Khada Parsi stands tall again, but do his values still hold?

It may have taken close to a decade to accomplish it, but the BMC needs to be complimented for restoring the Khada Parsi statue at Byculla: at the very least, the BMC cannot be accused of being entirely insensitive to history, legacy and conservation.

AYAZ MEMON, Hindustan Times

If there is still a bone to pick, it is to do with the location: does the Khada Parsi still have to be standing at a junction where it is barely visible, almost as a has-been, and where the dangers that marred it still exist?

Till the Byculla flyover came up in 1977 and relegated it to the sidelines as it were, the Khada Parsi enjoyed an exalted position. When another flyover was built to take northbound traffic towards Jacob Circle, it became almost inconspicuous, losing its pristine presence and importance almost entirely.

Worse, vandals played havoc with the magnificent cast-iron, 40-foot statue of the Parsi atop a Corinthian pillar, reputedly one of only two such in the world, relegating it to a virtual dump.

Over the years, the brilliant four-foot tall lamps, which lit up the monument, as well as the water fountain at its base was stolen leading to much heartburn, not only among conservationists, but also concerned citizens.

Ideally, all restorations must adhere to the original for reasons of sanctity. But keeping to the original place would have made sense if the environment around it was also as it was when the monument first came up.

That was more than 150 years ago, and the topography of Byculla has changed dramaticallyover time, so why not a change of place for Khada Parsi to prevent a degradation of its significance? In some cases I believe, historical and aesthetic value must take precedence over venue.

That said, the Khada Parsi being put on its feet again is a matter of joy and pride for the city. Something that Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who has a refined sense for culture and aesthetics, too would have felt when he inaugurated the restored monument last week.

Yet, there was some unmistakable irony in the fact that Khada Parsi’s ‘resurrection’ happened at the same time that allegations of “linguistic chauvinism” against the new government at the Centre — of which the Shiv Sena is a constituent — flared up.

The reported imposition of Hindi (since revised, clarified, modified or whatever) ran contrary to what Seth Cursetjee Manockjee – or Khada Parsi – stood for. Manockjee was an anglophile and best known for his emphasis on English education for Indian girls.

He founded the Alexandra Girls English Institution, which still exists, and would have been surprised at the current brouhaha; more so considering that many vernacular municipal schools have been shut down for lack of students, or that leaders of parties who protest the most send their own children to English schools.

This is not to say that any language is inferior to another. Speaking in Hindi, for instance, has helped me reach out to wider audiences as a sports commentator than I could have in English and without knowing Marathi, I would be at a loss in several ways in my own state.

There are comforts and advantages – socio-cultural and economic – of learning a language.

People evolve into this or acquire out of necessity: that’s a far healthier and pragmatic paradigm rather than imposition in a multi-lingual country.

At a personal level my immediate goal is to master Gujarati and Kutchi: not because of the new Centre of power, but because I am not fully conversant with the language despite my antecedents to the region.

That seems such a shame.