A while back, The Guide in mid-day had written about a young illustrator, Garima Gupta, and interestingly, a non-Mumbaikar, who had made a short animation on the Khada Parsi. In course of that chat, it was refreshing to learn that the city heritage bug bit her in course of her research and she was hooked. The nice part she is keen to feature many other treasures from the city as part of her documentary series. The not-so-nice part she is saddened by the neglected state of statues in Mumbai
Nothing new, really. For years, as we’ve walked past countless amazing reminders of the past across the city, only to be pained by their decrepit condition; in fact, it’s a rarity to spot a statue (with a recognizable face) that hasn’t been plastered with layers of crow and pigeon poop. In some cases, the shoddy cosmetic facelift done in the name of restoration would make some cringe at the sight. A classic case in point is the iconic Flora Fountain that surely deserves an aesthetically sensitive facelift.
And so the story goes. In a city that boasts of an embarrassment of architectural styles and influences that was built brick-by-brick by far-sighted visionaries, one look at these memories in stone is indicator of how we fail to remember and respect their contribution to this great city. In most cases, the very thought and reason behind constructing these statues seems to have been forgotten with time. As you stand in the hallowed shadow of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta’s imposing statue outside the BMC building, ask any passerby to guess his name, and their answer an incorrect one, mostly will drive home this air of scant respect that we harbour for these timeless epitaphs that chronicle our city.
More reason then, to celebrate and support such initiatives, as the one by the young illustrator to ensure others are encouraged to showcase this city’s respected (but mostly forgotten) thinkers in stone. Till then, the next time you walk past an off-white marbled statue, possibly with a crow atop his head for company, stop by and look closely; it might end up being a fun history lesson waiting to be discovered.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day