Fiona Fernandez: Stone-faced in the city

Mumbai’s prominent statues and landmarks must be given their place of honour

A new occupant caught the eye in the centre of the bustling junction where CST and BMC reign supreme. All shiny and well-oiled, the symbol was the poster boy of Mumbai recently. One of them, (in case you haven’t guessed — the Make in India lions) moved into his vantage SoBo residence.

He’s got company. Of a different vintage though. Across the road, to the left of the machine-made version sits the ‘Lion of Britain’. A part of FW Stevens’ grand railway terminus, the lion has the ‘Tiger of India’ for company, to his left. The lion was installed to represent British interests in India, while the tiger was designed to represent the national symbol of India. Both felines watch over as guardians to the office block of the Chhatrapati Shivaji (formerly Victoria) Terminus.

If statues could speak, and in the delightful assumption that we could pick up their chatter, Senior Lion will welcome the newbie, “Get used to this jungle. We’ve presided here for over a century and a half; have watched kings and generals, lay men and political leaders walk past this teeming thoroughfare. Sans the pollution, these are the best seats.” By now, the statue of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta joins in. “Wise felines of CST, I beg to differ. From where I stand, it’s stunning. Come sundown, the muted lighting at BMC building spells class. I cannot say the same about the pink-and-what-have-you light circus on your side of the road.”

“Let’s give Junior the tour,” Indian Tiger chips in, changing the subject. Junior is taken aback by the Gothic sprawl of the facades at CST and BMC. Sir Mehta reassures him, “Don’t be afraid of Gargoyle & co, especially at night. They just look scary. The bas-relief portrait roundels — they represent visionary gentlemen who built the railways. Ah! And the detailing of sculptures and Indian animals, also statues of Progress, Engineering and Commerce; take time off to marvel at it, son.”

Soon, the quartet hit Sir DN Road. It was a mix of awe and disappointment. “Why are most of the buildings and structures in neglect?” Junior asked. “Our glory days are over. We are second-class citizens. These guys have it worse. At least, we get the odd facelift. Poor lady Flora is a mess.” rued Sir Mehta, wiping a tear off his stony face. “Old mate Kala Ghoda left us in the 1960s, to reside at Rani Baug. Let’s check on him next week,” reminded Indian Tiger.

Done and dusted after their trail, the quartet return to their respective platforms. Junior had a query — “I’m told that the terminus was named after a British queen, Victoria. Where is she?” Gulp. Sir Mehta stuttered, “One night, she was kidnapped and never seen again.” If royalty meets with such fate, do I stand a chance, Junior wondered, as he stood under the February night sky.

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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