Prime minister Narendra Modi speaks after laying the foundation for the memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, in Mumbai last month. Shailesh Andrade / Reuters
Prime minister Narendra Modi speaks after laying the foundation for the memorial of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, in Mumbai last month. Shailesh Andrade / Reuters

Grand designs are fine, but only when they harness creativity

The plan to put up a statue to honour the 17th-century Hindu warrior Shivaji has divided Indians. History always divides Indians because it is something felt in the present, a tangible force that rouses strong emotions – and nothing is more controversial than the question of which famous Hindu or Muslim figures from the past should be honoured in street names and statues.

For opponents of the $500 million (Dh$1.8bn) project – it will be twice as high as the Statue of Liberty and positioned off the coast of Mumbai in the Arabian Sea – the Shivaji statue is merely part of a cultural campaign by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It aims to promote Hindu icons and historical figures who it feels have been belittled or neglected by the westernised and “deracinated” elite since independence in 1947.

For the BJP and people in Mumbai and Maharashtra, where Shivaji lived, he is very important for having fought the Mughals – the Muslim emperors who ruled India for centuries before the British came – to create his own kingdom. Critics have also pointed out, predictably, the folly of spending so much money on a statue when the same money could be spent on irrigation, schools, hospitals or clean drinking water. But if every country had waited until all its citizens were well fed, housed, educated and set up with broadband internet before creating public art, we would have nothing in the way of monuments or great public buildings.

We know that man does not live by bread alone. Nations sometimes need to embark on mammoth buildings or statues to instil pride in their citizens or give expression to the soul of the nation. One great monument can put a city and country on the map, creating national pride and generating income from tourists.

Think of the Burj Khalifa and the new Louvre Abu Dhabi. Or Sydney’s Opera House. Or the London Eye. All are instantly recognisable symbols. Of course, India has the Taj Mahal but sadly its architecture since independence has been a sad affair.

Apart from the quite beautiful Lotus Temple in New Delhi, built in 1986, little or nothing of note has been added to the country’s admittedly fabulous heritage, including the rich tradition of sculpture. Nations cannot keep feeding off the past. They need new symbols for new generations. Even something as prosaic as the ­Delhi Metro made citizens of the Indian capital feel proud. It was the first time they had a world-class facility that was theirs.

My problem with the Shivaji statue is that a bunch of politicians have decided that it is a good idea. Well, they would, because they are not creative. A bronze statue, that’s all they could think of. The model of the statue made by the sculptors commissioned for the project is actually rather handsome – Shivaji astride a majestic horse with a sword in his hand – but that’s not the point. Why a statue? Why be so 18th century? So predictable?

And then the size of it. So typical of politicians that the statue should be twice the size of the Statue of Liberty to get media attention and, no doubt, the de rigueur entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.

State-promoted public art is usually dull. It is art made by a committee. Look at all the busts and statues of Lenin that dot Russia, made to order by the communist regime. Look at the public park built in Lucknow by India’s top Dalit politician, Mayawati. She told her sculptors to adorn the parks with giant stone elephants simply because the elephant is her party’s election symbol. So much for originality.

The Shivaji project might have proved worthwhile if the politicians had stayed out of it and held a national competition with a panel of artists judging the suggestions. Politicians have tunnel vision. They are by nature conservative. In India, they are also aesthetically challenged.

A competition could have tapped people’s creativity and yielded original ideas. Imagine the explosion of creativity that the idea of a monument in the sea could have sparked off. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change the skyline of Mumbai.

As the famous New Delhi-based sculptor Shakti Maira remarked to me: “Spending this huge sum of money and changing the Mumbai skyline could be done for a work that has a bigger and more inspiring vision than dear old Shivaji. What big idea might we want to think about as we see the sun set in Mumbai?”

Whatever that idea might be, we are not going to see it. We are going to get a man on a horse when we could have had something breathtakingly audacious.

Amrit Dhillon is a freelance ­writer in New Dehli

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now

End of free parking

- paid-for parking will be rolled across Abu Dhabi island on August 18

- drivers will have three working weeks leeway before fines are issued

- areas that are currently free to park - around Sheikh Zayed Bridge, Maqta Bridge, Mussaffah Bridge and the Corniche - will now require a ticket

- villa residents will need a permit to park outside their home. One vehicle is Dh800 and a second is Dh1,200. 

- The penalty for failing to pay for a ticket after 10 minutes will be Dh200

- Parking on a patch of sand will incur a fine of Dh300


Uefa Champions League final:

Who: Real Madrid v Liverpool
Where: NSC Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kiev, Ukraine
When: Saturday, May 26, 10.45pm (UAE)
TV: Match on BeIN Sports

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat

Poland Statement

All people fleeing from Ukraine before the armed conflict are allowed to enter Poland. Our country shelters every person whose life is in danger - regardless of their nationality.

The dominant group of refugees in Poland are citizens of Ukraine, but among the people checked by the Border Guard are also citizens of the USA, Nigeria, India, Georgia and other countries.

All persons admitted to Poland are verified by the Border Guard. In relation to those who are in doubt, e.g. do not have documents, Border Guard officers apply appropriate checking procedures.

No person who has received refuge in Poland will be sent back to a country torn by war.


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

Omar Yabroudi's factfile

Born: October 20, 1989, Sharjah

Education: Bachelor of Science and Football, Liverpool John Moores University

2010: Accrington Stanley FC, internship

2010-2012: Crystal Palace, performance analyst with U-18 academy

2012-2015: Barnet FC, first-team performance analyst/head of recruitment

2015-2017: Nottingham Forest, head of recruitment

2018-present: Crystal Palace, player recruitment manager





The Iron Claw

Director: Sean Durkin 

Starring: Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Maura Tierney, Holt McCallany, Lily James

Rating: 4/5

Other must-tries

Tomato and walnut salad

A lesson in simple, seasonal eating. Wedges of tomato, chunks of cucumber, thinly sliced red onion, coriander or parsley leaves, and perhaps some fresh dill are drizzled with a crushed walnut and garlic dressing. Do consider yourself warned: if you eat this salad in Georgia during the summer months, the tomatoes will be so ripe and flavourful that every tomato you eat from that day forth will taste lacklustre in comparison.

Badrijani nigvzit

A delicious vegetarian snack or starter. It consists of thinly sliced, fried then cooled aubergine smothered with a thick and creamy walnut sauce and folded or rolled. Take note, even though it seems like you should be able to pick these morsels up with your hands, they’re not as durable as they look. A knife and fork is the way to go.


This healthy little dish (a nice antidote to the khachapuri) is usually made with steamed then chopped cabbage, spinach, beetroot or green beans, combined with walnuts, garlic and herbs to make a vegetable pâté or paste. The mix is then often formed into rounds, chilled in the fridge and topped with pomegranate seeds before being served.

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets

All the Money in the World

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Charlie Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer

Four stars

Bob Marley: One Love

Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green

Starring: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Lashana Lynch, James Norton

Rating: 2/5

Pad Man

Dir: R Balki

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Radhika Apte

Three-and-a-half stars


Liverpool 0

Stoke City 0

Man of the Match: Erik Pieters (Stoke)

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).