City, still standing

Updated: 10 December, 2018 05:52 IST | Fiona Fernandez | Mumbai

Our favourite sutradhaars take stock of the good and not-so-good news that created a buzz in and around their addas over the past few days

Fiona Fernandez"What's with the helmet, Pheroze? Is the city in some kind of trouble – Mobs? Stone pelting?" Lady Flora noticed that her friend Sir P M Mehta had traded his trademark pagdi for a sturdy helmet that had a visor. Intriguingly, he was holding an extra pair in his hands. "Hehe, you noticed, Lady," Sir P M nodded, half-smilingly, looking a tad embarrassed.

From bad to worse
"Well, you see… these newspaper reports have been circulating; even Viegas brought it up this morning. The Esplanade Mansion is in very bad shape, and things are going from bad to worse. You recall that horrific episode earlier this year when a kaali-peeli was crushed after part of a balcony collapsed?" Lady Flora interrupted him before he could finish his sentence, "and yes, luckily nobody was injured because the taxiwallah had stepped out of his vehicle. What a tragedy that was! Now tell me what is the connection with this new look of yours?"

"The famous Army Restaurant in the same building…even you liked their keema pao…that iconic café has undergone renovations. And you should see it, Lady! Totally unrecognisable from the inside," said Sir P M, looking suitably upset that another of his favourite haunts had undergone a thoughtless makeover. "Oh, Pheroze, this is so tragic, you know. I recall having been privy to quite a few grand balls there, in its heyday of course. This is awful, and from the sound of it, it's become a playground for such developments," sighed Lady Flora.

Fading charm
"But I would like to have a closer look at the building, and hence wished to take a walk down there. I would be honoured if you could accompany me," requested Sir P M, handing over the extra helmet to his friend, "For your safety, Lady. Hope it fits well. After all, you are fresh from a long-drawn restoration, so we must be mindful of that." She smiled.

Together, they tread carefully towards the building, tiptoeing as they neared the imposing, decrepit iron structure. A giant bandicoot scurried past them, evoking a loud shriek from Lady Flora. This caused a fair amount of stirring from the squatters by the footpath under the building. The two made their way towards the revamped eatery. Through a narrow gap in the main door, they spotted its swanky new interiors. They were aghast – it was nothing like their old haunt. After spending a few moments sizing up the extent of neglect that enveloped the entire structure, they made their way back towards her pedestal.

Fighting a lone battle
"I am speechless. I did some reading up and turns out that the landlord isn't co-operating with the authorities, who seem too invested in other things anyway. That leaves the heritage community to fight a lone battle to save this unique building. Actually, I hear that the landlord has links with the …" he halted, lest he said too much. Luckily, Lady Flora was too busy ensuring if her chin hadn't chipped while trying to remove the helmet.

But she wasn't going to let their visit dampen the spirit of her friend. "Oh, Pheroze, I have some fabulous news to share. Remember our little chat last week, about Ballard Estate being forgotten and all? Well, turns out, that some cultural visionaries in the city will actually be organising an all-day affair next Sunday. It will be packed with fun activities for children and grown-ups, open-deck bus rides, traditional food and dances. Just the upper for this city," she smiled. The news seemed to have worked for Sir P M. He was grinning. "That means you know what our plan for next Sunday will be," he chuckled. "Ah! those open-top bus rides. I sure have missed those, Lady," as they two headed for their routine walk on a full moon night.

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 Send your feedback to

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First Published: 10 December, 2018 07:15 IST

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