A teacher’s idea of classrooms without walls has taken wings

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Port Blair
19 Feb 2018

Dr. Vivek Kumar Sahu is Assistant Professor Zoology at Jawaharlal Nehru Rajkeeya Mahavidyalaya here. This 37 year young, simple and grounded teacher is on a mission to drive in the big idea of conservation not only into the minds of his students but the youth of the entire group of islands. Born to a farmer’s family, his five senses since boyhood were caressed by Mother Nature, and his Grandfather’s folklores on animals, birds and forests had sowed the seed of love for what he would learn and become one day. After spending his school life in a bucolic ambience at Lavkushnagar, Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh, he first completed his Masters and then Doctorate in ‘Faunastic Survey of Piscian tapeworms of Bundelkhand’ from Jhansi in 2007. In between he did his B.Ed and taught at schools to help complete his doctorate financially. After a short stint of teaching at colleges at Moth and Orai, he joined Jawaharlal Nehru Rajkeeya Mahavidyalaya in 2011 and till date is busy as a bee striving to lend hands-on experience to the youth of the islands about the flora and fauna of our islands. He is also a guest faculty at IGNOU. He is the Vice President of the Andaman Avian Club, member of Wildlife Board and life member of multiple scientific research and publishing organizations around the country. He lives in Port Blair with his wife Geeta and his sons, 2 year old Utkarsh and 7 month old Nishkarsh.

EOI met him in at pre-dusk at his basement home in Nayagaon. We spoke for a while in his living room, but thanks to power suspension (not surprising!) we had to move base to a bench at Jogger’s Park to complete our chat leaving behind Nishkarsh rocking on his mom- made- hammock.

EOI: Dr. Sahu, hailing and spending most of your life in a landlocked place, what is your take on life on these islands.

Dr. Sahu: I must say this transition was only possible due to some unseen force. Even after 6 long years, I sometimes cannot believe I am here, teaching students what I have learnt in this treasure trove of nature’s abundance. These islands are a true laboratory and library for a Zoology student like me. I had only read about Hermit crabs, when I saw them for real, I was just spellbound watching them make intricate patterns on the sand.

EOI: Tell us a little about Avian Club.
Dr. Sahu: (pauses) In 2105 we formed The Nature Club, which took up outdoor activities for students and youth.  We conducted tours, exhibitions, talks etc. under its aegis. In 2107 the Andaman Avian Club took wings. We take youth on bird watching tours, most of them which I lead as the Vice President. The youth are so excited to see the winged splendours in their habitats, in flight or perched atop branches that they have been demanding more. I thank all members of the club and our President, Mr. Ram Vikas. As a teacher and lifelong student of Zoology, it gives me immense pleasure that at least we have taken a small step in the direction of spreading awareness on conservation.
EOI:  Just like Neil Armstrong said, “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.
Dr. Sahu: True. To me, it is awareness about conservation. You have to understand our fellow beings on the planet, to understand that we have to coexist in harmony for the survival of our planet. Everyone has a very vital role to play in this cosmic dance of Truth.
EOI: How was your experience working closely with Dr. T. C. Khatri?
Dr. Sahu: Oh! He was a legend, the Butterfly Man of Andaman. He was so humble, so receptive to even the junior most students. I had great working rapport with him, even after he was retired through emails and calls. He was ready 24x7 to clear my doubts.
EOI: Are you not a member of the forum that organizes the great Salim Ali’s birth anniversaries in the islands?
Dr. Sahu: I am active when it comes to celebrating the Birdman’s birthday. If bird watching is a trend in India, it was because of the efforts of Ali, the ornithologist par excellence. According to him his interest was in "living bird in its natural environment." Our club is just a small spark of the luminous light that he has lit.
EOI: Tell us an interesting incident that touched you.
Dr. Sahu: (Thinks for a while) Okay. My son Utkarsh created a rapport with a gecko often perched near the tube light at our home. Flat on his back he kept an eye and enjoyed the little reptile’s movements and shenanigans. I tried to chase it away, but he cried. One day, by my fault with the broom, it died. Utkarsh was inconsolable for days and kept looking up, waiting for it to reappear. This taught me so much. We have to become innocent children to understand compassion for another living being.
EOI: What are the other areas of professional interest that is keeping you abuzz other than teaching at JNRM?

Dr. Sahu: I am involved in the Crocodile Census with the Forest Department. We are also planning to impart Snake catching training to rural youth, so that the beautiful creatures are not killed mercilessly and also help in creating awareness and reducing panic at its sight which is one of the reasons for being bitten by them. And of course the multi-pronged activities of the Nature and Avian clubs are keeping us ‘abuzz’, as you suggest (Smiles). On a serious note I am praying for Masters in Zoology to start here at JNRM. Students, who have completed their Bachelors, can do their MSc here and do not have to travel to mainland India.
EOI: Thank you Dr. Sahu. We hope you spread the light and idea of conservation far and wide. Hope to see a Khatri or Ali from among your students.
(Joggers Park was getting denser with jaywalkers and power walkers. We walked to my scooty discussing what Pat Buckley had said, "I can find God in nature, in animals, in birds and the environment.")