Tomorrow, Sunday, August 18 is Parsi New Year. The time then is apt to reflect on Parsi baugs (baag) or colonies struggling to hold their own in an age of high-rise towers and booming new age construction. These baugs or colonies give Mumbai a unique flavour and still keep alive a lifestyle that is fast disappearing. The baug has been immortalised in so many films and books, one can remember Rohinton Mistry's ‘Tales from Ferozesha Baag’ as just one example of how the quirks of this community were captured in short stories through the daily vicissitudes of Ferozesha Baag residents.
Today, when the builders’ bulldozer shadows several old, residential structures in the city, it is important that people work together to strive to save these baugs from being razed down and replaced by hi-rise towers.
While baug residents might sniff lucrative opportunities here, the city and its upholders of heritage, and the Parsi Panchayat must ensure that these baugs, with their unique and stunning architectural features, live on. Everything in Mumbai of aesthetic and intangible value cannot be sacrificed or sold off at the altar of commercialism. One can look at the West, which does such a good job of preserving its heritage. Paris for instance, has rules that govern such buildings and disallow any kind of damage or encroachment.
We have pockets of Mumbai where entire lifestyles have been wiped out. One such place is Girgaum, a South Mumbai stronghold whose stunning, charming homes have been replaced by soulless modern buildings. Let us all, in small ways, work towards preserving whatever is left that gives Mumbai so much character. Let our collective zeal, conscience stand sentinel so that this city retains some of its facets, even though change is inevitable.
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