Fiona Fernandez: Green with envy

A continuous loss of existent heritage in the name of development and a corresponding lack of more museums could lead to the gradual fadeout of the iconic, original Bombay

Mannequins sporting  womens' tennis fashion in  the modern, open era
Mannequins sporting womens' tennis fashion in  the modern, open era

It's that time of the year for the suburb of Wimbledon to roll out the green carpet for the world's top players and its fans, and to rekindle a legacy that is steeped in tradition. Then again, trust the Brits to showcase their heritage with pageantry and pomp that only they can boast of. Years ago, while on a visit to London, we signed up for a tour to savour the experience; it was the next best thing to the real deal since our dates didn't coincide with the championships.

"Keep off the grass!" scowled a 60-something guide in her crisp English accent, as soon as she spotted a bunch of trippy Converse-clad Germans tease the freshly cured lawns with their feet, during our tour. It was September, and already, work was in full swing for the following year's championships. Precision and purpose was on full display: lawnmowers – highly modernised versions, these — could be heard whirring around to remind us of it. As we made our way through the side courts, the press centre, flower bedecked aisles and alleys, and finally, Centre Court, the history and sense of occasion blew our mind. This is what it must feel like to be inside a living, breathing museum.

More discoveries were in store inside the actual Wimbledon museum. The interactive space was a mix of traditional and modern. Quotes by Pete Sampras and Rudyard Kipling (literature is worshipped here), technology in the form of the evolution of the racquet, showreels of advances on court and rare footage from the early days greeted us throughout the audio tour. Tableaus revealed the origins of the game; fashionistas in our group were impressed by the change in hemlines, cuts and seams in tennis apparel (the mannequins didn't stick to Wimbledon's drab all-white rule, thankfully). We ended our tour by indulging in the signature strawberries-and-fresh cream at The Wingfield. Satiated, in every sense, we chose to walk back to board our train from Wimbledon station. En route, we noticed how the town had enveloped this over century-old tradition as more than just a sport. From cafes to pubs, bookstores and bus terminals, we sensed unparalleled pride at playing host to the world's most popular Grand Slam.

Why the Wimbledon tour recap? We live in a city where the need for specialised museums and a respect for diverse legacy, isn't finding any takers. Apart from the recent bit of good news surrounding the upcoming children's museum, the column draws a blank. The city sorely lacks a public maritime and a cricket/sports museum, for starters. There is the long-forgotten pipe dream to setup a cultural museum to celebrate India's arts. The lack of vision to set up such theme-based spaces and the corresponding, mindless chipping away of its identity are worrying signs. Already acres of its living heritage are being demolished (read: loss of space at Azad Maidan's pitches due to the Metro III work); this means vital frames and cogs from the city's cricketing legacy will be lost forever.

Such steps will continue in the name of development, and we dread that with the lack of any documentation and conservation of these city icons, coming generations might never be able to savour even a whiff of the real Bombay. A steel and concrete one-dimensional city is all they will be left with.

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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