Fiona Fernandez: And the award goes to...

Dec 25, 2017, 06:00 IST | Fiona Fernandez

They hardly ever make it to any 'Best of' awards or forecast columns. Presenting our humble attempt to hail some of Bombay's sites, landmarks and cultural developments that earned bouquets and yes, a few brickbats too

It's Christmas, and since everyone is playing Santa by doling out goodies, we felt it might be timely to roll out our very own awards to salute the best, and the not-so-best news that defined 2017 when it came to our beloved urban heritage and culture.

Cultural developments

Star Performer of the year: The Royal Opera House
While the Royal Opera House reopened in 2016 in a stunningly restored avatar, the historic space truly came into its own as a venue for performing arts throughout 2017, with gigs, theatre and cultural events that packed the calendar. With its resplendent stage and interiors, the Girgaum landmark is here to stay.

Return of the year: Matheran Toy Train Railway
While the actual running of the train along the scenic 19-km railway route hasn't commenced, the news that it will resume brought cheer to every Bombaywallah who has a childhood memory on the toy train to cherish - from pesky monkeys and ticket collectors with an amazing sense of balance, to the gorgeous topography.

Global showcase award: Seven awards won by city sites at UNESCO'S 2017 Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation
Mumbai was the start of the show, clearly. Of the 43 projects vetted by a nine-member panel of international conservation experts in August in Bangkok, Mumbai won the maximum awards - Christ Church and Royal Opera House (Award of Merit), Bomonjee Hormarjee Wadia Fountain and Clock Tower and Wellington Fountain (Honourable Mention).

Renaissance of the year: Opening up of Sassoon Dock
The opening up of a sleeping giant, off the city's natural harbour, was a masterstroke. Art, performances and a wave of ideas swept the southernmost tip of the island city, and it certainly set an example of how a neglected vast space could be brought back to life with initiative and the right kind of backing. Can we look at more such cultural resuscitation, please?

Exhibition of the year: India and the World: A history in nine stories
Arguably, the biggest exhibition to grace the city, this was a magnificent effort by CSMVS and the British Museum, and the National Museum in Delhi, with the backing of the Ministry of Culture. Apart from showcasing some of the most important exhibits and art works from India, the exhibition is also one of the most ambitious attempts to showcase displays from the British Museum. Don't miss this one before it closes in February 2018.

Small is beautiful award: Mulji Jetha fountain
The restoration of this once-forgotten fountain calls for a special mention. One of the lesser known designs by FW Stevens, the ornate façade replete with animal imagery is a little jewel that stands bright amidst Fort's bustling chaos.

Silent bystander of the year: CST/Victoria Terminus
Towards the end of the year, the UNESCO World Heritage site found itself in embroiled in an unexpected scenario when the gods in New Delhi decided to declare that the world famous railway station would now be converted into a museum. This means its days as a living and breathing office space, as its founder FW Stevens had envisioned, might be numbered. We hope there's better news when we file 2018's report card.

Party pooper of the year: Metro III
Let's face it. Mumbai's heritage - from its DN Road landmarks to its iconic bakeries like Crown and its mangroves - all have been at the receiving end of this infrastructural development. It's been touted as an upgrade; but the fallout has already messed with the script.

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 mailbag@mid-day.com

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