BLHS says goodbye to St Xavier's

Updated: Sep 29, 2019, 07:40 IST | Fiona Fernandez | Mumbai

After 40 years, city's oldest urban history group moves out of its place of birth

The clinical precision with which the decision was arrived at would have pained many an urban history buff. After 40 years of operating from St Xavier's College, the Bombay Local History Society wound up its operations in its birthplace at a meeting held in the college yesterday.

This was decided upon after the assembled members agreed that the society should not be wound up but be moved to an alternative address. Saturday's meeting was held to arrive at a decision after an emergency meeting had been called on August 20 by the BLHS Secretary Dr Joan Dias to discuss the future of the society. City chroniclers, all members of BLHS, like Sidharth Bhatia, Rajan Jayakar, Deepak Rao, Meher Marfatia and Sameera Khan, were present at the meeting.

Space and fund constraints and the fact that the society was not registered were some of the reasons that were shared with the members for the college being unable to accommodate BLHS. Since only 13 of the 250 members were present at the meeting then, a decision on its continuation or closure could not be made.

At the meeting, the minutes of the previous meeting were shared by Dr Dias with the group of 25 members. With a show of hands, a majority voted in favour that the BLHS should not be allowed to wind up but function from some other premise, and that it should be registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act.

Solicitor Rajan Jayakar agreed to move the operations to his home and to help ensure that BLHS becomes a registered society. A few senior members questioned the office bearers over the decision to move the society formed by a Jesuit outside of a Jesuit-run educational institution. In reply, chairperson Jeanette Pinto said that since it was not a registered society and that new commercial groups conducted events and walks, operations had become difficult.

The existing office bearers stepped down from their respective roles and a new working committee was chosen that included Jayakar (secretary), Bhatia, Anita Rane Kothare (president), Aadil Desai (treasurer), Deepak Rao and Sameera Khan (secretary) among others. This committee will meet on October 5 at Jayakar's residence to discuss the way forward, starting with the process of registering the society. "This will possibly be the last time that we are walking out of these corridors as members of the BLHS." Jayakar was overheard telling a fellow member. Clearly, the end of an era.

In 1925, Fr Henry Heras—after whom St Xavier's College's (SXC) Heras Institute of Indian History and Culture is named—founded the Bombay Historical Society. Taking this legacy of learning urban history a step ahead Fr (Dr) John Correia-Afonso renamed it the Bombay Local History Society (BLHS) in 1978 in light of a seminar named Bombay: The Gateway to India

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