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No place to display our historical legacy

Even as a handful of committees and councils are trying to save Mumbai’s oft-ignored heritage, spare a thought for those historic structures that have met with their ends, silently.

This, in stark comparison to their iconic status in the glory days. As news that another iconic structure — the Hancock Bridge that binds two ends of Sandhurst Road — will be demolished, to make way for a new one, is announced, one is resigned to the plight that it will meet after it is brought down.

Like many of its ilk, it might end up as rubble in a dump, while its nuts and bolts will do the rounds in Dharavi’s scrap yards. Nothing new, if one goes by the manner in which we continue to disrespect our city’s heritage.

Take the sterling symbol of Mumbai’s meteoric rise — the over-100-year-old icon, Chhatrapati Shivaji (formerly Victoria) Terminus, built by visionary F W Stevens.

Having had to brave monsoons, morchas and mauling crowds, everyday, its outer façade is under constant threat.

Taking a stand
This newspaper had reported in September last year, how some of its gargoyles were destroyed during renovations, unmindful of its historic relevance. Stevens died in Mumbai, in 1900, and lies buried at the Sewri cemetery.

One look at his nondescript grave (once an imposing epithet, possibly) and this neglect appears final. A disturbing trend for Urbs Primus in Indus (Latin: foremost city in India), the term chosen to define Mumbai in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
To drive home our need to preserve the past, take London’s example. The original city remains untouched; its heritage structures are well maintained; some areas require ticketed entry, even while others find mention in itineraries.

Icons that are of no functional use find their way into museums, memorials and are restored, to remind today’s generations and the future, of the glorious past that built the present. Isn’t it high time that we respect the citadels that defined our city?

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