Restoring the ruptured heritage

The statue in discussion is one of the iconic statues of Mumbai, known as ‘Khada Parsi’ or ‘Standing Parsi’ in English. Sadly, despite being placed in one of the busiest junctions of the city, a majority of Mumbaikars have neglected this crucial piece of History and Heritage. Almost 40 feet tall and 150 year old cast iron structure and bronze statue of Shet Cursetjee Manockjee, was built in 1860s by his youngest son Manockjee Cursetjee, by spending almost a lakh of rupees then. Manockjee, known as a reformer in education sector, is responsible for founding one of the first schools for girls in Mumbai in 1863, now called Alexandra Girls English Institution, located in South Mumbai.

The statue was built in parts, in London and the separate parts of it were brought to India via-sea route. The various parts were later assembled and then stood the Parsi. The Parsi community has made tremendous contributions in the development of Mumbai and this statue should have been treated with due respect, all over the years, as a mode of recognition to the contributions made by Parsi community. Sadly, just like majority of heritage structures in our country, the statue met with the similar fate.

Before Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) decided to carry out a restoration of this iconic statue in October last year by spending almost Rs 1.2 crores, the statue had suffered tremendous damage. While corrosion of the metal due to massive pollution was one of the major reasons to worry, the metal used in the construction was a good gain for petty thieves on the roads of Mumbai. The lamps on the statue were stolen, parts of cast iron shaft were gone and the four mermaids on top of the fountain never looked so dreadful and robbed, after receiving a number of hammer shots from thieves to separate the iron parts. I forgot to mention, the genius road department of the BMC had built footpath almost a foot above the fountain, blocking the fountain. Being adjacent to flyover, the open space around the statue had become home for a family. Currently the same family has shifted to the neighbouring flyover. It was only after the constant pursuance from conservation activists, architects and citizens that the BMC decided to restore the old glory.

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