People rushing through Churchgate station earlier this week were greeted by a kindly 65-year-old grandmother intent on talking to them about trees. Renee Vyas, a retired accountant and now a volunteer with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), narrated stories and poems about plants to anyone willing to stop by at her exhibition and listen.
“It’s a dream job,” says the plant lover who gave up a senior position in her family’s paper manufacturing business five years ago, so that she could open a nursery and volunteer. “Sure, it was a massive career change, but I decided to make the switch when I turned 60 and I have never regretted it.”
The Bandra resident now has over 100 varieties of rare plant species at her nursery and often offers saplings to plant lovers free.
“I do send a supervisor to ensure that my plants are being cared for by my clients,” she says.
Vyas began her environment venture by enrolling in a basic course in horticulture followed by a course in botany with the BNHS.
She now organises free tree appreciation walks in the city, to share her scientific knowledge in an informal, engaging manner, narrating stories and poems and reaching out to amateurs too.
Vyas also recently received permission from the airport authorities to plant more than 400 seeds at the Pawan Hans heliport in Juhu. “I will soon be conducting classes in environmental studies in rural Maharashtra,” she said. Asked about profits, Renee smiled: “Making money is my husband’s job.”