City of blinding lights

Updated: Feb 03, 2020, 09:09 IST | Fiona Fernandez | Mumbai

Amid the heady and hideous display of OTT lighting that covered city landmarks on Republic Day weekend, our sutradhaars exchange their personal - albeit contrasting experiences - having been a part of the extravaganza

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picOh my goodness! Is that you, Pheroze? Or has my eyesight worsened thanks to the grime and dust that doesn't show signs of easing, thanks to my nemesis – M?" [Readers should be brought up to speed that by now Lady Flora has decided to not refer to the Metro work and all its woes that have befallen her but collectively call it 'M'].

Standing in front of her, her friend and walking companion, Sir PM a.k.a. Pherozeshah Mehta, was sporting dark sunglasses on a hazy moonlit night. She wasn't sure if it was appropriate to chuckle at his new, sort-of fashionable avatar or be the supportive friend, and check if all was well. "My eyes, Lady Flora!" he exclaimed, quickly adding, "I've had a rough past few days. What's with the horrendous lighting display all around me. Didn't you notice?" Lady Flora hadn't. She was safely ensconced at her vantage position, and thanks to the soft LED light that cast an aesthetically warm glow after sunset, and the crowds that thronged to see her, she was all too busy basking in well, the afterglow.

Sir PM had no such luck. He was resigned to the 360-degreee jamboree in technicolour. After all, he stood behind the BMC building and faced Victoria Terminus (now CSMT). "It was relentless, Lady Flora…and then, just when I imagined that the lighting show would cease to be, it would return with an equally blinding play of colour and light. I had to make do with a blindfold that Viegas was kind enough to lend me when I dropped by his home at an unearthly hour," said Sir PM, clearly affected by his recent experience. "The selfie point right in front of your landing must have added to the melee with countless flashes and crowds lining up into the wee hours?" added Lady Flora, feeling sorry for her dear friend, and a little guilty that he had to endure a migraine-inducing weekend. His eyes looked tired and troubled, during the brief few moments that he removed his protective eye wear.

She quickly tried to lighten up his mood, "…But I must say that after James Dean, this style of dark shades suits you the best." His sullen face cracked into a half-smile, "You really think so? You should've seen poor Gargoyle. The fella looked as if he was stuck in a whirlpool, with no place to escape. Perched on one of the gables of the terminus façade, I could see him wince in despair as the tamasha ensued," he continued. As they treaded with caution towards the scene of Sir PM's forgettable episode, he noticed that Lady Flora was holding a black eye patch, just in case the need emerged. Luckily, the show had ended, and life had come back to normal. "Why insist on these eye-piercing lights? Why couldn't they all simply adopt the kind of sensitive lighting that you had? Would that make us any less patriotic? For the life of me, I cannot fathom this expensive, unpleasant and tasteless lighting show where being environmentally conscious is the need of the hour," he scowled, briefly remembering his plight.

For a change, Lady Flora had no answer; just like so many Bombaywallahs, including yours truly, who are baffled that in such times of irreversible climate change and diminishing natural resources, these mindless, garish displays of wastage of electricity continue to get the nod from the highest of authorities. A drive around most important landmarks in SoBo revealed the same story.

Lady Flora and Sir PM soaked in the view of both landmarks that were now bathed in muted, softer shades. It made for a stunning frame, as the beauty of their Gothic might shone bright. Just like how Bombay was the first Indian city to have created a blueprint to safeguard its heritage structures all those decades ago, it's high time that the city takes the lead once again to draft strict guidelines to become a 100 per cent eco-sensitive metro, and ideally India's first.

mid-day’s Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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