Still life in the city
Mumbai is dotted with statues that serve as markers of its creation. Four chroniclers and historians pick those that tend to go unnoticed
Born on April 1, 1856, in Arpora, Acacio Gabriel Viegas was the first Indian Christian to be elected to the Municipal Corporation of Bombay in 1888. He was a graduate of Grant Medical College and passed his LMS examination in first class. He was also the one to identify a mysterious disease that hit Bombay in September 1896, leaving many casualties.
"The administration baffled by the swiftness with which the disease spread could not cope. Dr Viegas researched and identified the disease as bubonic plague, and worked tirelessly to fight the epidemic. Identifying rats as carriers helped combat the spread as well," Dr Fleur D'souza, former head of department of history at St Xavier's College, shares. The free-standing statue in front of Framjee Cowasjee Institute was constructed as a tribute by the citizens of Bombay in 1936, given his timely judgement.
AT Opposite Metro INOX Cinema, Dhobi Talao, Marine Lines.
A tale of gratitude
Sir Hormusjee Cowasjee Dinshaw's statue at Churchgate. Pic/Suresh Karkera
The bust of John Harkness at Marine Lines. Pic courtesy/Hashim Badani
Dr Simin Patel of Bombaywalla Historical Works reminds us of a time when people raised money to honour legacies. Such is the story of John Harkness, the first principal of Elphinstone College, whose bust was a gift by pupils at the time of his retirement in 1862. "Interestingly, it was also proposed that each subscriber to the fund receive 'a photographic portrait of the worthy principal,'" she informs. Another noteworthy statue is that of Sir Hormusjee Cowasjee Dinshaw at Churchgate. One of Bombay's last sethias, he made his fortune in Aden, Yemen.
AT People's Free Reading Room and Library, Marine Lines; near Bhikha Behram Well, Churchgate.
According to The Indian Magazine, in 1890, Lady Sakarbai's funeral was attended by 3,000 Parsis. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Two striking statues of women, Patel points out, are that of Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit at BSPCA Hospital and Jerbai Masina's at Masina Hospital. Dr Varsha Shirgaonkar, a historian who received a grant from The Asiatic Society for a project titled Statues in Mumbai: A Social History, says that many statues today are on the Heritage List, as published in 2012. "But this doesn't include Dr Dadabhai Naoroji's statue near Flora Fountain, which is beautifully made. One side shows him leading women in a procession towards Saraswati Mandir," she says.
Dr Dadabhai Naoroji
Laying a foundation
The statue of Sir Henry Bartle Frere was created by Thomas Woolner, an English sculptor and poet. Pic/Suresh Karkera
The bust of Jagannath "Nana" Sunkersett at a private crematorium in Chandanwadi. Pic/Ashish Raje
Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere, appointed Governor of Bombay in 1862, was responsible for the demolition of the walls of the old Fort. "That's how the Victorian buildings came to be. Apart from this statue, nothing remains of him here. Even Frere Road has disappeared," says Sidharth Bhatia, city chronicler and founder-editor of The Wire. Bhatia's second pick is the bust of philanthropist Jagannath Sunkersett in Chandanwadi, whose contribution to the city is gargantuan.
AT Asiatic Society of Bombay, Fort; near Bada Qabrastan, Chandanwadi.
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