When The Ambassador Comes Visiting
It was just another regular day at Alliance Française de Bombay until the Director suddenly called me to his cabin – “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to accompany the Ambassador of France to India and the Consul General of France in Bombay to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. Should you embarrass us in any way or commit any faux pas, we will deny any responsibility for your actions.”
* cue the Mission Impossible theme song playing in my head *
Admittedly, the reality was less dramatic and involved calling the right people to get the relevant permissions. This was done to ensure that everything – the guided tour, security clearance for the entourage etc. – went smoothly. Basically, an opportunity to leave office early on a workday and there was no way I was saying no to that!
The designated rendezvous point was the main gate of the museum on October 19, 2016. First to arrive was Mr. Jean-Marc Mignon (Economic Advisor, Economic Department – Consulate of France in Mumbai). Our conversation went on the lines of :
– So do you know a lot about Art or History?
– No, not really.
– Do you come often to the Museum?
– No, not often – been here twice or thrice at most.
– And will you be our guide for today?
– No, I’ll just be accompanying you.
– This garden is beautiful. Do you know why that tree over there is bent?
– Um, no idea … maybe the wind is strong during the monsoon or something …
The timely arrival of H.E. Mr Alexandre Ziegler, Ambassador of France to India and Mr. Yves Perrin, Consul General of France in Bombay thankfully put this exchange to rest.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in itself was beautiful. Located on a plot of land known as the Crescent Site, the museum is a fine example of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture. The garden retains its original design even today – I had specifically flicked this fact from the museum’s website the day before to sound intelligent. As it turns out, the tactic fell flat on its face – instead of the witty banter I had imagined, all I ended up saying during the visit was a limp Yes, it is to the Consul‘s The weather’s a bit hot, isn’t it?
The highlight of the day were our guides at the Museum – Manisha Nene (Assistant Director – Gallery, CSMVS) and Vandana Prapanna (Senior Curator, CSMVS). Not only did they welcome us warmly but took great pains to explain the various artefacts on display. Looking at the old maps of Mumbai, we were tempted to comment how the city had changed just a little bit from when it was seven different islands. Plenty of photos were taken – all in all, an hour well spent !
AF Magazine Inde-Népal