Former dabbawalla and courier boy, Bijay Kumar Maharana, has a prompt correction for the world that knew him as just Vijay.
On Saturday, he became Dr Maharana after the Mumbai University conferred him with a PhD degree for his thesis on ‘Relevance of Yoga in Modern Times’.
“My father’s dream to see a ‘Dr’ tag on my nameplate has come true,” said the 41-year-old Antop Hill resident, who now works with the Braj Gauri trust that offers free yoga lessons to cancer patients.
The achievement also relieved him of a 15-year-old burden of hiding his profession from the family in Orissa.
“I didn’t want to hurt my father, a strict schoolteacher,” he added.
Maharana started his struggle in 1996 from the city streets as a courier boy.
A year after living off delivering parcels and sleeping on footpaths, he joined the tiffin delivery network popularly known as the dabbawalla service at a monthly salary of Rs 200.
Around the same time he completed his post-graduation in philosophy from University of Mumbai. But the doctorate degree was his main goal. The choice for his PhD thesis was natural as he “believed in yoga since childhood”.
At the varsity’s Annual Convocation ceremony on Saturday, Maharana’s 250 PhD degree co-recipients included senior Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi and Amarjit Manhas, MHADA chairperson. While Joshi did his PhD in — Analytical study of the birth, growth, nature and structure, successes and failures of the Shiv Sena, Manhas did his research on voting behaviour in Mumbai north east parliamentary constituency between 1984 and 2004.
Former chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation G Madhavan Nair, who was the chief guest at the function, said there was an urgent need to “take a re-look” at the college syllabi and the quality of teachers.
“A shift from the examination-oriented method of teaching to (one) inculcating inquisitiveness and innovativeness among the students is the need of the hour,” he said.
Noting that the University of Mumbai had taken up some reforms in the areas of academics, examinations and administration, Nair said the outcome of the studies undertaken by the experts' committees of the varsity could serve as a useful guide for other institutions.
Vice-chancellor Rajan Welukar highlighted the reforms undertaken by the university in various fields in his speech.