Saturday, July 20, 2013

This way please

My last visit to Padmanabhapuram Palace was several months ago, while writing this story for National Geographic Traveller India. Wandering through the complex, these very unique signboards caught my eye.
They’re quaint, but also revealing of the extreme casualness with which we in India approach our cultural heritage. We talk about our ‘heritage’ ad-infinitum and throw a fit if we even suspect that someone has  ‘insulted’ it, but beyond that our commitment to our heritage falters. 
It was sad to see these ad-hoc signboards in one of the most important cultural sites in this part of the country. How hard is it to make the investments needed to ensure that the palace complex has the infrastructure it deserves, including proper, meaningful and well-maintained signboards?

Perhaps new signage has been put up in the palace since my last visit, but the signboards with a difference popped up in my mind when I saw this report about efforts to get Padmanabhapuram onto UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list. 
If Padmanabhapuram does make it to the list, there will be much celebration. But what will that recognition mean on the ground? And, more important, will we celebrate and cherish Padmanabhapuram even it doesn’t make it to any heritage list?

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