Fiona Fernandez: Gateway to ruin
If you are a city soul like yours truly, soaking in the sight of the Gateway of India at Apollo Bunder, stirs up a sense of immense pride even if it’s your umpteenth visit. It also jogs the mind to recall its historic imprint on Mumbai, and India’s history, unlike any other city landmark.
Recently, while playing guide to a few visitors, the Gateway was a natural addition to the itinerary. And so, off we were, ploughing our way through a sea of sarees and shopping bags, desperate photographers (who’ve been badly hit since the arrival of the smartphone) and junta hanging around for “timepass”. The security checks at the approach were cosmetic, while the barricades magnified the crowds within the confined space. There we were — facing the awe-inspiring Indo-Saracenic structure designed by Scottish architect George Wittet in all its glory against the setting sun as million-dollar sailboats and kitschy ferries bobbed about in the Arabian Sea.
As we circled the structure for a 360-degree view, we noticed how, despite being cordoned off from visitors, the central portion under the main dome was still under threat from irresponsible elements. A few errant youth were aiming stones that could reach the furthest or highest parts of the structure. What made it worse was that this was cheered on by their friends. No security was spotted to stop this awful act in broad daylight. Graffiti around the sea walls and the litter were other eyesores that left a bad taste long after we left the promenade.
And then came the recent news that the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation were toying with the idea to open a viewer’s gallery atop the Gateway. While the idea sounds ambitious and in sync with many world landmarks that allow visitors to lap up vantage, panoramic views of their city, this idea must be scanned inside out if it has to see the light of day. For one, the approach to the top is via a narrow staircase, which means crowds are a strict no-no. Secondly, who will take onus of monitoring visitors if this process were to be streamlined? Also, the upkeep of the heritage site is of utmost importance. It’s anyone’s guess what could become of it, with pressures of daily crowds. Take a look at all our public attractions and you’ll see what the idea and its execution – heaven help – it happens, will mean for the historic Gateway.
For a change, one hopes this plan remains just another pipe dream. Let the Gateway be.
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 email@example.com