The Asiatic Society of Mumbai got its first woman president on Saturday after 78-year-old Professor Vispi Balaporia won the election to the post. This is a major milestone in society’s 215-year-old history.

Former Supreme Court judge Sujata Manohar withdrew her nomination for the post of president at the last minute. Post this; the contest was between the former principal of Siddhartha College, Dr Surendra Dhaktode, and Balaporia. She secured 107 out of 163 votes and was elected to the post.

Key Takeaways:

  • Vispi Balaporia is the first woman President of Asiatic Society of Mumbai in the society’s 215-year-old history.
  • She aspires to complete the digitisation project which has enabled the society to set up a web portal, Granth Sanjeevani, which can be accessed by scholars and researchers as well as other academic institutions.
  • She also wants to improve the infrastructure of the society

“Women didn’t put themselves forward. The way it was started, it was controlled by men in the days of the British. However, British women too have contributed to its activities.”

According to Balaporia, society has always been dominated by men, “Women didn’t put themselves forward. The way it was started, it was controlled by men in the days of the British. However, British women too have contributed to its activities. Until recently, the Gallery of Excellence consisting of imposing portraits in the durbar hall included Indians and British. But there wasn’t a single portrait of a woman in the gallery. After some members suggested, we added a portrait of Indian scholar Durga Bhagwat to the gallery,” she said, according to a report by The Hindu.

Family and educational background

Balaporia is the daughter of Shavax Lal, who was former Secretary to first President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad. She is presently a visiting faculty at Jai Hind College having retired as its vice-principal and head of the department for English. She is also a member of Association of British Council Scholars and has served in various capacities at Mumbai University.

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“Digital is the buzz word these days and we must keep up with the times, even though we are 215 years old,” – Vispi Balaporia

Her MPhil dissertation was on “designing a writing course for undergraduate students with a low level of proficiency in English.” She was given the best teacher (University of Mumbai) award in 1999.  She did her schooling from the Convent of Jesus & Mary in Delhi and La Châtelainie in Neuchatel, Switzerland. She also holds a General Certificate of Education from Oxford University (1956) along with graduate and postgraduate degrees.

Her vision

She aspires to complete all the on-going projects like the digitization project which has enabled the society to set up a web portal, Granth Sanjeevani, which can be accessed by scholars and researchers as well as other academic institutions.

“Digital is the buzz word these days and we must keep up with the times, even though we are 215 years old,” she said.

She also aims to attract young members to carry the legacy forward by benefitting from our rich resources. “There is a compelling need for financial inputs. Several projects depend on the generosity of donors,” she said.

In an interview to Mumbai Mirror, she said that there are infrastructural improvements that she will work towards after the plans are approved.

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