through the club, Vakharia also organised film-viewing sessions on wildlife and environment. In 1979, when students had access only to Doordarshan, Vakharia painstakingly arranged for the viewing of mini-series — “Life on Earth”, David Attenborough’s ground-breaking study on the evolution of life on the planet.
Students remember him as a professor who would encourage debate and a spirit of questioning.
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