Hail the heritage tourist

Updated: May 27, 2019, 07:48 IST | Fiona Fernandez | Mumbai

Thrilled as they might be that in a recent survey, heritage ranked high among millennials as options for tourist destinations, our sutradhars wish for Bombay to put up a better advertisement of its treasures

Fiona Fernandez"Do I need to get my eyesight checked by Dr Dastoor for the umpteenth time, or are you powdering your nose, Lady Flora?" Sir PM, enquired hesitatingly. He was always wary of broaching a personal question to his long-time friend and walking companion.

"A tad startled, Lady Flora swung around, and looked embarrassed at being caught in the act, even as she tried to hide her compact case amidst the folds of her gown. "Er, Pheroze, what are you doing here, sneaking in on me like that? Isn't it still a few hours until we meet for our walk around Ballard Estate?" she asked, still looking a bit flushed with what had just happened. "Oh, forgive me, Lady. I did not intend to startle you or put you in a spot with my inappropriate behaviour. It's just that I've never seen you wear make-up before," Sir PM said, his tone apologetic.

"Pheroze, actually, I think I went a little ahead of myself. See, I was reading about this remarkable bit of news based on a survey that revealed that millennials – I mean these really young people – prefer Indian heritage sites and monuments rather than foreign destinations while planning a holiday. Isn't it simply wonderful? I thought I'll dab a bit of this to add glow to my appearance," she blushed.

Even before Sir PM Mehta could wrap his head around what it could possibly mean for him, Lady Flora continued. He had never seen her so pleased since her restored avatar had reopened to the public earlier this year, in January. "Imagine, the number of tourists who visited me, and I had no idea! Pheroze, I think you should nudge your babu friends in the BMC to do take stock of the incessant crow droppings, and more importantly, the overall welfare of your form. It's high time, really," she reminded him. Sir PM was still mulling over this development. "Pheroze! You have got to consider this. Imagine, even with what I believe is still step-sisterly treatment to our ilk across the city, heritage options seem to draw the tourist? Shouldn't we put up a better show?" she prodded him, until he finally had no option but to reply. "Well, you see Lady. I am extremely pleased, and also very surprised that heritage ranks so high on the list of preferential options for young people.

But we, this city, still have a very long way to go before we can proudly showcase our wealth of heritage – both natural and man-made. I hope I am not being a wet blanket, but truth is, we haven't exactly glorified sites and monuments by giving it a deserved place in itineraries. Apart from the few usual suspects, the rest of the city's grand heritage – from medieval to vernacular, Gothic to Art Deco –needs to get the necessary thrust from the powers that be."

"Lady Flora had to agree with her friend. "You are right, Pheroze. We need a bigger, more concerted push from the authorities to highlight our existence. I keep hearing about so many neglected structures, lost forever due to neglect or plain greed. Dr Viegas' wife, Beatrice from Bandra, went into permanent depression after her 300-year-old parental property – a fine Portuguese villa – was bulldozed to the ground to make way for a tall building. While all these statistics are fascinating, the gods must look at safeguarding all our heritage, not just the few obvious ones in SoBo. Only then can we call this city a heritage destination in every sense."

Sir PM noticed that Lady Flora had subtly wiped off her make-up. She chuckled, "Maybe I don't need this after all. Tourists should like me as I am, right?" Sir PM smiled back, "Thank god! I've always said, natural is the way." That night while on their walk, they took extra effort to check on some of their not-so-lucky comrades in stone along the way, and wished them well.

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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