Fiona Fernandez: Who'll remember the icons?

Feb 26, 2018, 06:22 IST | Fiona Fernandez

As another reminder of the real Bombay bids adieu, it's up to its citizens to keep its legacy alive for the coming generations

Strand Book Store

Fiona FernandezIn March 2015, Mumbai's culture (and food buffs) got an unpleasant surprise. Samovar, their beloved café, was to close down. Endless pudina chai sessions, friendly banter over the quality of art in the city and cheery staff who knew your staple orders, were to become part of city folklore. Soon enough, the Page 3 set and jhola-sporting collegians queued up to get a taste of the space's famous snacks and savour its vibe for that one last time.

Later that year, in December, its equally famous neighbour across the road, Rhythm House, met with the same fate. From the headphone-propped yuppie to the Beethoven follower and Bappida fan, all mourned the loss of an irreplaceable city icon. Digital music lovers might brush off the dripping nostalgia that the space evoked but the music had truly died across many wavelengths.

And now, a third joins this unhappy list. In a couple of days' time, Dhannur building's most famous occupant will down its shutters. Strand Book Store, after fighting off losses for a while now, will cease to exist. In a world of commercial, faceless communication, bibliophiles will recall the warm and personalised interactions with its founder T Shanbhag and the store's knowledgeable staff.

As another landmark ceases to exist, a question might crop up in the minds of Bombayphiles like yours truly. In fact, the germ of this concern surfaced on the same day when news of Strand's shuttering floated across the newsroom. A new joinee innocently enquired, "what's the buzz about this place? Was it that big a deal?" Clearly, the coming generations would have no idea of the impact that landmarks like Strand, Rhythm House or Samovar had on generations of Bombaywallahs with regards to their cultural education, so to speak.

What happens (dare we say) of the remaining such spaces that are finding it tough to survive, let alone thrive, in a competitive, cut throat environment? Utopian as it might come across to most readers, we'd like to put it out there for discussion and debate. Why not create a permanent space or gallery in any of our city's museums where we can celebrate these icons with visual, interactive tributes for coming generations to learn and soak in? This can, possibly to some extent, serve as a reminder of a time when the city had welcoming, intimate spaces to soak in art, culture and music in its purest form, minus the frills, and where everybody knew you by your name. We might be witnessing the end of an era but let's at least try to keep its glorious legacy alive in some form. Lest we forget.

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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