Dr. Aslam Parvaiz, botanist, founder-editor of the only monthly science journal in Urdu, on his days as a student of Delhi College, now Zakir Husain Delhi College.
The interesting thing with me is that I studied in this college, then taught here and am now the Principal. Adjacent to the old Delhi College was Anglo Arabic School. When I joined that school the medium of instruction was Urdu. Back then it was the higher secondary system, we had to opt for our subjects in 9th class and take examination for the three-year course in 11th, and the language was English. It then struck me that there is no scientific or knowledge-based literature in Urdu. No language can survive only on poetry. It’s just like a nautch girl who entertains you but doesn’t teach you much.
After doing my PhD I started writing popular science articles in Urdu, I used to write for Quami Awaz, when Mohan Chiragi was the editor. I regularly wrote the central article every Tuesday, on balanced diet, nutrition, environment, scientific aptitude, etc. Most of the students in my community were either opting for humanities or commerce, hardly two percent opted for science, because there was no tradition of science fiction or science stories in Urdu. I thought I should start a magazine and founded a society Anjuman Farogh-e-Science in 1992. The patrons of the society were late Hakeem Abdul Hameed, Saiyid Hamid (Chancellor Jamia Hamdard) and Prof. Abdus Salam, Nobel Laureate. ‘Urdu Science’ was then established in the World Book Fair-1994.
I feel really happy that I belong to the Old Ajmeri Gate campus, which witnessed three centuries. The campus is still there, it is a heritage site now. I still miss the ambience and peace. The calm and quiet environment was just wonderful, much different from what we have here (the current campus of Zakir Husain Delhi College).
Another interesting thing is that Western Sciences were introduced, at least in Northern India, through Delhi College when the Delhi College Vernacular Translation Society was established. In fact Sir Syed Ahmed Khan visited this Society and picked up the idea for the Scientific Society of Aligarh from here. The society translated many physics and mathematics books into Urdu because the medium of instruction, throughout northern India, was Urdu. Master Ram Chandar and Maulvi Zakaullah were the two pillars of the Vernacular Translation Society, who translated most of the books. In a way I am reviving the tradition of writing science in Urdu, this is really a coincidence and it is surprising that ‘Urdu Science’ is the only monthly magazine of science in Urdu.
I especially remember my teachers, one of them Dr. Virendar Kumar, who taught me Botany, lived in a single room in the hostel on the old campus, didn’t marry and devoted his entire life to the development of the college. Mirza Mehmood Beg, who revived the college after partition, remained single, devoted his life to education; these were the people who influenced me. I remember in the old campus when the science laboratories were built, we had no money – this was my B.Sc. second year – Dr. Virendar Kumar spent his own money and since there was lack of funds he asked us if we could help in the construction. We volunteered and did the labour work, this is how the Department of Botany and Zoology laboratories were constructed. This is the level of attachment I have with the college.