Wheels of change

It was worth the wait.

Earlier this year, when Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Director-General of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly Prince of Wales Museum) informed us about a plan to build a Museum on Wheels, it piqued our interest. Imagine a miniature, mobile version of the museum, up and running across the length and breadth of Maharashtra. It was an ambitious plan, which if materialised, would offer a great service to children and adults alike, who have little or no access to such centres of education and enrichment.

Work got underway in full swing. Slowly but surely, this grand dream took shape. Finally, last week, as reported in mid-day’s October 20 edition, the bus rolled out in fine form, and was ready to bring the museum to the doorsteps of the curious in far-flung neighbourhoods of Solapur or Beed. A reassuring, refreshing fact that emerged from this initiative was the role played by the corporate sector. A big name from banking had pledged financial support for the project; this we believe, should be the ideal springboard for others to follow suit. What made us smile even more was that without playing big brother, the essence and the soul of the idea remained sacrosanct.

In the past, we’ve reiterated this need for the business world to pitch in more for the community. A solid, sustainable relationship will mean not only goodwill but will also ensure greater outreach, as in the case of the Museum on Wheels. We’ve seen such tie-ups work wondrously for many festivals and short-term cultural activities. But we have a long way to go. Tourism and the arts are two avenues that could benefit immensely from this change of thought. If Mumbai wishes to project itself as a world city, these areas need immediate resuscitation.

One look at our cultural itinerary and this vacuum appears like an eye sore. A paltry number of open events mean that the common man loses out. Three cases in point: Elephanta festival, Banganga festival and the Horniman Circle Garden Festival. Each had a stamp of the city on it, great line-ups and generated huge crowds; yet all three have met with the same fate. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from Singapore’s annual calendar — it’s an insightful example of how the corporate and the cultural worlds merge seamlessly, and at the end of the day, showcase the best of their country not just to the Singaporean but also to every tourist.

The writing is on the wall. Will the sensitive and sensible corporate please stand up?

The writer is Features Editor of mid-day

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