As the city looks set to build not one but two tall statues that will land them straight into the record books, our sutradhars discuss the futility of it, and where it leaves 'average-sized' sites like theirs
"Pheroze! Pheroze! Where are you? I hope this isn't some prank where you try to scare the living daylights out of me," exclaimed Lady Flora, doing her best to locate her walking companion. It worried her even more because she had come all the way to his pedestal but there was no sign of him. "Could he have been kidnapped?" she wondered. But who would want to commit such an act on a genteel old Parsi barrister?
"Lady! Lady! Up here," a faint voice could be heard. Lady Flora had to crane her neck and take a few steps back to check where the sound was originating from. To her shock and surprise, she spotted the outline of her friend against the façade of his former office, the BMC building. He was precariously placed beside a gargoyle as he tried to gain a foothold. "What are you doing there, Pheroze? Come down right now, for God's sake. Have you lost your mind!" she was stumped over why her friend would attempt such a bizarre stunt. About 15 minutes later, Sir PM emerged from the main entrance. He was out of breath, and pearls of sweat glistened from his temples. "This was just a recce, Lady," he began, haltingly, in between taking long, deep breaths. "Recce for what, Pheroze? Lady Flora questioned him; her anger was beginning to spill over.
"So haven't you heard? Not one but two statues in the city are all set to make it into the record books for their massive height. The country already has the Sardar Patel statue in Gujarat and now, according to what I have read and heard, two more will rise from the city. My fear is that statues like us, average-sized sites, will get lost so we too should raise our heights in order to be noticed." Before he could continue, Lady Flora interrupted, "Speak for yourself. I have just undergone a fabulous restoration, and I look gorgeous. The crowds will continue to come. In fact, we recently had some marvelous streetscaping that has added to the charm of the place."
Sir PM wasn't convinced. "I am not so sure. We are dealing with a Herculean force here — complete with specialists, state-of-the-art manpower and advancements. From a statue off the Arabian Sea coast to another in the heart of Dadar, these will draw in hordes of fans and tourists, I am sure. Where will that leave us? It's bad enough that pigeon and crow poop continue to give me headaches; besides my limbs need some tending to. Nobody seems to care, really," he moaned. For once, Lady Flora didn't dismiss his plea as a crib but a genuine cause for concern. "You might actually be right, Pheroze. What chance do we have? We could get lost amidst these imposing new statues. But I have another issue with these developments. In a city where bad roads, poor sanitation and drainage and under-threat infrastructure are problems that are pushing the average Bombayite to near insanity, what relief will these statues provide? Shouldn't those funds have been put to better use instead? If we wish to tom-tom about being or striving to become a world-class city, better facilities and public transport; the ease of living factor for every citizen should be looked into," she reasoned. It wasn't the most calming of walks as these clouds threatened their very existence.
The two friends slowly walked towards some of their fellow statues of the same vintage that dotted public spaces around Fort. Most needed facelifts. But it was the day and age of the new, big, fat statue. And alas, all roads, might just lead to them.
Sir PM and Lady Flora decided to part ways for the night, not before Pheroze swore that he would never, ever pull off such a stunt again. "Don't forget the band of heritage loving citizens and tourists; they will not abandon us, Pheroze. Trust me," his friend reassured.
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
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