One of the joys of living in a great city is to experience its rich history; to inherit a legacy that goes beyond the mere brick walls of an imposing monument. In Mumbai, we are increasingly losing that joy. Today’s Page One story on the 100-year-old GPO building crumbling under the weight of bad maintenance and hardly any sanctioned budget for reconstruction is a classic example of how the city’s caretakers care two hoots for its beautiful buildings. What a great irony that the same building was celebrated a few weeks ago with the release of a stamp in its honour.
This is not a new phenomenon. Historically, Mumbai has not cared for many its own prized structures. For example, how well is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus maintained? It is easily one of the most striking of all railway stations in the world, and yet, there are posters on its façade, there is so much litter all over that it is a shame to even stand and stare. And what about other superb structures all across South Mumbai?
For sheer disregard of its own history, therefore, Mumbai wins the championship hands down.
Not that the people in charge are alone to blame; the city’s residents must take equal responsibility. It is only when we appreciate the wealth we have that we will be able to put pressure on the authorities to make things work for maintaining and reconstructing such buildings.
Buildings such as the GPO are the pride of the city. If this building were to be in Paris or Washington, DC or any such global city, not only would it have made for a great place to work, it would have also generated generous tourism revenue. After all, almost every part of a heritage building has a story to tell. The GPO is no different, and the sooner we are sensitised to this, the better it is for the image of Mumbai.