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Statuetory Warning

Rohan JoshiThe Central Government approved a giant statue in the sea. The city is saved

Congratulations Mumbai! The Central government has finally approved a project that will fix this city’s infrastructure woes, galvanise our fortunes, and other large optimistic words that mean nothing. Approval means that we’re getting the ginormous Shivaji statue we’ve always wanted, needed and deserved. Let me state at the outset that I have always loved Shivaji. I think it’s better than Enthiran, but not as tight as Chandramukhi. I also love the Maratha ruler Shivaji; I admire his tactical skill, his courage, and his devout followers who will Robb Stark my cats if I don’t put this disclaimer here.

All the stories I’ve ever heard about Shivaji (and growing up in a Maharashtrian household, believe me, I never lacked for them) have convinced me that he was a great man. My favourite Shivaji story was told to me by my grandmother; it’s the one in which he killed the general Afzal Khan at a truce meeting using concealed sharp claws, a double-edged lightsaber, and heat-vision. The story taught me about ruthlessness, the art of war, and my grandmother’s troubling vodka habit.

But this isn’t about the person, it’s about the statue. It’s important that we get this very expensive statue because history teaches us that statues have several important functions. For starters, they’re great at giving people directions, as in “Go past the Shivaji statue off Marine Drive until you reach Mantralaya, where you have my permission to slap everybody.” Statues also grant you automatic membership to the Global Apocalypse Society, and we will now get to explode on TV with New York and Rio when the aliens come.

The statue will cost 450 crore rupees, and look resplendent on an artificial island out in the sea, where it will stand until Ganesh Chaturti, when the currents hurl all the large Ganpatis into it, destroying it at once. It will also be 94 meters tall, exactly one meter taller than the Statue of Liberty, because monument-building is no fun unless it’s a petulant pissing contest. It will be the tallest statue in India until Mukesh Ambani builds a 100 meter high monument to himself on Peddar Road, just because.

According to the state government, the statue represents the great Maratha ideals Chhatrapati Shivaji extolled, such as the time in 1647 when he famously said “Screw the drought in inner Maharashtra, I think what we need right now is a 300-foot stone version of me backed by the Congress and the NCP so we can destroy the Shiv Sena/MNS monopoly on the appropriation of Shivaji’s image and iconography. Now let’s go to Imbiss.”

There’s a lobby of people who believe you shouldn’t spend hundreds of crores on something that has no utilitarian value. I don’t subscribe to that argument, and I even respect the idea of building something monumental for the sake of the endeavor. But as beautification projects go, a statue is more pointless than most other things. If you’re going to spend that much money for fun, give us that world-class aquarium we’ve been promised for decades, or a redeveloped waterfront that we can sit and have a drink at. Don’t give us a block of stone in the image of a man who already has two airports, a station and fourteen billion roads named after him. The last time I saw this much money pumped into something so pointless, it had a “Directed by Sajid Khan” credit on it.

Perhaps we can cut costs on the statue though; we could re-use stone and concrete from recently collapsed buildings to craft it. Heaven knows we have enough. Besides, if you want it to truly represent the spirit of Mumbai, just build the legs, siphon off the rest of the money, let it fall into disrepair, and then name it after Shivaji anyway. Besides, dear government, if you want to see an iconic Maharashtrian monument in the ocean, just go to Murud Janjira like the rest of us.

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo.  

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