26 May People with passion: Darab Nagarwalla ’80
This week we continue our series People with Passion by Development Associate Hazel Ebenezer. Hazel has chosen Darab Nagarwalla ’80 for her interesting insight.
Life is about living in the now. But somewhere in between these six frantic years of High School, our ‘now’ becomes the foundation of our future. It all adds up somehow and makes us who we are; it defines us and gives us our identity. And in a few cases,this mysterious future brings us right back where it all began, High School. For Mr. Darab Nagarwalla, he knew since his junior year that he wanted to come back and do something for this school, this city and this environment. His goal was achieved seven years ago and he became one of the many former students to join the Woodstock Community as staff.
Born in Bombay, Mr. Nagarwalla attended Woodstock from sixth through twelfth grade. He is a man with big ambitions and before joining Woodstock he always wanted to be a fighter pilot. In eleventh grade, (there was a marine biologist somewhere in between) his dreams took a drastic turn in a direction that was almost completely opposite but no less adventurous, environmental studies. He says that there were two prominent incidents that made him change his mind, both occurring in Mussoorie. Firstly, the New Road was being built in an area that was previously filled with lush greenery. As any Woodstock student would tell you, it is an area whether road or trees, that is crossed everyday on the way to dorms. During the construction of this road he saw oak trees being cut down in front of him, and that affected him deeply.
The second incident is a very interesting story. On his winter vacation that same year, he and his best friend had gone hiking to Dodital, a mountain lake beyond Uttarkashi. On their way back their bus broke down at Chamba, about 50 km from Mussoorie. With no money on them and a conductor unwilling to refund their ticket, they were stuck. It was then that a small sweetshop owner gave them shelter in his shop, fed them and even paid for their tickets back, out of pure kindness. It was kindness that touched Mr. Nagarwalla’s heart and strengthened his resolve to not only pursue environmental studies but also come back and help the people here. He continued his studies in a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin and came back to Mussoorie in 1995 with his wife, Nazneen. She is currently working in Junior School and their daughter, Vanalika, is studying in the seventh grade here.
It’s a fascinating thing to be able to call a place your home even after having been separated from it for fifteen years, even after all the changes. The main changes that Mr. Nagarwalla saw were in the student body. With the simpler values and standards of living of that time, there were fewer expectations among the students as well. There was more interest in hiking and the environment and a better engagement to Indian cultures. Mr. Nagarwalla’s dream now is to become a certified teacher for Woodstock, so he can pass on his passion for nature to a generation that will be vital in ensuring nature’s survival. Even after his retirement he hopes to help by improving the standards of environmental education in Uttarakhand.
And of course, what is the story of an alumnus without tales of the good old days? Memories of the seniors letting cows into the Parker Hall lobby. Memories of bribing the guards to get a dosa for them on the weekends. Memories of finding the son of the Vice Principal locked up in a glass trophy display case. Memories of Mr. Crider as a dorm parent, of losing their class flag and of Woodstock as family. The last one still applies, not only for Mr. Nagarwalla but for all who are part of the Woodstock community.
Woodstock has a hold on everyone who has spent any amount of time within its scenic ‘walls’ and that hold has the power to change opinions, change perspectives and change lives. It has created valuable and respectable adults who, in their turn, change the lives of others. It has, in its Christian basis, taught universal values that assist achievement in every career. It has given a foundation for the future and been a home for many. So from all the lives that have been touched, here’s to Woodstock.