BNHS and regional politics

A lot of people had told me that Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) plays regional politics and does its best to exclude people from “small” places like Nagpur. I pooh poohed it saying no body can stoop so low.

However to my shock and surprise I first hand experienced it while tying to send some local school students for the BNHS Vacation Training Programme in Bioresources for students scheduled for the month of May 2006.

The chronology of event is as follows:

The details reached me late (on 22nd April) so I telephoned Dr. V.Shubhalaxmi, (Senior Education Officer, Bombay Natural History Society, Conservation Education Centre) and asked if the admissions to the course are really closing on 23rd April which was a Sunday. To this she replied that she does not have enough students so she would be happy to have students from Nagpur over. She told me to tell the school to send the names of students interested in participating on Monday, 24th April 2006.

I am in touch with teachers of Sandipani school, Nagpur and they are extremely environment conscious people. So, the school sent the names of two of its IX std students, Sujay Uikey and Yaduraj Korde on Monday 24th April 2006.

One of the parents, Mrs. Uikey is known to me and she wanted to know what will happen on non training days. So I telephoned BNHS office again and asked about the lodging and boarding of out of station students. I was assured by the man who picked up the telephone that they will provide lodging and boarding to out station candidates and that the students can just rest and relax on weekends.

The teacher concerned from school spoke to one Ms. Shubhada Nithare of BNHS on 25th April 200t6 and was told that only students that have gone to X std will be considered for the training programme. This confused the teacher from school, as it was clearly stated in the BNHS circular that they will accept students from std IX to std XII
To quote:
Ø Eligibility: Students of standard IX to standard XII (age : 15-18 years)

When I spoke to Ms Shubhada on phone, on the same day she said it was because the age group is 15-18. On my saying that one of the students has just turned 15 and the other is nearly 15, but both are now in Std IX as per your circular, you should give them a chance in training programme, she relented and said ok.

Then there was another clause stated by Ms. Shubhada saying the the training will be only from Monday to Friday and the out station candidates will have to make their own arrangements for weekend lodging and boarding.

The parents of the students were told accordingly and they made arrangements of weekend stay with their friends/relatives at Mumbai.

And then when the father of Yaduraj Korde, telephoned BNHS he was told by the course director herself that BNHS will not bear the cost of travel of the out of station students – again very contrary to what was stated in the circular
To quote:
Ø The students would be provided to and from second class train fare or bus fare from residence to the venue, as well as free boarding and lodging during the training.

What irks me most is the facade these high flying conservation body wears. If they did not want out station candidates, there was no harm in stating so. But this kind of politics playing brings down whatever respect I had for BNHS.

Unfortunately for me, I am a life member of BNHS and I hang my head in shame in front of the school and its students to whom I recommended this training programme.

There are many more such stories including plagiarism in research but I don’t have first hand information right now.

How can such a prestigious, and the foremost conservation society of the country stoop so low!!!

< update - 3rd May 2006 >

Our Phone calls perhaps made a difference – the two boys, Sujay and Yaduraj have been selected for the workshop and both of them are leaving for Mumbai by the evening flight tonight

< / update >


Durga Puja, the most important festival of Bengali’s is the worship of ‘Shakti’ or the divine power and Maa Shakti’s four children, Ganesh, Kartikeya, Laxmi and Saraswati. Its an Utsab, festival season, a time to celebrate when families come together to worship, eat, laugh and enjoy the togetherness.

This also happens in the movie Utsab, a tale beautifully woven by Rituparno Ghosh. A director I have come to admire so much, I want to see all his movies.

The matriarch has four children, the eldest, Asit, trying to solve everyones problem is much like lord Ganesha, The second son, Nishit has work related problems that he wants to keep secret, but his wife knows -how she knows it, even he does not know The eldest daughter ,Parul, is married to a rich family, it was an arranged marriage against her wishes, for, she loved her poor cousin (Shishir – he too is a rich builder now ) her past haunts her, her husband taunts her and she thinks her grown up son, who is kind of repeating the history by being attracted to Asit’s beautiful daughter, is unaware of her turbulent past. The youngest daughter, Keya, an artist by heart, loves music, married against the families wishes, to a painter and a passionate politician who unfortunately lost out in the politics game and took to drinking. They have immense love simmering for each other which the viewer sees but somehow they fail to – entangled into the web of petty quarrel, they even talk of separation and perhaps seriously so.

The play of emotions of each of these family members, who become your family members as you sit and watch the movie strike many familiar cords. Suppressed emotions hide in shadows and happy ones play with bursts of light. There is always a talk of rain clouds, it even rains, but one does not see it -just feel its aftereffects.

Amidst all this is celebrated a festival. The festival of togetherness, the festival of family bonding, the festival of lights, festival of joy and festival of victory of good over evil -Durga Pooja and Vijayadashmi. While you sit and watch the movie it unfolds like a family reunion, just like the video Joy, Parul’s son shoots.

The movie is in Bengali with english subtitles. Knowledge of elementary bengali helped, but I wish I could understand the finer nuances of the rich language to completely understand it -specially the beautiful song which Shompa, Asit’s daughter sings.