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18 October 2012

Do We Deserve?....Part II: Dirty Gateway

Previously I had written a post on the bad traffic discipline in India in the Part I of this series. In this Part II I want to talk about my experiences in Gateway of India and Flora Fountain, in Mumbai.

Yesterday evening, I visited both these places. Both these are majestic monuments and form the pride of place in South Mumbai.

First, my impressions on Flora Fountain.

The lady looks majestic but Jaded. The statue and the pillar are covered with moss and fungi and there is no sheen on the statue. Brilliant light falls on the statue but in the moss covered structure the light gets absorbed instead of reflecting the same. The structure needs a bit of cleaning and repainting and will look as good as new. 

Why are we not able to do that?

If you travel in Paris, you will see a lot of such statues on various streets. Each of them is made of marble and is brilliantly maintained. It is a pleasure to walk near them and when you stand in front of then, the camera will beg you to take photographs of the structure. 

And here we have the lady Flora. We cover the old girl with moss and algae and litter the area with soda bottles, cans, paper packets, wrappers, paper glasses straws, cigeratte packets.....

Why? 

Similar experience in Gateway of India. There are signs of the administration having lost control everywhere. There are hawkers all over the place. You can't move a step without them blocking you with some stuff that they want to thrust upon you. If it is not hawkers, it is the beggars. They are sitting there, right in the middle of the area, and begging all over the place. 

Then there is litter...

The place is littered with paper and plastic. The whole of the area is one huge litter bin. No civic sense, not dustbins at proper places and there are a lot of vendors who sell a lot of stuff in plastic bottles and paper cups. 

I tell my son that we should treat the earth as our home and just as we do not litter our home, we should not litter the environment. People carelessly littering the place make me stuff those litter in their.....

Don't make me say what I think...

Just like the fountain, this structure is also covered with moss and fungus. You stand in front of the  moss covered Gateway and look at the glistening Taj Hotel and the contrast is stark and obvious. 

Again, if you stand in front of Arc de Triomphe in Paris, you won't feel like leaving. The majesty of the monument and the history associated with the same make you want to spent time. And you enjoy spending time there because the whole of the area is spic and span and well maintained. Despite similar history associated with the Gateway of India, Spicness and Spanness are not the terms that you associate with this structure. 

As you know, Gateway is on the sea front. The place is dotted with all those dilapidated boats. That they are waterworthy itself is a miracle. All of them looks old and ill-maintained. There are small canoes of different sizes and shapes. Each of the it is run by shabby and unkempt people. 

While litter is a cultural issue, everything else including uncontrolled hawkers, dilapidated boats, shabby boatmen, scary looking canoes....

All point to an administration that has forgotten to administer. Or has simply lost the will to administer.

If we want, we can repaint Gateway, have beautiful lights fitted, can have knowledgeable and experienced guides, can have world class boats and yachts and canoes and make this place a major tourist attraction.

What do we do instead?

We litter the place, fill the area with poverty, stink, hawkers, dirty dingies with shabby boatsmen...

India is blessed with a large population. Why not put a few of them into taking care of our monuments and structures? Give them good uniforms, teach them about our history, make them proud of our heritage and let them 'own' our monuments. They will keep them spic and span. They will impress the visitors with their knowledge of  the history of the country. They will act as our voice to the world.

India has over 5000 years of uninterrupted history. Imagine how impressive it will be if we are able to link the past to the present and hence to the future? This is what an educated guide with a knowledge of history and intersperse it with the present to paint a picture of the brilliant future. We can bring tourists in droves to our country.

Why not leverage the 'Demographic Dividend'?

If we aim to become a world class country, if we want to enter into the big league of developed nation, we have to make it county 'developed' worthy. Part of it involves having a competent administration, a proud culture and the will to embrace modernity and the responsibilities that come with it. By maintaining our heritage structures in this casual manner, we will never deserve to be a part of developed country. Till we reach that level, we will remain a country where foreigners come to see the 'Poverty' and feel good by paying good money to charities.

Is it what we want? Is it what we deserve?

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