Let's celebrate the intangible as well
As the United Nations in India decides to create an inventory of intangible cultural heritage in the country, our sutradhaars share their initial favourites from aamchi Mumbai
"You're looking all dressed up, Pheroze; going someplace for dinner with the missus?" curiosity got the better of Lady Flora as always, as she spotted him wearing one of his finest three-piece suits, and headed towards Ballard Estate. "I can never escape hawk-eyed Lady Flora!" thought Sir PM, but didn't dare utter it aloud.
"Ah! There you are Lady. In fact, I am on my way to a little celebration at the far end of Fort, near The Mint," said Sir PM, trying his best to not give away much. "Where to, Pheroze?" She wasn't taking his evasive answers lightly. Besides, it was easy to break Sir PM. "Er…you see, Ruttonsee Mulji is hosting a small something for his close friends from the High Court. He's very happy that the beautiful water fountain that he had built for his late son, the Mulji Jetha Fountain, was conferred a big international award by UNESCO. Isn't that great, Lady?" Sir PM was hoping the good news around a city landmark would divert her curiosity and hopefully, the interrogation would end. It wasn't to be. "All that is great for Bombay but I wish to know who else is on the guest list at this party. Is Dr Viegas coming, and what about Manockjee Cursetjee?" her voice was tinged with annoyance.
"Oh, Lady it's just some of us who helped him in his heyday; he's a generous man and was insistent that I join the celebration. Let's see, there's Badruddin Tyabji for sure, and…I really can't say, Lady, it's been a really long time. And, Ruttonsee has many friends in high places," informed Sir PM trying hard to get out of the sticky situation.
"Well, if you must know, I am a bit hurt that I haven't been invited; we are practically neighbours," she began. Before she could launch a missive, Sir PM stepped in, "Even Mrs. Mehta hasn't been invited. Limited seating, I am told." That seemed to calm her down.
"Fine, then. Have a wonderful evening. But I had some great news to share," she teased. "I heard that the United Nations in India is working on a project that will create an inventory of intangible cultural heritage. Won't this be fabulous news, especially for the city?" she was beaming by now, and Sir PM was all ears.
"It indeed is a good thing, Lady Flora. Just imagine how many options we can include from this great city itself!" he remarked, adding, "Already, I can think of so many," and Sir PM began to count on his fingers, blissfully having forgotten that he was going to be late for the party. "See, we should certainly send in an entry for Bandra Fair and the Koli dance." Lady Flora looked puzzled, "Why these picks, Pheroze?"
The genial Sir Mehta obliged, "India has 13 such elements that have already been inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity till date, and these include Kumbh Mela and Ramlila, the Kalbelia folk songs and dances and the Chhau dance. So, why not push for these two indigenous elements of Bombay's heritage," he argued, his legal prowess coming to the fore.
Lady Flora was impressed, but as usual wanted to have the last laugh, "My dear Pheroze, you've forgotten a most important element that is truly unique and so popular that my sisterhood in London is singing paeans to it, after having sampled the fare – the Irani café!" Sir PM couldn't believe his oversight. They both promised to meet soon to share wish lists, as he darted for his Ballard Estate bash, not before politely thanking his old friend for offering him a conversation-starter and some bragging rights among the barrister babus.
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 email@example.com
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