Fiona Fernandez: One-track vision

Updated: 11 December, 2017 07:39 IST | Fiona Fernandez | Mumbai

The decision to convert CSMT into a museum is against the very ethos of a functional landmark that was envisioned by its founder FW Stevens

"Psst, Lady Flora…are you awake?" whispered Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, "One can't tell after your face has been wrapped up in protective covering." The genteel Parsi lawyer and activist was on his post midnight walks around some of his favourite SoBo landmarks, and of course, to catch up with his old friend and fellow Bombaywallah.
Just as he decided to not disturb her any further, and return to his pedestal, he heard a shuffle behind him. Lady Flora had managed to extricate herself from the layers, and had hopped off her vantage point. "Pheroze, forgive me for not responding earlier. All of this [referring to the layers] takes a while to remove; plus the daylong drilling sound, thanks to the Metro work is doing no good for my sinusitis. I hardly sleep these days; it gets very tiring, you see. Gone was the time when I could catch forty winks despite all the chaos below. Not anymore," she signed.

Sir Pheroze suggested they walk towards Victoria Terminus (now, CSMT). "So tell me, Pheroze…what's been happening these days?" she enquired, as a stiff sea breeze accompanied them down the city's premier road, now unrecognisable with construction barriers and gigantic machinery. "Lady, Flora, I have news for you. And it's not good," he stuttered.
"Go on, Pheroze; it's okay," she prodded. "I heard from my sources inside the railway terminus; gargoyle and Sir Shankarseth even confirmed this. They are planning to convert FW Stevens' labour of love into a full-time museum. The gods in the railway ministry issued a statement recently. This move will mean that most of the functioning offices and its staffers will have to leave the premises. It's a shame on the very idea of this magnificent structure," sighed Sir Pheroze.

Lady Flora could tell that he was deeply affected by the news. He had never looked so crestfallen, since the time when Metro-III's invasion of SoBo and its execution had begun. "Worse, Lady Flora…" he continued, "even FW Stevens' great-great-great granddaughter Diana Robertson was not in favour of it, as reported in our fave city tabloid mid-day. She was upset that they went ahead against his vision when he began drafting plans for the great railway station, keeping in mind the employers of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway that is today's Central Railway."

By now, the duo had reached the grand site. Sweepers were at work on the platforms, a few passengers were huddled in a corner. Gargoyle gave Sir Pheroze and Lady Flora a nod from his perch above. They didn't even notice when the odd early riser pigeon did a slow swoop over their heads as they were lost in the presence of the marvel, hours before it would become a lively, crowded sight all over again. "This is insane," remarked Lady Flora, "It doesn't make sense that a functional integrally designed building will be converted into a museum."

The two stood inside the Gothic masterpiece for a while, in silence, soaking in the news, and wondering what the repercussions of this announcement would mean to their friend's great gift to the city. "Dear ole Freddie (short for Frederick) must be rolling in his grave in Sewri," lamented Sir Pheroze, adding "It's all well to announce this but have they even thought it through? Footfalls aren't high in the existing tiny museum inside; I hope they have a cracker of a plan to pull this off." Dawn was fast approaching. It was time to head back to the safety of their pedestals. "Let's leave, Pheroze," Lady Flora reminded her friend. "And hope common sense prevails," she reassured him. We hope so too.

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: 11 December, 2017 07:36 IST

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