The Archaeological Survey of India is a fine institution. It is in charge of all kinds of archaeological research, and maintenance of ancient monuments and remains of national importance (their words, not mine). In short, it is responsible for, among other things, finding and preserving national treasures (not counting Ishant Sharma and Baba Sehgal, of course).
It must have been this very desire to unearth and preserve our nation’s cultural and archaeological wealth that drove the ASI to heed the letter of a local sage from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, Shobhan Sarkar. In the letter (copies of which were sent to several people), Mr Sarkar said he dreamed that gold weighing 1,000 tonnes was lying buried in the fort of Raja Ram Bux Singh — who fought against the British — situated in the Buxur area.
One of the people the letter was sent to was Union minister of state for agriculture Charandas Mahant, who then arm-twisted the central government to order the district magistrate of Unnao to find out. The district magistrate then asked the ASI to intervene.
With agility that must have made Jonty Rhodes proud, the ASI started digging up the place on Friday in the hope of finding the treasure. The entire operation would take approximately three weeks. Whether the gold is found or not is another matter altogether, but this nimble-footedness on the part of a government agency prompts you to think whether our dreams, here in Mumbai, can be easily be addressed too.
You could search for a sadhu, or dress up as one, then dream a lovely dream, and get the ASI (or a related government agency) to do the rest. You are welcome to have your list of dreams, and then shoot off a letter to the authorities, but here is mine (whatever you do, do not forget to mention “gold” in the letter). It is a short list of just two dreams, but pay attention nonetheless:
There are more than 500 tonnes of gold in each of the areas in Mumbai where the roads are flat. For instance, two 312-metre and 435-metre stretches along the Western and Eastern Express Highways, and a 523-metre stretch along the Reclamation Road that leads to the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. Once these are dug up, the entire city will be on a, how shall I put it, a level-playing field.
Who to send the letter to: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the Public Works Department, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation, etc. In addition, send it to all the MPs from the city, regardless of what party they belong to.
How the city will benefit: There may never be any gold under the roads. How do I know this? Well, the BMC and the PWD have been digging up the city with utmost efficiency for so long. Do you remember reading any media report on any agency finding gold? But this great megapolis is all for equality. Hence, the level-playing field of no road in Mumbai being flat.
There is an enormous amount of gold under the thousands of illegal structures around the city and its outskirts. At the last estimate, around five tonnes of gold could be found under each building. At the very least, illegal buildings in Mumbai would have close to one lakh tonnes of gold buried under it. If this entire cache of gold is dug up, imagine what the city will be transformed into.
Who to send the letter to: The BMC, MMRDA, all the MLAs, all the corporators and all the ward officers.
How the city will benefit: It is quite logical that to unearth all the gold (and remember there will be more than one lakh tonnes of it), you’d have to raze all the illegal structures in the city, and then rebuild all the pavements, erect new buildings with legal sanctions, etc. Yes, there will be a temporary setback to several people who benefit from the illegality of our structures, but I am sure they’d understand. After all, what is a little sacrifice for all the gold that will be found under these buildings? So, in addition to the roads looking like a lunar surface, our city will look like a battle zone. But that’s understandable, too, because Mumbai’s residents are at war with their fate, anyway.