Fiona Fernandez: Upgrade, no thank you

Oct 02, 2017, 06:26 IST | Fiona Fernandez

As cities - big and small - look at protecting its heritage, we continue to put it under threat in the name of upgrading

Two acrobat brothers were performing a few head-numbing stunts in the wide, vehicle-free Preseren Square in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Both regulars at this landmark, they were entertaining a few hundred tourists. In another corner, kids were playing hopscotch or riding around on their bicycles. Along the sidelines, their parents chose to bury their hands in a game of chess - it made for a picture-perfect postcard frame.

Past proud
We weren't lucky to witness this scene in person. All of this was part of our playing armchair traveller, as we settled into weekend telly-binging mode. As we travelled with our guide, we noticed the countless no-vehicle zones. The guide chatted up with locals, including a city official, who sang praises of the move. They told him it was the best gift they could give coming generations - less carbon footprint, and naturally less pollution, and added safety for citizens and tourists to explore the city.

Next up, the camera panned to a medieval structure, a high tower where a ceremonial routine was to take place. A harmless tiny cannonball was to be fired from one of the windows (into safe distance, of course!) to recreate an important occasion in the town's history, when the local community defied the enemy and stopped a raid on the city. At noontime, a cannoneer fired the ball with tourists gathered below and cheering as it exploded into thin air in the far distance. It made for an interesting addition for the city's itinerary - a nostalgic retelling of its history with a bit of theatre thrown in.

Ljubljana's Austro-Hungarian legacy, baroque architecture seamlessly blended with its sprawling gardens and public squares, a clean shoreline and a modern vibe - our little virtual rendezvous into one of the lesser known cities of Eastern Europe offered fantastic insight of it being proud of its past even while it looked at working towards a brighter, safer future. It made us slip into fantasy mode: what if we could manage the same in small measures?

Harassing heritage
And then, the rude shake-up greeted us once again, as we skimmed through the Sunday edition of mid-day.

News of Flora Fountain coming under threat due to construction work of Metro III was another sock in the eye for all those who are fighting for what is turning out to be a long, arduous battle to safeguard our heritage. Ever since the ugly partitions emerged overnight (rapidly, we must add) to split the historic road right down the middle, the long-drawn drilling and its impact on the buildings - heritage and otherwise - is posing a serious concern to our heritage.

And then our thoughts went back to Ljubljana, where the reverse was in progress. Of how a small city in Eastern Europe was doing its best to keep its heritage and its health in safe hands by barring all new construction and entry of vehicles into its sensitive neighbourhoods.

Will there be a Bombay in 2021 when Metro III is ready? We're certainly dreading the 'upgrade'.

mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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