High-fives for Bombay's star attractions
Our sutradhars cherish the recent wins of the city's restored landmarks at the highest level
It was one of those odd days in the middle of October when the skies were overcast and the odd pitter-patter made Sir PM take extra small steps as he treaded cautiously to meet his friend Lady Flora at her pedestal. There was some buzz around her and a few other landmarks in the city. They'd received international recognition, all the way in Malaysia, according to Dr Viegas. "It was in the papers, Pheroze. Ask her, no?
Who better than to get it straight from the horse's mouth," he chuckled, before rushing off to collect the last batch of pao from one of Dhobi Talao's bakeries.
The rain increased to a persistent drizzle, and so Sir PM wasn't sure if his failing eyesight or the raindrop-splashed spectacles was causing the confusion. He could see that Lady Flora was sporting a pair of dark shades. She was beaming from ear to ear.
"What's with the shades, Lady Flora? All well, I hope. Dare I ask if conjunctivitis has got the better of you? Then again, what is to be said about this less-than-salubrious weather," remarked Sir PM. He had punctured the moment, and his friend's facial expression changed quickly to a half-frown. "Why would you say something so depressing, Pheroze? Haven't you heard? I won. There was an 'Honourable Mention' made in faraway Malaysia to hail my restored self. Now, I'm being celebrated as one among the best in Asia, too. Bombay did spectacularly well, I've been told. There were others who also returned with awards — our neighbour, the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue and Gloria Church in Byculla. A city based architect also did fine things for the Vikram Sarabhai Library at IIM Ahmedabad," she rattled off. "And, what is the connection with the win and your decision to sport dark glasses?" Sir PM prodded, looking as puzzled as before. "Well, you see, Pheroze, ever since the news broke last Monday, citizens, tourists and heritage buffs have been thronging the pedestal to catch a glimpse of me. The clicking of cameras has been relentless and so I have had to wear these to protect my eyes from the glare. I do not wish for my smooth and wrinkle-free façade to be subject to any kind of strain or damage," she elaborated, adding "I can't afford any negative publicity."
"So, what was the honour about?" Sir PM asked; he was trying hard to keep the curiosity under check. "Haven't you heard? It's UNESCO's top awards for the finest examples of restored architecture in the Asia Pacific region. It doesn't get bigger than this – like our Oscars minus the gowns and the tuxes. I believe there was some tough competition from countries like China. So this feels extra special, Pheroze. Shall we head someplace to raise a toast? I heard about a new tea room right here in Horniman Circle," she asked. By now, Sir PM was preening like a peacock, thrilled to hear about his friend's award. "It's a fine effort, Lady. Of course, we should celebrate. After all, how often does the city get such a wonderful leg-up? The fate of Esplanade Mansion lies in the air, so this is fabulous." Both stood for a moment by the decrepit façade.
"Still, these wins are a terrific salute to the heritage movement. Last year, too, it was the lay people who propelled the effort towards earning the UNESCO World Heritage Tag for the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble, and now, these victories, each helmed by conservation architects and their teams, validates and reassures us that the city has so many keepers of its heritage," reminded Sir PM.
"Indeed, Pheroze; it's the small victories that add up to a big revolution," she agreed, and finally removed her shades, as they approached the tea room.
"The rate at which your popularity is soaring, I suspect you might become the first ever heritage statue to receive an invite to one of these high-profile, invite-only celebrations; they're called 'Page 3 parties'. Don't forget your old friends…" he teased.
"How can I, Pheroze?" she smiled.
Heritage was the talking point once again in the city, and after a long time, the two friends truly savoured the walk. It had been a win for their beloved Bombay, after, all.
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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