Fiona Fernandez: The write way

Mumbai could take a leaf out of the UK’s book when it comes to respecting and promoting our many assets, whether it’s literature or differently-abled citizens

For a large part of the 30-minute travel show, there was no way of knowing. The camera took us along with a dreadlock-sporting journalist, giving us the low-down on William Shakespeare’s centenary celebrations across Great Britain. Our affable host was able to make the subject light and fun without sounding frivolous; it had the right dose of engagement and wit, and yet it didn’t come across as off-putting. We were hooked.

As he ended the first capsule and readied for another segment, suddenly, the camera panned out; he was on a wheelchair on a sidewalk in London sharing a byte of history about the next stopover. For half a second, the sight took us by surprise. This was followed by admiration for the manner in which the packaging of the show, and the reporter himself got on with their job, as if there was nothing special or unique to this particular broadcast and its host-reporter.

For the rest of the show, he continued in his same cheery avatar, showing us rare manuscripts of the Bard’s literary works, their restoration et al. It made us wonder, and be amazed at how everyone involved helped ensure it was a seamless scenario. That he was a wheelchair-bound journalist didn’t surface at all. The ease of movement, the access points into venues, didn’t give the viewer any inkling of it. We wait for the day when India’s TV media houses are able to pull off something like this. We have miles to go before we become a truly differently-abled-friendly country in every sense – from ramps in every destination to a change in mindset. Unless this happens, everything else around it will be an uphill climb.

During the same travel show, one segment took us to Stratford-upon-Avon — the birthplace of the Bard. It followed a bunch of fans who were on a tour. A few moments later, the same group was at London’s Globe Theatre, soaking in rehearsals of a Shakespeare masterpiece. The country continues to go all out when it comes to celebrating its most famous literary icon. And this wasn’t just because it was the centenary year. While on a visit to the country several years ago, this columnist recalls being spoilt for choice when it came to picking which literary tour to sign up for. There were dozens to choose from — Charles Dickens and John Keats to William Shakespeare. The respect for all things literature was second to none.

Perhaps the ongoing flood of city events and festivals missed a trick in the book with their curation. A tour of landmarks and remnant structures associated with Mumbai’s famous authors and poets would have been a wonderful way to engage people in the city’s literary wealth.

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

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