While in Kerala over the last few days of 2008, I happened to visit a couple of colonial heritage buildings. One was the Kanakakunnu palace in Trivandrum (easily one of the prettier buildings I have ever laid my eyes on – and, rumour has it, where my parents threw their post-marriage do) and the Hill Palace musuem in Kochi, both ancillary residences of the local royalty.
Unfortunately, in the tender, loving care of the Kerala government they look ravaged and completely uncared for. It is when one sees this sort of neglect that one realises how impotent our State is and equally, how impotent we are in not being able to get the State to do anything better. This is pretty much the same story of most of our architectural heritage across India, whether it is maintained by State governments or by the Archeological Survey of India.
Contrast this to the state of affairs in the UK. They have something called the National Trust which is a registered charity that takes care of both the Natural as well as Built-up heritage of that nation.
The first thing that strikes one about the National Trust is its motto – For ever, For everyone. It isnt a government bueraurcracy dedicated to ‘protection’ (have you noticed how all government departments and organisations always ‘protect’ something – which means you and I can get pretty nothing of any value from it. The idea seems to be to protect it from the citizens) . The National Trust is a charity with 3.5 million ordinary British Citizens as its members and over 50,000 volunteers. It seems to have grasped the simple principle that National Heritage belongs to all citizens and a well managed method of involving people in conservation through an enjoyable process of education & particpation is the best way to ‘protect’ heritage.
It is certain that our ASI and our bureaucrats in local governments will never be able to grasp such heretical nonsense. So, isnt it time for all of us to work towards our own National Trust – free from any politican or bureaucrat? Previous generations that occupied our land over the last 5500 years have contributed much to humanity. Allowing the remains of their contribution to be in a state of gradual decay is deeply irresponsible of us.