Sharada Dwivedi, author and diligent chronicler of Mumbai’s history, died on Monday morning, following a brief illness. She was 69.
While the exact cause of death is still unclear, her personal physician and close friend, Dr Jehangir Sorabjee of Bombay Hospital, said she died in the ambulance on her way to the hospital, of a possible cerebral haemorrhage caused by high blood pressure.
Dwivedi — one of the founding members of the erstwhile Bombay Conservation Group and author of Bombay: The Cities Within, a trove of archival images, anecdotes and data about the city — is survived by husband Bhagirath, a businessman, and daughter Radhika.
“Sharada was completely healthy till Saturday, when she began to feel ill. We thought it was a viral infection,” said a source within the family. “Her death was very sudden. It has come as a complete shock to all of us.”
Dwivedi was, in fact, scheduled to speak on Mumbai’s heritage at the ongoing Kala Ghoda Arts Festival on Monday evening.
Author or co-author of more than a dozen books, most of them on the city’s heritage structures and institutions, Dwivedi released her latest work, The Taj at Apollo Bunder, in December and was working on two more books.
“The city has lost a stalwart historian,” said conservation architect Vikas Dilawari and former member of the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee.
“Sharada was not only a warm and generous friend but also a knowledgeable source of archival data and photographs,” added Dr Sorabjee, who also worked with Dwivedi on his book of aerial photographs, titled Above Bombay, which was published by Dwivedi’s publishing house, Eminence Design. “As a publisher, she gave people the best resources.”
On Monday, doctors said she was taken directly to the Intensive Care Unit, where doctors tried to revive her, but failed. Sorabjee added that she had been unconscious for 12 hours before she died; the funeral will be held at 10am on Tuesday.
“The city owes Sharada a great debt,” said social activist Nayana Kathpalia of NGO Citispace, a close friend of Dwivedi, “She worked her whole life to create awareness about its heritage.”
'She loved the city with a passion'
Sharada was someone I would call for an early morning chat with my cup of coffee, as part of my routine.
We would discuss everything, from lamenting about the city's woes to sharing exciting historical anecdotes or planning for the UDRI’s nomination dossier for Mumbai’s Victorian and Art Deco district.
Sharada was one of the most knowledgeable, sincere and warm people I have known. She had what one always looked for in a friend, entirely dependable, steadfast — and brutally honest.
Bombay today has lost its most steadfast friend and its greatest biographer. And she always insisted on calling it ‘Bombay’!
I bought her first book, on princely India, out of my pocket money when I was 14.
I met her 16 years ago and she became my mentor and guide.
Whenever I was about to begin work on a new project, the first person I would inform would be Sharada, and she would invariably pull out gems of information on the building’s history and rare historical images and construction plans from her amazing archive.
Each conservation project has relied heavily on Sharada for archival information.
Sharada knew Mumbai intimately, every piece of history, every gem of a building or fountain hidden away in an alley.
And she loved this city with a passion.