GPO has 100 reasons to mourn historian's demise

Sharada Dwivedi, who passed away yesterday, was to chronicle the history and legacy of the General Post Office to mark its centennial in 2013

The passing away of acclaimed historian and researcher Sharada Dwivedi (69) on Monday has bereaved, among many mourners, the General Post Office (GPO) as well. Dwivedi was to consolidate the history of the GPO through her research and compile it to commemorate its centenary year in 2013, and her demise has left senior postal officials in a lurch.

Down memory lane: Sharada Dwivedi, MiD DAY reporter Vinod Kumar
Menon and Postal Director Abha Singh peer into the 200-year-old heritage
tunnel on the GPO premises that MiD DAY discovered in 2010. File pic

Postal Director (Maharashtra HQ) Abha Singh said, "The department had an initial meeting with Sharadaji a year ago, where plans to consolidate the history and memory of the GPO and postal services were discussed to mark the 100th year of the GPO's existence." The work would have included archiving the glorious past of the establishment, details on its heritage structure including a mystery tunnel that MiD DAY helped discover
last year, and preserving this slice of history.

Singh added, "We had provided her with some relevant records from our archives to start the work and were to finalise the modalities."

Mystery tunnel
Incidentally, three days after this reporter broke the story of the discovery of a heritage tunnel inside the GPO ('MiD DAY finds city's hidden treasure', October 19, 2010), Dwivedi accompanied this reporter to examine the 200-year-old ancient passageway. She held detailed discussions with senior postal officials and acknowledged MiD DAY's finding as one of great import for the heritage of the city.

Dwivedi had said, "Only after the entire area is cleaned up will we know what the underground chamber was used for. It could be a century-old storm water reservoir and, if so, the GPO can use it to harvest rainwater."
Dwivedi based her hypothesis on the research she undertook at the Maharashtra State Archives. She came across correspondence between the structure's architect, the public works department and what was then the Bombay Municipal Corporation.

The GPO's plan to archive its past, however, is still on track, though Dwivedi would no longer be able to imbue it with her expertise. Said Singh, "We have made a proposal to the central government for making specific provisions in Budget 2012 to earmark Rs 10 crore for carrying out restoration and repairs of the GPO heritage building."

Asked if they would refurbish the tunnel and spruce up the passage, she replied in the affirmative, and then, in an utterance of homage, said, "But the loss of Dwivedi is a great one to the entire postal family." 

Author of several books on the history and culture of Mumbai, she was also on the panel of the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee. Among her most famous works is Bombay: The Cities Within (1995).

Cerebral haemorrhage led to her death
On Monday, Dwivedi was declared dead at the MICU of Bombay hospital minutes after her family members brought her at 11 am.

According to Dr J Sorabjee, senior physician attached to the hospital, "She was unwell for the last few days and was brought in today morning to the hospital. But it was too late."

Sources attached to the hospital said, "Cerebral haemorrhage (natural) was cited as a reason for her death and her body will be kept in hospital mortuary. The funeral will happen on Tuesday." 

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