For this journalist, these few minutes formed the high point of the two-hour-long walk inside the Bombay High Court that was organised by INTACH. Rajan Jayakar, solicitor and one of India’s foremost collectors of memorabilia, was in the middle of taking a 30-strong group down memory lane at the newly-opened museum. He was recalling how India’s last British Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, Sir Leonard Stone had handed over the reins to his Indian counterpart, Mahomedali Chagla, as India stood on the cusp of Independence on August 14-15, 1947.
We were seated in court room No. 46. Jayakar, who was also the anchor behind setting up the museum inside the Bombay High Court, reminisced, “Imagine the mood. The city was in the throes of celebrations on its streets, amidst fireworks and loud cheer. As the clock struck 12, Rajabai Tower chimed in all her resplendent glory. Sir Stone said a prayer, requesting all assembled in the room to join as they prayed for the new nation. The group chanted, ‘Jai Hind’ and this followed by the singing of ‘Vande Mataram’ (*Jana Gana Mana was adopted as the National Anthem of India on January 24, 1950). The walk was a memorable tour that offered immense insight into the history and functioning of one of Mumbai’s most important landmarks. Our biggest takeaway from this tour was that the city could now boast of another museum.
As one has highlighted in this column space in the past, if we wish to strive towards being called a world city, setting up more museums is integral to this big picture. Not only will it familiarise visitors (especially its citizens) with the functioning of such offices but will go a long way in sensitising them and opening them up as being approachable citadels that shaped a city’s foundations. Such museums will acquaint the public of their own cities and perhaps, slowly, imbibe civic sense into the minds of many who continue to treat them with scant respect, leading to their neglect, and eventual ruin.
Imagine engaging in fascinating chronicles of the city’s growth inside important city landmarks like the University Buildings and the Rajabai Tower, the Town Hall, the BMC building and the Naval Dockyard (we desperately need a maritime museum to celebrate our rich connect with the sea) and a host of other public utility buildings. The opening up of the museum inside the Bombay High Court last month was an important step in this direction. We’d like to see other institutions follow suit and showcase our city in the right light.
After all, doesn’t Mumbai deserve to showcase its finest silverware in the mantelpiece?
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day