Continued from part 1
Both of which places the Chief waxes eloquently in public and also, as The Man from Madras Musings suspects, sings of in his bath. Of the church MMM has little to say other than that it was, well, a fine church. Not more could be said as, apart from one of those sculpted texts that gave the place’s history in brief, there was no other source of information. MMM and group gaped at statues, looked into the baptismal font and tried deciphering some of the inscriptions on the tombstones. And within a few minutes the tour was done. How different a similar spot in another country would have been, MMM reflected – audio guides, booklets on sale and docents. There was a counter of sorts with a few picture postcards and books securely locked beneath a glass lid. It took quite a while and determined search to find a person who could unlock it. This involved going all around the building and finally disco vering an alcove of sorts under a stairway, where a family was residing and if MMM was not much mistaken – cooking as well. A hunt for what MMM assumed to be daddy ensued and finally he came and rather reluctantly opened the case. MMM and group were shocked to know the prices – they were that low; the church obviously did not keep tab of inflation. The group, or at least a few from it, bought books and postcards all of which did not go down too well with pop-in-charge of the items, for it meant additional work for him.
The Fort Museum had MMM all excited but how was he in for a disappointment. This must be the only museum where the methods of display deserve to be kept in museums and preserved in amber. Printed paper stickers, laminated boards and rather dirty cloth curtains flapping in the breeze do not make for a world-class museum though, to be fair to it, the Fort Museum does not claim anywhere to be world-class. Nobody can accuse it of higher aspirations. There was an audio guide, which had to be listened to within a booth. And this was not working when MMM visited. And even if it did, MMM doubts its purpose. Is the visitor expected to listen to all the facts and figures about the museum in one hearing, remember them all and then keep recollecting them as
he/she walks around the place?
The ground floor has old Cornwallis looking rather lost and a couple of other Colonial Governors brought in from the roads and kept there. Then the stairway to a first floor, which is a long portrait gallery. The second floor takes the cake. Ostensibly dedicated to the freedom struggle, it has empty shelves that have here and there a poster or two and a small booklet. In the middle is a vast national flag that is rather worse the wear for want of proper preservation. And then you are back down again, to look at a few cannon and amidst them a rather hideous imitation one too.
It all reminded MMM of Oscar Wilde – the place, to paraphrase Wilde, is a work of art, but reflective of too many schools – the ASI and PWD predominating.
That if the Man from Madras Musings recollects, was a favourite expression of a policeman from one of Enid Blyton’s books. The Fort takes its cue from him evidently, for it has one sign everywhere – RESTRICTED AREA.