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Rajabai Tower to cast a glow once again!

Rajabai Tower to cast a glow once again!

March 10, 2021
Capt Raj MohindraCapt Raj Mohindra

Mumbaikars would have been delighted to read the recent news in the media that the Rajabai Tower in South Mumbai, which houses the library of the University of Mumbai (estb.1857), will cast a glow once again following the extensive redesigning of its illumination system. For me, this brought back pleasant memories of my interaction with Ms Naomi Hoare, great-great-granddaughter of Sir George Gilbert Scott, a world renowned architect of the 19th century based in the UK.  Sir George was the architect of University of Mumbai Fort Campus, the Rajabai Tower and several iconic buildings which spanned the empire, including 800 in the UK.  Construction of the Tower started in 1869 and was completed in 1878.

Naomi was the wife of the late Rear Admiral Desmond Hoare, Royal Navy, who had played a key role in planning and setting up the United World College of the Atlantic, UK, the first of the 15 UWCs that followed. Although not an office bearer of the UWCs, Naomi was very knowledgeable about the UWC movement and in my capacity as CEO of the Mahindra United World College of India (MUWCI, estb.1997) during its development phase, I frequently consulted with her.

In November 1997, when the MUWCI was formally inaugurated by Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, Naomi was a special invitee. At that time she requested me to arrange a visit to the Rajabai Tower as she was very keen to see the creations of Sir George.

I contacted Dr. (Mrs) Snehlata Deshmukh, the then vice chancellor of Mumbai University who convened a special meeting of the faculty to meet and greet Naomi at the Rajabai Tower. Naomi gave a scintillating speech and displayed some original drawings by Sir George and a few photographs. One of them showed the Arabian Sea coming right up to the Oval Maidan.

As a UK-based architect, Sir George had to use the Mumbai-Liverpool shipping service for his letters, drawings, queries etc. This meant that the responses to questions and issues raised by him were received via the next Liverpool bound ship after a lapse of four-six weeks.

With nostalgia writ large on her face, Naomi recalled that Sir George had created the magnificent campus of the University of Mumbai and the Rajabai Tower. She wondered if anyone knew that Sir George had never set foot on Indian soil though he created such a path breaking and historic piece of sublime architecture.  

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