A stitch in chime

Built in 1878, Mumbai's iconic Rajabai Clock Tower is undergoing restoration for the first time in 135 years. Come monsoon this year, the renovated clock tower and the restored Mumbai University (MU) library building it stands on, will be unveiled. Like it did in days gone by, the restored tower will chime a different tune every 15 minutes.

The clock tower has an interesting history. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott on the lines of the famous Big Ben in London and its cost of Rs 2 lakh was funded by Premchand Roychand, the founding member of the Bombay Stock Exchange. He named it after his mother Rajabai. With failing eyesight, Rajabai could not tell the time, and wished to eat her dinner before the sun set. Roychand, therefore, built her a clock tower that would chime every 15 minutes.

For the restoration of the iconic tower, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has donated Rs 4.2 crore to MU, says Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the university, Dr Naresh Chandra. Head of the architectural firm Somaya and Kalappa that has been hired for the job, Brinda Somaya says that working on the restoration of such a beautiful structure is every architect's dream. "The work began post-monsoon last year. We opened up the roof of the tower and began the restoration work. The initial cleaning of the stones and removing the vegetative growth is done. We're reinstalling the fire systems and electrical conduits," she says.

Somaya explains that there is an attempt to make the heritage building more disabled-friendly. "We are constantly brainstorming about what we can do to make the building more accessible to everyone. Renovation is not just about cosmetic buildings," she says.

The work is going smoothly and should be completed by this monsoon, Somaya says. Apart from the clock tower, the University library building is also being renovated, for which temporary arrangements have been made in another building in the campus.

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