All things heritage

Disappointing but not entirely unexpected. In a day and age when our country’s, and city’s heritage is under increasing pressure from all quarters, one was hoping that World Heritage Week that is being observed until tomorrow, November 25 would have generated some amount of buzz and awareness from the centre, state and other bodies that have a connect with our heritage, in some form tangible or otherwise. With just a day to go, this as we are discovering isn’t to be.

Barring both of the city’s museums that organised events for the public across age groups, genres and ideas, there was no initiative or activity to instill any sense of pride and respect for our city’s rich repository of heritage. Worse, we had to watch in dismay as INS Vikrant that one-time citadel of India’s naval warfare — was bid adieu in not the most honourable ways. In any other country, such warships would have been given a place of pride in a war memorial museum. But not here. How many similar incidents have we glossed over in the newspapers, from time to time? Your guess is as good as ours.

This week (November 19-25) could have been an opportune time for educational institutions to latch on to the theme and educate students about Mumbai’s treasures from its historic open, green spaces, to its public buildings and landmarks.

This was also the time, when the state government, the municipal corporation as well as organisations like the Asiatic Society and the State Archives, could have thrown open their doors for the public to get a peek into its historic offices and reading rooms, its grand moments of history that led to the making of this city.

The Central and Western Railways offices could have organised guided tours that could have boasted of a wealth of information that lies inside its labyrinthine floor plans and ornate staircases. Some of our libraries could have conducted tours of their stored treasures. Art and cultural organisations that are home to fine, rare works, could have announced week-long events.

It’s an opportunity lost. One that could have been a gradual step to help initiate a small change in mindsets about what is perceived as heritage. Until there is a concerted, larger shift where ideas and notions of this ‘heritage’ are modified we will see no effort being made to celebrate these invaluable, innumerable chronicles around us.

And until a semblance of this happens, such occasions will remain confined to the museum.

The writer is Features Editor of mid-day

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