World Trade Centre & Other Perishables

Ten years ago, this day, the Lower Manhattan skyline in New York City, changed forever. To be replaced by indelible memories of the World Trade Centre towers engulfed in billowing smoke clouds and giant flame-licks. And the inerasable truth of losing, yet again, acclaimed architectural heritage to mindless terror strikes. Even as the realization sinks in that the consequent collateral damage and its residual effect will never quite be quantified.

Earlier that same year, the world had witnessed with mounting dejection, and grieved at, another intentional destruction of ancient sculpted art at Bamiyan. Fine examples of the Gandhara style, two Buddha statues, standing tall since the sixth century, were obliterated forever from the recesses of a cliff they had been carved into. At the heart of the Silk Road, Bamiyan had once offered respite to traders between China and the Roman Empire, and had been a centre of Buddhist cultivation.

Closer home, almost an entire decade prior to these shameful happenings, an unruly mob had brought down a 16th century mosque in Ayodhya by nothing more than the sheer might of their misguided anger. Built under the patronage of Mughal Emperor, Babur, it had the distinct features of the later Tughlak period. Its demolition unleashed mayhem, rioting and destruction (of human life and heritage) of a nature indescribable.

It is no secret that political instability, urban development and tourism continue to threaten our cultural and natural history. Striding communication facilities are no longer the primary reasons, as historically accepted, for a vulnerable and shrinking world. They have been redefined and recounted to include endangered eco-systems, strife and cultural hostilities.

Oftentimes, and regrettably so, placing out of reach of travelling enthusiasts, some of the most celebrated destinations dotting the globe…



  • a poignant article….why does man destruct in this manner… watch the Man who PLanted Trees….a short animation which is full of hope and send s a strong message – how man can be more useful in constructing rather than in destructing!

    • Thanks, Dipti. It’s sad enough that nature wreaks havoc at will, but I can’t think of any excuse for man’s behaviour.

      Tried to find the animation online, in vain. Do share the animation or URL here, if you can.

  • While the examples you have given are the more noticeable acts, given the scale of destruction perpetrated by these terrorist strikes, I believe that the random acts of small-scale vandalism committed on Indian monuments (I am referring to the Sonu-loves-Sonam type inscriptions replete with a diagrammatic depiction of the cupid stricken heart) are no less pardonable. They speak of the same mindset.

    In general, the Indian culture does not seem to inculcate preservation of buildings of historical importance, if there is a selfish interest to be served by damaging or razing them. Whether it is venting of emotion through graffiti, or venting pollutants by industry in the vicinity of the Taj, or the razing of Amrita Pritam’s house by her own son (see, it speaks of the same insensitivity.

    Btw, the new-look website is great! Good work!

    • I agree. Vandalism is yet another malady that strikes heritage at will, arising out of a complete disrespect for history; displayed not just by vandals, but also by those entrusted with the preservation of heritage.

      As is the sheer lust for lucre evident in Amrita Pritam’s case, evidently in clear disregard of her sentiments by her own kin. And even as I write, a similar debate is raging on about R K Narayan’s house in Mysore being razed ( I’m told protests have led to a temporary arrest of the demolition. We can only wait and watch…

      What a shame, again.

      • True. The occurrence in Mysore serves as a good example.

        But I am beginning to wonder whether this tells us more about individual apathy or of government indifference. The heirs of RK Narayan are bound to argue: why is it my responsibility to preserve this heritage? If Rajnish Sapra is entitled to sell his grandfather’s house and pocket the proceeds, then why am I not entitled simply because my grandfather was a famous writer.

        Logically speaking, it is the government that should purchase the property from the heirs if it, as a representative of the society, feels that this is a part of our cultural heritage. Of course this is not to deny that if RKN’s grandkids had been judicious enough to preserve the house, they would have stood taller in our eyes and also made their grandfather proud.

        • Were governments to lead by example (and no, the memorials to political leaders hogging prime real estate do not count), or by support, the individual would be hard put not to follow. I’d like to believe that!

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