National treasures, really?

A few days ago, as we scoured around town for engaging, offbeat stories with an Independence Day connect, the mention of an Independence Day walk organised by a group that conducts city trails intrigued us. Soon, a team member was off to experience this route meant to showcase several landmarks that were integral to Mumbai’s role in the freedom movement.

While it was good to note that at least someone was thinking of highlighting these oft-forgotten epitaphs of our struggle for independence, we were hoping that the map would have more than just four to five pit stops. Of course, our grouse wasn’t against the group that conducted the walk. That was the good bit. It wasn’t comforting to learn that a city, which was at the heart of the freedom struggle, could not display more such vignettes that were witness to history in the making.

Watching snatches of World War II tributes across different locations currently on air on TV news channels or feeds from the web drove home this point further. The ceremony attached to these important dates in history has to be seen to be believed. Out here, such a show is usually put on just twice a year — Republic Day and Independence Day. You can kiss goodbye to the pride for the rest of the year.

Back to the walk. Of the landmarks on the route, Mani Bhavan tends to remain in the spotlight (thankfully) because of a constant trickle of international visitors. But the rest — from Girgaum Chowpatty to the August Kranti Maidan — surely deserve more care. Besides, there are other spots too that can come into the frame — like the steps of the Town Hall, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta’s statue outside the BMC Building or the home of Sir Jagannath Shankarseth. And why wait for January 26 or August 15 to sign up for these ‘walks down memory lane’? This can, and must, be a part of the city’s tourist itineraries. For too long have we ignored this aspect in our master plan (we dearly hope there is one). Why cannot it become a part of field trips for schools, where such walks become living reminders of history rather than mentions in textbooks?

Mumbai’s visionaries and freedom fighters deserve better. It will be a shame lest we forget the very names who shaped our city and our country.

The writer is Features Editor of mid-day

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