Government looking at beauty and heritage the wrong way

Bandra Station
Renovated Bandra Station

Walking on the road between the Mahalaxmi race course and the railway station on the other side I suddenly noticed a nice change. The enclosures that blocked the view of the racecourse for so many years had been removed and it suddenly became so visible, it was so soothing to see the greenery, the big expanse. So, it costs very little to find beauty, one just needs a little imagination to make good things visible, remove filth.

But a lot of money is being wasted currently on so called beautification projects many of these may be making the city ugly. The main issue is to remove the ugliness.

There are multiple problems. An amount of Rs 22 crore has been spent on a fountain for the textile museum being constructed by the civic body in the premises of a closed textile museum in Kalachowki in Mumbai, according to media reports.

And a lot of portion is to be allotted for fashion shows. Seems shocking. Is this an amusement park or a museum ? Is this the way we treat our working class history ?

The authorities ought to come out with more details. Rs. two hundred crore budget seems too large considering that the large plot of land is free.

So much of architectural history of textile mills has been destroyed by the government itself through its own policies and now this seems a strange way of building a museum.

And look how they are treating some mill lands .

This may not be a heritage site by the conventional understanding prevalent in India. But walk through the Shakti mill lane near Mahalaxmi railway station and you see the ruins of the mill which would be prized in any city with increased awareness of heritage. But in Mumbai the ruins lie totally neglected. Unfortunately a rape there 10 years ago has given it a very negative image, increased its neglect, its isolation.

One cannot miss the site if one walks to G 5 A, a nice , rather fashionable space for theatre and films and music. One can miss the sight of the ruins if one takes a car. The local train gives you an idea of the big expanse of the premises.

These solid black stone ruins and undamaged tall chimney really make a visual impact. The Laxmi mill estate on the other side of the road with its black stone walls is also a fine heritage site. It is gentrified but in a nice way with some restaurants, offices and art shops and the heritage character is retained to a good extent.

In the case of Shakti mill litigation has prevented its gentrification and in a way this is good because the ruins have their own charm and value.In Lancashire mill ruins have much heritage value apart from buildings which are in good shape.

The world over ruins are among the most valued heritage sites like the Roman Forum in Rome which is one of the most photographed sites .

Shakti mills can be turned into a wonderful tourist attraction with a little intervention. The premises are also valuable because the flora and fauna there are undisturbed for years and there are numerous trees there which should be immediately listed, preserved, this can be a great educational site as well. If by some chance it falls into the hands of a developer, which seems unlikely soon, all the tree and other heritage will be gone.

The mill area is now completely inaccessible particularly because of the incident, it should be immediately opened up, cleaned without destroying the greenery. We have seen mainly in economic terms the destruction of the textile mills brought about by politicians and corporates. But the heritage both of the built structure and Nature inside with its greenery, water bodies has been lost sight of.

The mill along with Laxmi mill can make a fine heritage area with a little social engineering, requiring little investment, we need imagination, dedication rather than finance here.

We do need to preserve our colonial building heritage in Mumbai and there is a lot of awareness on the issue. But heritage extends far beyond these sites.

The recent heritage preservation of Bandra west railway station has been so much hyped that we have lost sight of other issues. Much depends on the context. The Taj Mahal is beautiful but it would have been completely spoilt had former chief minister Mayavati had her way. She wanted to construct some buildings in the area behind the taj. Fortunately there was a furore and the horrible idea was given up. Fortunately, no building has come up behind the Bandra station so the view is not spoilt. The area on the eastern side of the station is very dirty but is not visible to the elite so it is totally unconcerned.

There was a toilet in the heritage structure some years ago but it was removed because some alleged heritage experts believed this was incongruous By this silly logic no world heritage sites would not have toilets inside but because better sense, common sense prevails elsewhere we see perfectly good ones in the best of sites in London and elsewhere. Then a perfectly working toilet built outside Bandra station was demolished a couple of years ago for absolutely no reason and a new one was built, someone just wanted to make money, as simple as that. Oddly, even now the station master with his office inside the heritage structure has no access even to a wash basin not to speak of a toilet. He has to share the toilet meant for the public. I must stress that he did not complain to me at all or anyone but this is a fact.

The building for ticket sales adjacent to the heritage structure was destroyed for no reason some time ago putting thousands of people to extreme inconvenience. All because some heritage lovers thought this had to be done. Now, much money has been spent and a heritage type building with Mangalore type tiles has been built. Looks nice. But the money could have been used much better elsewhere. There are hundreds of other sites, non colonial which are worthy of heritage status but are totally ignored. The ego of some people decides what has heritage value and what does not.

Besides, Bandra station looks like a brand new building now, which is no way to treat it. It should show its age so one can relate to the historical structure. This is what is called touristification of a site.

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist, culture critic and author of a book on public transport


Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News