01 March, 2021

Victoria's Open Secret

World heritage status means little to the three million who commute from the 116-year-old railway station everyday

Punit Paranjpe
Victoria's Open Secret
Never invade us for we will strike back after you are dead. Defeat us and build your manly grandeur on our soil, we will cheerfully wake up at the stroke of midnight and charge entry fees on your monuments, our urchins will urinate on your colonial walls and we will let pigs float in the backyards of the tombs to your departed ladies.

The misled warriors who left their colossi on this soil live on in sheepish immortality. But a consulting architect named Frederick William Stevens is a fortunate dead man. One hundred and sixteen years ago, he built one of the most spectacular railway stations in the world, the Victoria Terminus. In return, we gave him malaria and buried him in a cemetery just five kilometres from the station. Then, eight years ago, in what a writer calls the "biggest sex-change operation in history", Victoria became Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. And now, the inheriting natives have brought this transvestite creation the prestigious status of a world heritage site. A few days ago, UNESCO, as per the norm that comes with the no-money honour, dedicated the...

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