Wednesday, February 08, 2012

R.I.P. Sharada Dwivedi, 1942-2012

On February 6, Bombay (now known as Mumbai) lost one of its most important denizens — Sharada Dwivedi — who spent a lifetime chronicling and conserving the city's historic building and architectural heritage. The 69-year old genteel urban historian died after a brief illness.

Dwivedi, who completed her schooling from Queen Mary's High School, graduated from Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics, and took a degree in Library Science from the University of Mumbai, wrote several books including Bombay: The Cities Within (1995), her first, with noted historian and architect Rahul Mehrotra.

Some of her other notable books were Banganga, Sacred Tank (1996), Fort Walks (1999), Anchoring a City Line: The History of the Western Suburban Railway and its Headquarters in Bombay (2000), The Jehangir Art Gallery (2002), and The Victoria Memorial School for the Blind (2002). Each traced the rich and vibrant heritage of these historic buildings. 

Dwivedi, who often fought politicians to preserve Bombay's heritage, was involved in several conservation projects and served as a member of the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee. She was also a member of the Executive Committee of the Urban Design Research Institute and a consultant to the Bombay Collaborative, which works with historic buildings in the city. 

If Bombay owes its historic buildings and monuments to the British, it owes their preservation to Sharada Dwivedi.

Seat of Learning: The Rajabai Clock Tower located within the Fort Campus (headquarters) of the University of Mumbai was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, an English architect, who modelled it on London's Big Ben. The 85-metre tall landmark in south Bombay was built in 1878. 
Photo: Prashant C. Trikannad


  1. Sounds like she will be sorely missed.

  2. Charles, she surely will be. I am hoping others will fill the void.

  3. Prashant: Was she lady you knew personally?

  4. RIP. It is a measure of the paucity of relevant and valid media information in India, that I had not heard of her till I read the sad news in the papers. Similarly, I am sure that people from the West of India would have not heard about such great people from the southern parts.
    Sad truth (:

    ' Bombay: The Cities Within' seems like an interesting book.

  5. Bill, I didn't know Mrs. Dwivedi personally though I met her a couple of times publicly many years ago. She was one of India's leading urban historians and very passionate about her work on heritage.

  6. WordsBeyondBorders: Mrs. Dwivedi was quite well-known throughout India though her work centered around the art and cultural heritage of Bombay. I haven't read BOMBAY: THE CITIES WITHIN but I'm sure it must be a fascinating book.

  7. Yes Prashant, but it would have been to a niche discerning audience who would have been interested in her area of work. Lets compare this with the general worthies (so called celebrities) who are forced down our minds everyday, irrespective of whether we want to know about them or not. That's what I was trying to convey.
    To digress a bit, how many general people in India would know about Vijay Tendulkar unless they had a specific interest in drama or books? Even the literary editions of Indian newspapers do not cater to Indian vernacular righting.

  8. WordsBeyondBorders: I agree. Often the most important people in our country are also the most neglected and we have no one to blame except ourselves. How often do you hear of ordinary people working tirelessly and selflessly for the uplift of people? Not very often but they are there and they are making a difference.

    Regarding your second point: I'm happy to note that the Indian media, in spite of its parochial mentality about a lot of things, has been writing about the real celebrities, like the example you gave, and it's up to us to give them their due.

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