''Legacy of historical greats losing connect with citizens''

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Geetanjali Atri

New Delhi, Jan 13 (PTI) Tolstoy, Ashoka, Joseph BrozTito, Max Mueller, Nelson Mandela... apart from being historicpersonalties they also share the distinction of hobnobbingwith each other in a round about manner in the nationalcapital!

Named after historic greats from across the world, theroads in Delhi seem to have lost their identities over time atleast to the common people of the city who commute on themregularly, say various experts.

"People living in Safdarjung or Hauz Khas areas inDelhi would not know, why their colonies are known by thatname. Roads and colonies have been named after great writers,poets and artistes, but people living there lack knowledge oftheir own recent history," says Pawan K Varma, India''s envoyto Bhutan.

In cities such as London, blue plaques outsideapartments commemorate the legends who had lived in that area.

The plaques are permanent signs installed in a public place tolink the location with a famous person or event.

The plaque schemes are also common in Paris, France,Rome, Italy, Oslo, Norway, Dublin, Northern Ireland, Poland,Canada and the United States.

Voicing concern over the neglected places especiallyin the national capital, which are named after the greatlegends, poet-lyricist-director Gulzar says, "In Russia, thereflection of Tolstoy is just so great but in Delhi which ishome to literary greats such as Ghalib, his legacy in the formof the building he lived in or the streets he walked whilecomposing his poems remain neglected."

The director was in the capital recently to attend acommemorative ceremony of Urdu poet Gulzar''s 231st birthanniversary.

Not only the roads and colonies, the cities at largehave been left at the mercy of their historically ignorantinhabitants who have decreased the valuable indicators ofDelhi''s magnanimous heritage to commercial market complexes,points out Varma, who has authored books such as "BeingIndian" and "The Great Indian Middle Class".

"Shahjahanabad is such a visible metaphor of neglect.

In other states, their old cities are maintained as a point ofattraction. In Delhi also, the Old City is a picture ofneglect" says the diplomat.

The sovereign city of Mughals which is speciallymentioned in the architectural masterpieces of that era withhistoric Red Fort now looks more like an abused local marketarea with its streets laden with rubbish and pavements filledwith shops and travel agencies.

"People renovate their houses and take pride in it buthaveli of Ghalib is languishing in such a grave neglect. Thereshould be a systematic movement to renovate and completebuildings once occupied by legends like him," says Uma Sharma,a noted kathak dancer. Sharma who heads the Ghalib MemorialMovement had on the occasion of the poet''s birth anniversaryrecently organised a half-kilometre walk from Ghanta Ghar inOld Delhi to the poet''s haveli. .

Pavan Varma says, "Today, the society is in the strong grip of a disease, called - tokenism. There is enough lipservice about the legends like Ghalib, who have inhabitedDelhi, but relentless neglect of places they lived in like hishaveli at Gali Qasim Jan in Ballimaran in Old Delhi is inequal proportion."

Stressing on the reasons behind the deterioratingmaintenance and growing neglect of the heritage, Academyaward winning lyricist Gulazar points out that naming hotelsand roads after kings and legends would not serve any honourto their achievements.

"The younger generation needs to be inspired andmotivated to know its history. It is good to teach Shakespearein schools and colleges but the curriculum should also includeKalidas and Tagore," he adds.

"The National Museum in the city receives a footfallof just 30,000 persons each year. The need is to expose theyouth to such heritage centres. More-and-more innovative andimaginative tools should be employed in attracting the youth,"suggests Varma.

Also, as the Delhi Government warms up to the idea ofattaining a ''World Heritage City'' tag from Unesco, believingthat the capital is full of unique history, monuments andculture, which is worthy of the recognition and join theleague of Ahmedabad, experts from different fields have adifferent opinion to share.

"No other city has as many standing monuments asDelhi. Campaigns should be initiated with youth to generateawareness regarding them because it is not about UNESCO givingus a status of ''World Heritage City'', but it is about what weare doing for the heritage of our city," says Varma.

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