Each stone has a story to tell…

Neither London’s showpiece Terminal 5 nor JFK, can compare to Mumbai airport. A decade ago praising Indian infrastructure would have been fanfaronade but now I have hope and faith that in the coming decade, the rest of Indian infrastructure will have caught up.

Though, I hope development does not come at the price we have paid so far.

I was in England and so much in London reminded me of how India used to be at one time with beautiful buildings, now derelict and crumbling. A recent exhibition at The Victoria and Albert Museum, showcasing the work of John Lockwood Kipling, more famous as the father of Rudyard Kipling, made me relive the Bombay of yore.

In 1865 Lockwood Kipling moved to India with his wife Alice to work as a professor of architecture at Bombay’s J. J. school of Art, eventually becoming the Principal.

He later moved to Lahore as the Principal of what is now the National College of Arts and also set up the Lahore museum. He was responsible for some of the friezes of the South Kensington museum that eventually became the V and A. An influential figure in the art and craft world, Lockwood Kipling was also instrumental in promoting the best of Indian art at The Great Exhibitions.

In fact, Queen Victoria was impressed by the Indian art exhibit and asked him to design The Durbar Hall at Osborne House, in which he was assisted by his protégé, Bhai Ram Singh who later became principal at the art school in Lahore.

The V and A retrospective showcases the best of Lockwood Kipling’s work. What is especially poignant is Bombay and Lahore as they looked in those days with wide open spaces and clean roads. The pride in aesthetics and the love for Indian arts and textiles is self-evident.

It is a pity some of the beautiful details on the buildings from that period are no longer visible today hidden as they are behind grime and covered by other buildings.

The friezes of the iconic Crawford Market were also designed by Lockwood Kipling. The exhibition had examples of lost crafts such as Koftgari, which is gold inlaid on steel but weapons with this work were subsequently banned by the British and the craft could only be continued on domestic objects.

Lockwood Kipling’s homes in Bombay and Lahore were a blend of Indian and English styles and showcased some of India’s best handicrafts, textiles and furniture. Some of his illustrations on display were of The Iliad of the East, which in actuality was Valmiki’s Ramayana. Though Lockwood Kipling’s contribution to the Indian art scene has been immense he is still better known as Rudyard Kipling’s father and the man behind most of the illustrations in his books.

Seeing India through his work makes me nostalgic for a period we have totally lost in translation. India today is on a mission to plunge into the modern era but the price we are paying is that of losing our heritage.

If only we can find a balance between the modern and the old.

If only we can conserve our tradition while ensuring we move along. It can be done. It is done well in other countries.

One of the reasons I love London is because it is a city steeped in history but has a modern look and feel while still maintaining its past. Walking in London is like taking a history lesson.

Each stone has a story to tell.

India has an even older history so why is it we cannot hear the stories our streets and buildings have to tell? Why are we in such a tearing hurry to tear it all down and look like a clone of other cities? Exciting as it is to see the development in India, it is, unfortunately, coming at a price.
Phoenix mall has stores like Payless, Forever 21, Gap, Body Shop, H and M so shopping abroad is no longer necessary with so many stores opening in India. While India is a flavour abroad and Indian garments and artefacts are found in stores, they are a part of a larger collection.

Would it not be great to find stand-alone Kolhapuri chappal shops juxtaposed alongside Aldo?

Indian clothes brand stores can easily compete with Gap, H and M, Forever 21 as well as higher end designer stores. Maybe Patanjali can give Boots or CVS some competition? When I visit India,

I find myself more attracted to stores like Westside and Bombay Store than the Zaras and the Gaps.

The world is shrinking and who knows this too will happen in the coming years.

In the meantime, for me, it is back to life in the Big Apple. And though it is good to be home, the damp and cold weather makes me long for the blistering heat I left behind.

And it is IPL season.

Monique Patel

Monique Patel

Monika Patel – Monique to her friends – is now a permanent resident of New York City, but her heart is permanently in Pune, her home for 28 years.
Monique Patel

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