When you think of heritage you think of forts, monuments, old temples and other historical places. I was in awe of Kolkata when I visited it last weekend. Perhaps if I had not visited London umpteen times in the past I would not have been able to construe what others meant when they said that the city has a ‘colonial’ feel. I could feel it in the air, though not literally since we visited this city when the mercury was soaring to 40+ degrees and we were dripping sweat due to intense humidity. We purposely chose to stay downtown to get a feel of the city for our short stay. Sitting on a tram – an old mode of transportation just upped the city’s heritage status.
It was a visit to Flurys – a heritage tearoom and bakery that fuelled the dilemma side of me. I felt short-changed. Not, price-wise. If it had not been for my father who told me of the place’s history I would have thought of it as a just another any day modern cafeteria. For the first-timers like me having a somewhat none-to-limited knowledge of the city I could not see anything heritage about it. The restaurant is not obliged to make an effort to make it look like a heritage site unlike, say a monument where you pay an entrance fee and expect to be connected historically with it. This is just a restaurant that has sustained itself remarkably for nearly 80 years and that itself is commendable. And paying some 250 bucks for a plate of 2 fried eggs along with toasts is not much these days. However, you feel the awe factor missing.
I don’t have the facts but you can tell the place has a competition, if not a stiff one, from a renowned American cafe just next door! The complacency that accompanies such heritage places unless supported by the government or an NGO is dangerous. The only key to keep the competition at bay is by using the ‘heritage’ card. So how do you do that? Simple! Give a heritage feel to the place. 1) Get a designer to work on the staff’s uniform. What was the uniform in the olden days and how it can be replicated or adapted in modern times. 2) Get a photo editor to work on the menu and give it an ‘old’ feel with a sepia-effect to the pages. 3) Get a creative ad agency to work on trivia-posters that can be nailed to the walls. And many more ideas can surface if need be. I have not invented the above-mentioned ideas. I have visited so many pubs and restaurants abroad that have maintained the feel of the olden times. The cobblestone-plastered walls, the original bells at the door, the old oak table at the reception and much more. It takes you back in time. This is how heritage should be dressed up as! You should be in awe as you step in. And perhaps the customers will be happy to even pay more. They have got more than what they had expected. And you have no competition. A win-win situation for both the parties.
So when you see the royal princess from the UK visiting India dressing-up elegantly all the time it is for a reason. She is part of a heritage that she is maintaining in the public. For all you know, she maybe wanting to rush back to her room and wanting to change into a pair of shorts and a tank-top to beat the Indian summer heat! What a time to visit India!
So all you heritage-based places, time to pull up your socks!
(pic 1: Victoria Memorial Hall; pic 2: me on a tram; pic 3: happy tram drivers with my papa; all clicked by my phone in Kolkata – the City of Joy)