A people’s relationship to their heritage is the same as the relationship of a child to its mother.
It is natural to switch off the alarm and dig oneself deeper into the warmth of a blanket on a cold Sunday morning but a group of around 35 Mumbai enthusiasts did exactly the unexpected to gather outside the main gate of the iconic CST railway station building (formerly V.T. Station) to join a walk
around taking in the splendour and some unknown stories from the annals of our own city’s history.
The tour started with a little quiz right at the start point, with a candy bar as an appropriate incentive to provide energy for the walk. Although each were quite familiar with the building, the stories that these stone facades revealed created an awe amongst the participants.
Hardly anyone knew of Fasi Talao, the hanging pond, a place just outside the bazar gate one of the gates to the Bombay Fort whose walls stood till the later part of 18th century, which was a place where criminals would be subjected punishment by the soldiers of the British East India company, it
could range from flogging to a public execution by the noose, right at this spot which is now approximately the Kabutur Khana between Nagar Chowk bus depot and GPO. This was much before the iconic structure of VT station was commissioned.
The next pit stop was the selfie point under the statue of Dadabhai Navroji. This was a vantage point from which all got a panoramic view of the heritage street. The stories were narrated based on 3 P’s, i.e. place, purpose & people. Various heritage walks are organised but this story telling format which included some simple lessons in Gothic and medieval church architecture added the differentiating masala to the event.
The call of Pancham puri, a century old food joint, was ignored by the walkers as they decided to take in the marvels of the GPO building all along looking at the native side of the heritage precinct.
Questions ranging from history to conservation were asked and answered, to be awarded with candy bars. The newly restored Mulji Jetha Fountain on Sahid Bhagat Singh Road was the next stop. This beautifully restored fountain could only be admired on a deserted street on a Sunday morning. The use of polychromatic stones like Kurla stone, Mulund stone, Porbunder stone imparts the vivid colours to all these structures and needs no painting ever. As we passed the docks, stories of the Bombay castle, the connection of Lovji Nusserwanjee Wadia to the American national anthem Star and Spangled banner was narrated.
Zero point became the culmination of the tour. Zero point comprising of the zero sea level which is marked by a zero on the steps of the Asiatic library and the Zero Milestone (from which distance of Mumbai to any other place is measured) in the foreground of the St Thomas Cathedral the first Anglican Church to be built in Bombay which is celebrating its 300th year of existence.
The silent points of Gothic church architecture, which are clearly visible on the outer façade of the church, was pointed out and the participants could then deduce the connection to the other heritage buildings clearly.
As an icing on the cake there was a vintage car show right outside the St Thomas Cathedral, all the participants had a great time clicking memorable pictures with these beauties of the bygone era.
The tour was conducted by Subhas Rao Mallya a history enthusiast, with Sheela S Iyer from the Dept. Of Tourism, with inputs by experts from University of Mumbai, Conservation laboratory CSVSM Museum & Jay He museum MIAL. The tour was highly appreciated by all the participants.