Fiona Fernandez: Can we switch on the real lights?

Aug 14, 2017, 06:18 IST | Fiona Fernandez

In a city where civic woes continue to be ignored citing shortage of funds, the lighting pyrotechnics at the BMC and CST buildings are an avoidable extravagance

The BMC headquarters all lit up to mark 125 years since its construction
The BMC headquarters all lit up to mark 125 years since its construction

"Spiffy shades, Pheroze; what's the occasion? I'ved that it's a tad unfashionable to wear those after sunset, however," commented Flora, taking stock as overcast skies loomed over a humid night in August. She was referring to her friend and city icon, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, whom she would spot occasionally while on a stroll from his pedestal that stood before the BMC Building, towards Kala Ghoda and beyond. She, restored to her original glory, was counting down the days before the rains would cease, and the plastic sheets to protect her classic good looks, would finally come off.

Sir Mehta appeared visibly embarrassed by his friend, Lady Flora's outspokenness. Then again, one couldn't blame her. In all these decades, she had never spotted the respectable civic administrator and legal powerhouse without his trademark bifocals. "It's to protect my eyes, Flora. They've been hurting for a while now…"

"Goodness! Has your eyesight gone worse? It must be all the dust and pollution from where you stand, no?" she interrupted him, and continued, "I've heard only nice things about Dr Burjor Banaji; his clinic is just down the road, at Navsari Building. We'll meet him tomorrow, okay?"

"It's been a nightmare ever since it began, Flora…" started Sir Mehta. "The Technicolor lighting on the facades of the BMC building and CST are playing havoc with my vision. First, it was just the railway terminus. Each day, I would be subject to inexplicable pyrotechnics. A mishmash of dancing lights would be played up against the Gothic facades. Red, purple, green, magenta, ochre…I've lost track. The other day, Gargoyle was telling me that he's gone partially blind in the left eye. Poor chap, he'll be stuck with it for good, I fear."

Pained at the litany of woes from her dear friend, Flora asked, "But isn't there some way to curb this nonsense? I heard that some city groups and heritage lovers had objected to it? Also, what about the massive electricity bills?" In his sagely tone, Sir Mehta replied, "It's a tourist attraction. People seem to like this kind of show. And, as they say 'The show must go on.' So I doubt that we'll see the end of this."

Flora wasn't convinced. "And what is happening with your former office, the BMC building? Wasn't it supposed to be an 'aesthetically-lit' landmark?" she asked, vigorously emphasising on the single inverted commas. "Whatever happened to that claim?" After a long silence, marred by the continuous drilling sounds from DN Road for the Metro, Sir PM grappled with his reply, "Clearly, that idea seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Tamasha seems to be the need of the hour. Last night, I swear I thought I was at some garish Diwali party; you know, minus the fireworks and all. Behind me was the purple haze-lit BMC building, and to my left, the yellow-orange hued CST building was an eyesore. My sinusitis has flared up after a century; hence, the need for these ridiculous dark shades."

Flora was stumped, and silently relieved that she had been spared the Las Vegas-styled lighting circus. "But these look good on you, Pheroze. You should wear them even later," she said, trying desperately to cheer him up. Sir Mehta said anxiously, "Later? Diwali is not even close! Let's meet Dr Banaji tomorrow. Better safe than sorry."

The heritage landmarks worst hit by this lighting debacle, without a doubt, had to be the twin masterpieces by FW Stevens. Lakhs are diverted on electricity bills for this exercise. At the cost of poor roads, non-pavements and an overworked and under-maintained public transport system, is this drain of funds worth the show that seems more of a distraction from the real issues that plague our city?

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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