On the night of Diwali, a blaze broke out at the Wilson College Gymkhana in south Mumbai. It took the fire department over two hours to douse the flames, which consumed a considerable portion of the beautiful heritage structure.
There are conflicting claims about the cause of the fire. The fire department stated that it took them a while to reach the site because the roads, especially Marine Drive, were clogged with traffic due to festivities. If there is some solace, it is that there were no casualties in the fire.
Now, of course, the focus will shift to rebuilding and repairing the 115-year-old structure. The authorities must ensure that this begins soon, and that, as far as possible, the structure is restored to its original form.
Learning from the past
In the past, heritage structures have often been repaired or rebuilt in a haphazard or slipshod way. As a result, they lose their period flavour and charm. This is because there is no heritage expert overseeing repairs. As a result, it looks like little more than a patch-up job with whatever material is on hand.
We hope the Wilson Gymkhana repairs will be done with thought and vision. The material used should be the same, and if that is not feasible, be as close to the original as possible.
Most heritage structures in the city are in need of special care and attention. Citizens, and the civic body especially, need to be more sensitised to the value these buildings add to the city.
Let the Wilson Gymkhana be restored to its original glory. Our brick-and-mortar, glass-and-steel city needs these buildings full of soul, to bring us a whiff of nostalgia. In this fast-paced age, they are a reminder of the old world. Sometimes, trite cliches like ‘old is gold’ are steeped in wisdom.