Fiona Fernandez: The real Mumbai, please?
By the time you read this, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would be on the last leg of their Mumbai tour, exchanging ideas with some of Mumbai’s brightest minds as they talk shop about start-ups, social enterprise and strategy in today’s times. Smart move, we thought. However, the other two stops on the itinerary, Banganga Tank and Oval Maidan, had us a bit surprised. Sure, both places represent different connects of the city but we were expecting a far livelier, trippy schedule for the young royals. With the city having such a long association with the British, this seemed even more logical. We couldn’t help but draw out a plan; alas! one that will remain unrealised.
Locations like the Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly Prince of Wales Museum) that was named after King George V – Prince William’s great-great grandfather — would have been the ideal place to kick things off. Of course not before a quick dekko of the Indo-Saracenic marvel — the Gateway of India — constructed in honour of the King George V and Queen Mary’s arrival in to India for the Delhi Durbar. Stretches of the heady Victorian Gothic ensemble that line the Oval Maidan would have been perfect stopovers as well, what with their splendid confluence of Indian and British ideas and designs. Further, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) and the BMC building — two of the best examples of the Bombay Gothic style — the former especially (with a faint resemblance to St Pancras in London) would have offered fascinating insight. Ask any British tourist about this bit, and you’ll see why.
The icing on the cake would have been a late luncheon at that iconic address on Sprott Road, Ballard Estate — Britannia & Co. Its nonagenarian owner Boman Kohinoor remains arguably the biggest fan of British royalty in the city. From the time when this eatery has been whipping up delicious fare for British officers stationed in the Fort area to its treasured status now, we would have loved to see this culinary landmark play host to the royal couple. A glance at its interiors is the best indicator: a decorative plate marking the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana and a framed photograph of Queen Elizabeth among other memorabilia. We’re pretty sure this stop would have left more than just a warm footnote for both.
A similar story got played out this time as well where apart from Bollywood bashes and customary salaam of Mumbai’s slums, planners tend to gloss over the countless other rich layers that make this great city. Another missed opportunity, this.
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