"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it”
The great Michelangelo, probably said this between finely chiselling away at someone's nose or giving a great gradient to someone's waist, on his way to creating another masterpiece in Rome. Michelangelo Buonarroti was , to put it mildly, a very creative person. Very fond of sculpting, he also had some other things to say (as above) , which , it appears, are being avidly followed by the government of this state.
The trouble was, you needed to find free ,available, and unencumbered blocks of stone, possibly with a clear title, in this city of Mumbai. And that was the tough part. But, as someone said, where there is a will, and a possible early election, there is always a way .
And in Leonardo da Vinci,(1452-1519), Italian draftsman, Painter, Sculptor, Architect and Engineer whose genius epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal, they found some great support when he said:
"I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” (Italics mine. Leonardo possible couldn't have known about the current intricacies of "applying" for stuff and "getting stuff done").
If you cannot find a block(s) of stone(s), not to worry. For a government which has managed to convert water into land at an amazing and profit making speed, why stop at blocks of stone?
Aim high . Create an island.
And so the powers that be got into a speedboat, skimmed through the crashing waves, life jackets and all, assisted by what may be called "affirmative" men and women , and did a recce of the wild waters of the Arabian Sea a mile into the sea. They came back, and decided that they would create an "island" .( Eat your heart out, Aristotle Onassis. Gifting your wife an existing island may be a laudable proposition, but I bet you never created one).
Why all this ?
The urgent need to create a Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Island, as a grand home for a huge statue of Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, that will look down victoriously in international globalized splendour at the Statue of Liberty, which will now be 4 feet shorter. This feat , that is, the "gazing down" at Old Liberty, appears to be a bit difficult due to various guys like Galileo declaring that the earth is round, despite modern Friedman types declaring flatly, that it is, what else, flat.
The Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Island, will host a Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum, the Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj sound and light show, the Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Gift shop and Food Court. Special buses will be run from The Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Train Terminus(CST) and the Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. When visitors of ranks higher than you and me visit, there will be an n-star hotel on the premises, so they can have "Paav sur le Vada", "Misal a la Kolha" "Soul Kadhi Supreme, "Thal-i-Peeth au Konkan" and unnamed carnivorous items (unknown to shakahari me) , about which details will be known later. Various motorized water vehicles, will skim across the Arabian Sea (now to be shortly renamed as the Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Samudra, as soon as the PM is free of the Nuclear stuff, for the inauguration), carrying passengers to the island.
Did someone ask about a freeway being earlier planned through the waters , to ease the traffic congestion in South Mumbai ? Simple. The Government is all set to drop nearly four kilometres of sealink between Malabar Hills and Nariman Point which is part of the ambitious Rs4,500-crore Western Freeway sealink project. The reason apparently is to give an unobstructed view of the Chhatrapati Shivaji statue which is to be installed in the sea, off Marine Drive.
The cost of all this ? A mere 25 million dollars. One billion rupees. The number of zeros is enough to send arithmetically-disabled-me into a dead faint.
And another cost too. A long term one. Without Zeros.
The Indian Express of 24th June 2008, on page 4, reports that a bunch of politicians have been visiting the chief minister, and asking that a statue of Dr B. R. Ambedkar be set up ,off the sea of the sea coast of Mumbai. What the Chief Ministers reply was , is not reported.
Why not also, a statue of the Rani of Jhansi, Laxmibai, who was a part of the original war for independence, thus also celebrating the outstanding contribution of women to the nation's independence, as well as giving it the honor it deserves, as a precursor, to a series of women in power in India over the years since 1947. (And we will just forget about those insecure types who keep opposing the 33% women's reservation bil in Parliament)
People in Kolkata will not rest unless the Marxists, currently reeling under Sangrur and Gorkhaland, agree to install a statue of Shri Subhash Chnadra Bose in the Bay of Bengal, and flights from Anadaman Islands to Chennai will fly low over the approach to Chennai to point out the huge statues of MGR, Annadurai, Jayalalitha, Karunanidhi and others , standing somewhere in the ocean, looking back at the land they called theirs. Of course Gujarat would not rest unless their Iron man , Vallabhaiji Patel was given his rightful place , looking benignly across his land of birth from his perch in the Arabian Sea, maybe just off Dwarka.
Helpless ignorance allows me to avoid mentioning who Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthann, Haryana, Punjab UP, MP, and Bihar might nominate for an honorable place in the Sea. And lets not even think of states that would start clamouring for Statues in the mountains of the north.
The possibilities are endless. The consequences , frightening.
It is very clear, that someone needs to pay great attention to this new fashion of erecting statues, on what would essentially be, land stolen from the sea.
Cut to Mumbai monsoons in the year 2030. There will be no flooding in Juhu, simply because there will be no Juhu. The sea will have taken over. Folks will look back nostalgically at the walks they took on various promenades at Bandra, Worli, and Marine Drive, and mourn their loss, and look angrily in the direction of the statues on islands, then hidden by the south Mumbai smog, thanks to vehicle exhausts. The Thane Creek will suddenly look huge, what with most of its banks, minus the mangroves, flooded with sea water , consequent to an all round rise in sea levels. People will stand on the Pedder Road flyover, and look down into the water swirling below, and wonder about where Breach Candy used to be, and how they stood in line for their US visa 22 years ago. The US Consullate, having switched to the Bandra Kurla Complex, at a huge cost, will wonder why flooding is inexplicably linked to their location, now that BKC is also water engulfed. The Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai will be relaxed at the sudden decrease in maintenance of manholes and storm drains, since everything is now officially , "the sea", and will hold a press conference on a ship to announce his success. The Taj will now be a 10-star floating hotel, and school children will wonder what the idea of the Gateway was, if King George had to wade in through deep water anyway, since the gateway was way out in the sea.
Maybe we need to create a single island for all statues. Mark out areas. The government will have its work cut out, trying to balance all the political demands. New statues will come up as new coalitions come into Power. Parliament will have an entire session to decide reservation issues in statues. All those great men and women immortalized in stone will look on aghast as the representatives of the people resort to fighting,sloganeering, and flinging of microphones and chairs. Regional infighting on the island consequent to political compulsions, will make people stay away. Mumbai Police, will come steaming in in their Maruti launches, IPC section 144 at the ready. It will be an island of statues, of people, who if they could, would simply shake their heads, as if to say "I told you so"......an island of figures, standing tall, looking out at their land, and wondering what it had come to..
And far away from Mumbai, in a load-shedded small town in Interior Maharashtra, thanks to all the power concentrated in Mumbai, electrical and otherwise, a child will be pouring over his homework, in the light of a lantern; something he needs to finish fast, since he needs to get up very early as his school requires that he walk there 8 kms each way, thanks to the school in his village that exists only on paper, and the broken bridge that no one wants to repair. And nobody really cares.
The homework assignment ? An essay on Maharashtra's greatest glory : The Neta Island - off Mumbai.