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Home > News > Opinion News > Article > A gate and a city

A gate and a city

Updated on: 27 February,2023 05:57 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Fiona Fernandez |

Our sutradhaars debate one of the decisions that was recently proposed at the first national executive meeting in Mumbai by the powers that be, to rename Churchgate railway station

A gate and a city

Representation pic

Fiona FernandezIn all the time since she knew her friend Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, Lady Flora had barely ever seen him with a book in hand. For all his wisdom of the city’s civic and administrative matters, it was an observation that always piqued her overtly curious mind. Clearly, this was a sight to behold. Seated on their preferred bench inside Horniman Circle Garden, her friend was poring over a large tome, the kinds that one would usually spot inside the dusty cauldrons of a less-frequented library or archive. Beside him there were a few other titles stacked up in a high pile. ‘Where am I supposed to sit,’ she wondered, as she approached the spot.

Sir PM had obviously not noticed her presence until she gently patted him on the shoulder. “Pheroze…all okay, I hope? What’s with the intense reading session?” she asked. Her friend jumped out of his bubble. “Oh! Greetings, My Lady. I didn’t see you. Sincere apologies. How have you been? I was just catching up on some reading…” he replied. “What is in this book is of interest, Pheroze? Is there something you wish to fill me in on? She prodded, ever keen to get to the details. “It’s all over the news. Haven’t you heard? There’s talk from every side; first up, Percy flew in immediately – for once – with the update, as soon as he heard from his pigeon friends across at the railway station, and this was closely followed by the good doctor Viegas who confirmed it. There is serious talk that Churchgate will, in all likelihood, be renamed after an important man, Chintamanrao Deshmukh, who was one of India’s sharpest financial brains in post-Independent India. So, I decided to commence reading about the esteemed gentleman since it’s a name we will need to get used to in our daily chats and updates,” he revealed, in business-like fashion.

“But I am more curious to know why Churchgate was picked for this renaming, and not any other station? Especially since there is a very specific reason why it earned the name. It was to commemorate one of the three gates of the long-gone original Fort’s walls, and the iconic cathedral that stands near it. This is part of our city’s history, isn’t it?” questioned Lady Flora; she was always armed with research-backed statements to support her line of thinking. I mean, Pheroze, you know about this area’s history better than most of us…” she continued, eager to hear what her illustrious friend had to say about 
this development.

“I agree, Lady Flora. But these are things that are no longer in our hands. We can only debate and discuss the whys and hows of such a proposal, and its long-standing ramifications. I mean, yes, this could lead to the phasing out of its original history, after the proposal is etched in stone but isn’t this scenario a common one that we’ve experienced in the past, including with the other railway terminus? Die-hard history fans will make the extra effort to keep the original documentation alive, and continue to create awareness. It is for the rest of our citizens to remember the past as we move into the future. It is of paramount importance to make them aware of Churchgate’s origins as new changes get adopted into the visual and historic landscape of our city,” shared Sir PM, clearly affected by the news, as he turned another page of the large book that was precariously placed on his lap, “I see your point, Pheroze. Change is inevitable in these times; this gentleman seems to have done a lot of great work in the financial annals of India’s history and credit must be given to his contribution. But I have another concern here. Wouldn’t this procedural change lead to a steep cost to the coffers of this government? This will lead to changing text at every step, from letterheads to railway tickets, indicators and official stationery. One has to account for all these costs too. Take this cost, and weigh it against the desperate need for better-quality roads, safe footpaths, functioning streetlights, public toilets and garbage bins – all these are far more important needs in our city that is bursting at the seams. Shouldn’t the civic authorities look into those pressing infrastructural necessities as priorities and let such exercises be lower on the list? The odds are heavily in favour of the latter,” she reasoned. Sir PM’s face said it all. It was a no-brainer. But certain goings-on in the city weren’t in their hands.

Once again, the sutradhaars were staring at the eventuality of a changing moment in the metropolis’ timeline. They had no solutions to offer, only reminiscences to cherish. But more importantly, there was a silent, steely resolve in the mood that night, to do their best as Bombay’s cultural and heritage ambassadors, to share their immense repository about the origins of their favourite city far and wide. “I must quote the great Marcus Garvey here, a celebrated activist from Jamaica, who said that “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without its roots.” How very profound and practical too,” shared Sir PM, glancing over at his friend as they made their way towards Churchgate station.

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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