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Wilson College, Mumbai
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• WHAT IS IT' An A-grade arts and science college.
• WHAT COURSES' Junior and degree college courses in arts and science. Also self-funded career-oriented courses
• HOW CHEAP IS IT' The fees for junior and degree colleges are according to university specifications. Career-oriented courses cost Rs 10,000-13,000 per annum.
• GLITTERING ALUMNI' Former PM Morarji Desai, poet Nissim Ezekiel, journalists R.K. and B.K. Karanjia and Rajdeep Sardesai, cricketer Dilip Sardesai.
• WHERE IS IT' Pandita Ramabai Road, Girgaum, Chowpatty, Mumbai 400 007. Phone: 022-23637663 / 23690876. E-mail: information@wilsoncollege.edu. Website: www.wilsoncollege.edu.

Wilson College has the best address in Mumbai. It is located on Marine Drive, close to the famous Chowpatty. As you step into the stone building which falls in Grade III of the city's heritage monuments, you realise that every corner of the campus is steeped in history. The college is bustling with activity as it prepares to celebrate the bicentenary of its founder-principal, the great educationist John Wilson, this week.

The college's story begins with a 24-year-old Scottish missionary arriving in India in 1829 with his wife. John Wilson and Margaret Bayne devoted their lives to serving India. Also known as a great linguist, Wilson mastered Marathi within six months. 'Rev. Wilson's vision can be seen from the fact that he did not allow students to study English till they were proficient in their mother tongue. This emphasis on the mother tongue was in sharp contrast to Lord Macaulay's emphasis on English,' says Wilson College principal Dr V.K. Sirwaiya.

While Wilson set up the college in 1832, Margaret established six schools to extend education to girls. 'She would try and convince people to send girls to school. She eventually set up 16 girls' schools including St Columba High School,' he says.

Meanwhile, Wilson initiated the setting up of the Mumbai University in 1857. In 1861, Wilson College was affiliated to the university, but being older than it, was given the status of a constituent college. Wilson College moved to its Chowpatty location in 1889. Today, institutions like Ruparel, St Xavier's, Ruia, Podar, and Syndenham have stolen a march over it, but Wilson College still remains the first choice for many students who want a variety of subject combinations and a healthy dose of extra-curricular activities. The college ranks among the National Assessment and Accreditation Council's 'A' grade colleges.

'We offer languages like Marathi, Sanskrit, Hindi, Gujarati and French. We have a very strong line-up of career-oriented courses like BMS, BMM, computer science and biotechnology. We also have a fair number of students from the Northeast,' says Prof. Sudhakar Solomonraj, head of the political science department.

Wilson's inter-collegiate festival, Polaris, which is held in July, flags off the fun season in Mumbai's colleges. It also has an intra-college festival, Kshitij, and publishes an annual magazine, The Wilsonian. The college has a range of associations like the nature club and encourages sporting activities.

The college library has more than 80,000 titles. It has also preserved several rare books and manuscripts collected by its founding father. For instance, it has a copy of the Holy Bible published in 1610, a Samuel Johnson-edited dictionary dating back to 1773, Ferishta's History of the Dekkan and the first Mohammedan Conquest published in 1794. There are also several volumes of John Wilson's own journal, Oriental Christian Spectator which gives precious insight into religious and sociological details of Western India in the 19th century.

Wilson students are proud of their college, though it may not have a very big contingent of merit-list regulars like Ruparel or Ruia. 'The best part of being in Wilson is the heritage campus and the long walks on Marine Drive,' says Smita, a first year BA student. Being a heritage building, the college has a tough task of carrying out repairs to the building without altering any of the original features of the structure designed by famous British architect James Adam.

In 1932, the college set up a women's hostel ' perhaps the first one in the country. Two boys' hostels are located right behind the college.

SATISH NANDGAONKAR

Old memories

ICICI Bank executive director Nachiket Mor takes a stroll down memory lane

IT WAS WAY back in 1982 that I enrolled in Wilson College. Three years later, I graduated with a BSc in physics. My principal reason for choosing to study in Wilson was its look and feel. I was an active member of the Nature Club. I was somewhat active in student politics as well and was elected the class representative to the student council for one year. Another sphere where I was quite active was the Coffee Club — a student reading club.

It’s been 22 years and I have lost touch with most of my batchmates. However, I do run into a few of them once in a while. K.B. Unni and Ratnesh come to mind immediately.

I have very sweet and poignant memories of my time at Wilson. One thing I remember vividly is the deep disappointment of one of my professors when he learnt that I had decided to pursue an MBA at IIM, Ahmedabad and not a PhD in my field. He felt I was not pursuing my “true destiny”. The best part of being a Wilsonian was that I could be myself. There was no pressure to adhere to a certain “cool” stereotype. I was (and am) a quintessential nerd but faced none of the isolation that I might have faced elsewhere. My desire to study obsessively was respected as being quite normal.

AS TOLD TO SATISH NANDGAONKAR

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