Fiona Fernandez: Three cheers for the Bombaywallah

Jul 02, 2018, 07:40 IST | Fiona Fernandez

Raising a toast to its third World Heritage Site, the city's two favourite sutradhaars hail its real stars - the citizens - and soak in the win with their trademark humour

Fiona Fernandez: Three cheers for the Bombaywallah

Fiona FernandezLady Flora was on her usual rounds at nightfall but was unable to spot her walking companion, Sir PM at any of their fave hangouts. Tired, after her search didn't meet with success, she decided to get a tad adventurous, and stepped into the Oval Maidan for some fresh air — it was a space that didn't otherwise appeal to her, despite Sir PM's many requests in the past. "Maybe, it had to do with the increasing number of squatters that she had spotted during an earlier walk," she told herself recalling why she had never really warmed up to the space.

Much to her surprise, she could spot a familiar outline in the distance. It was Sir PM! He was craning his neck while gazing at the stunning Victorian Gothic ensemble from the centre of the maidan. "Pheroze, are you avoiding me?!" exclaimed Lady Flora. Sir PM was so startled to hear her shriek that his spectacles nearly dropped off his nose where they were comfortably perched until that moment. "Lady Flora….it's you! How did you find me here? I knew you didn't like this route, so I decided to come alone after I heard about the win…" he began to explain, trying hard to convince his friend.

"What win, Pheroze? Are you hiding something important from me, again? Will I be the last to hear of it, or be told via gargoyle, or your lazy friend, Dr Viegas?" she enquired. "Not at all, Lady. The news is just out. I overheard some chatter while passing by the Press Club about this entire area, and it's wonderful news.

Apparently, all these structures and residences that you see around us, from the Art Deco buildings to these historic public landmarks and beyond, all the way to the museum, as well as Regal and Eros cinemas, they all will now be regarded as a World Heritage Site, certified by UNESCO. Isn't this terrific for the city?" he smiled.

"Oh, Pheroze, what an achievement!" remarked Lady Flora, adding, "The last I recall having read in the papers was that the dossier lost out to Delhi, and Ahmedabad, more recently. So what turned the tide for Bombay, Pheroze?"

"Well, my sources in the state government tell me that the main dossier prepared for this exquisite ensemble of buildings was lying untouched for three years until it got the necessary push to reach the right place at the right time, and of course it was backed by what I hear, plenty of citizens groups. They are calling it a 'people's movement,'" said Sir PM, trying his best to underline the importance of this bit of information. Lady Flora was impressed, but needed more answers. "So, what happens now to this area?"

"Well, for starters, they are hoping that with the spotlight on this area, it will improve its status with better funding from UNESCO and the Union Tourism Ministry. This means more tourists, better illuminated structures and aesthetically designed street furniture, and most importantly, a layer of protection for all these beautiful structures and sites from the 19th and 20th centuries — it will be fantastic elevation for the city, Lady Flora!

The duo decided to soak in the news with a celebratory walk around the roads that lined Oval Maidan. "You know, Pheroze, I never imagined I'd live to see the day when the city would get its third World Heritage Site," said Lady Flora, sounding a tad emotional as they walked past Rajabai Tower.

"Oh, now Lady Flora, never say never. Miracles do happen here; after all, look how these citizens' pulled off such a Herculean task on a world stage against some stiff competition! We'll live to see many more at this rate," he smiled with a twinkle in his eye, as they crossed the maidan in the direction of Art Deco buildings that looked resplendent 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 mailbag@mid-day.com

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