Thursday, August 24, 2006

100 years old and soon a memory?

Recently after a long time (possibly the first time since my childhood) I went to Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata. Some photos from the visit and some thoughts follow -

This building which was built as a symbol of the domination of the British Raj, is celebrating its 100 years this year. Though without a doubt better off when compared to many other historical monuments in India, this Kolkata landmark has been suffering badly in the hands of time & neglect.

For example, the dome itself is leaking. This is apparent as soon as we climbed up the steps and reached the front door. It was raining and some buckets had been strategically put in place to hold the water falling from the roof. The seeping roof has long been a cause of concern and there has been some talk of taking some temporary steps as well as some more long term actions. Going by the evidence I saw, not much headway has been made.

The inside was no better. Only about a third of the whole musuem is air conditioned. Priceless paintings and other artifacts therefore lie exposed at the mercy of Kolkata's hot & humid weather.

The 5 m tall bronze statue of the 'Angel of Victory' (as can be seen in the photo above, atop the dome) has always been in news since 1999, when it stopped rotating. After numerous petitions and court litigations finally something happened when experts from Jadavpur University were called in. They diagnosed the problem to be - "The problem with the Angel was mainly because of two things. One was the copper conductor which was placed to bypass the lightening current was taken out. As a result, the lightening current, which has passed through the bearings, got spot wielded. So, the whole thing became one piece. The other one was that the space in between the bearing, space between the spindle and all these were packed up with mixture of marble dust, white cement and iron powder".

Work is currently underway to fix these problems. But there has been an allegation that clearing the cementing material at the base of the angel has caused seepage of water into the hall from the roof. We can only hope that all the concerned authorities get their act quickly and give this building it's due importance in it's 100th year.