Beauty and the Beast
Heritage and its history go hand in hand. In the book called “Fabricating Heritage” by David Lowenthal, Heritage is tales and myths that instill faith and devotion to one story. It is about identity and belonging. We drive our sense of nationalism and identity from the unifying myths and legends that are constructed and amassed throughout our history. What defines and unifies us is our heritage. For most of us heritage draws a curiosity & zeal for studying history. Heritage plays an important role in liberal democracy like India to function politically and socially. As Charles Taylor writes, “to form a state in the democratic era, a society is forced to undertake the difficult and never to be completed task of defining its collective identity.” Winston Churchill once said “We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us.”
Mumbai has the privilege of having numerous heritage buildings, which not only adds an element of beauty to the place but also attach a royal notion to it. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, The Kalaghoda parking lot which is surrounded by the Army Navy Building, David Sassoon Library, Jehangir art Gallery, Rhythm House, the Khyber Restaurant, BMC office, Knessel Eliyahoo, Asiatic Library, Old Customs House, Old Secretariat, colleges like Sophia, Xavier, Elphinston and Wilson are some of the leading heritage buildings of south Mumbai. However, the story does not end here because like fairy tales it too has its beast. Privately owned heritage buildings are taken care of up to a certain extent. College managements are pretty much maintaining their buildings because it attracts film and advertisement makers but the condition of other places are wretched. CST looks magnificent from outside, but gives the opposite impression from inside.
‘Negligence can lead to destruction.’ In a country like India where engineering and medical are considered mainstream professions, fields like archeology and related courses remain untouched by the youth. Therefore, importance of heritage and its history becomes area of negligence by the citizens and government of the country.
Heritage sites, which are in possession of government, are in process of renovation, mentioned by Mumbai Guardian Minister Jayant Patil, “We are preserving 14 heritage properties in the city which are in possession of the State Government. We have alloted Rs 15 crore for the restoration work.” Statements are made a number of times but the result is hardly seen. Despite of government efforts, major improvements does not take place because of less cooperation from the Mumbaikars.
Ashwini hospital in Colaba for defense personnel was first a heritage building but now they have built a new one. They only have a photograph of the original in the sitting area of Ashwini. One less from the list?????? One should not prohibit the use of old buildings, but creatively manage changes without losing the heritage value.
Among the top colleges of Mumbai, Sophia College is not only popular for its academics but also for its beautiful edifice. Its history goes back in 19th century, originally called Somerset House named after Sir Henry Somerset, commander-in-chief of the forces of Bombay presidency and owned by the East India Company with rich Parsi families. In 1923, Maharaja of Indore of Holkar family bought the property and in 1937, he sold it to the maharaja of Bhavnagar who hardly lived here and later bought by Sacred Heart. Principal of Sophia College, Sister Anila Vergeese said, “We are trying our level best to maintain our college infrastructure but the students seems to be very careless. They don’t understand the importance of its existence.” She also added that, “There are very few people who know the history of Sophia and with time it will be forgotten.”
These colonial architectural buildings divulge British era of our country, which is more valued by the tourist than us. Gothic archways of these heritage buildings define their infinite beauty but this beauty needs protection from the beast. The most important point to be kept in mind here is, who is this beast? ME, YOU……? Karl Kraus said, “When a man is treated like a beast, he says, ‘After all, I’m human.’ When he behaves like a beast, he says ‘After all, I’m only human.”
Solution to this problem is in front of us, the sooner we find it, the faster it is solved……………………..