07 May, 2021

City As Palimpsest

With her passing, Bombay has lost one of its most devoted and passionate custodians.

City As Palimpsest

A few evenings after the urban historian and heritage conservation activist Sharada Dwivedi passed away, I found myself walking from Marine Drive to Kala Ghoda, in the colonial and early-modernist south of the city that she resolutely called ‘Bombay’, refusing to use its official name, ‘Mumbai’. This preference did not arise from any distaste for local usage—indeed, as very few people realised, Sharada was Maharashtrian by birth—but because she cherished the inclusive, cosmopolitan associations inherent in the older name. ‘Bombay’, to her, was an assurance that the city could never be narrowed down to a single linguistic, regional or ethnic definition.

As I walked, I became sharply aware that there was not a single major building in this district which had remained untouched by Sharada’s critical intelligence. In the last two decades, she had studied and written about the Indo-Saracenic Western Express Headquarters at Churchgate, the Art Deco edifice of Eros cinema, the neo-Gothic...

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