Asiatic Society of Mumbai elects first woman president


Mumbai: The Asiatic Society of Mumbai has appointed a woman president for the first time in its over 200-year-old history.

Vispi Balaporia, 77, was on Saturday elected to the top post of the society, located in the iconic Town Hall building having a grand portico and a flight of steps at Horniman Circle in south Mumbai.

After her election, Balaporia said the digitisation of content has increased people’s access to the society, which would continue to focus on conservation of old and rare books.

The society was set up in early 1800s with an aim to promote useful knowledge. Its library contains a vast collection of books, of which 15,000 are classified as rare and valuable.

It also has some rare artefacts and over 3,000 ancient manuscripts in Persian, Sanskrit and Prakrit.

There were three contestants for the post of its president, including Balaporia, former Supreme Court judge Sujata Manohar and former Siddharth College principal Dr Surendra Dhaktode.

Manohar, however, withdrew her nomination at the last minute.

During the election last week, Balaporia won by securing 163 votes, while Dhaktode got 107 votes.

The outgoing president, Sharad Kale, recently completed six years of his tenure at the society.

Balaporia, the daughter of Shavax Lal, who was former secretary to the country’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad, was earlier the honorary secretary of the Asiatic Society and a visiting faculty at the Jai Hind College here.

She retired as vice principal of the Jai Hind College some years back and was previously also the head of its English department.

She received the best teacher (University of Mumbai) award in 1999.

“Digitisation of content is going on for some time and there is still some work left to be completed. It has already increased the accessibility of the society to people looking for knowledge,” Balaporia said.

“We need to maintain a flow of funds through donors for our projects, including conservation of old and rare books and restoration of large collection of maps,” she added. (PTI)