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Facelift for Orwell’s birthplace in Bihar

July 18, 2010 12 comments

An egregious example of colonial architecture in India - the Mumbai Municipal Corporation building

An egregious example of colonial architecture in India - the Mumbai Municipal Corporation building.

Located in Bihar’s Motihari town, the room in which Orwell’s mother Ida Mabel Blair gave birth to him on June 3, 1903, would be restored to its original condition. Orwell’s father Richard W Blair, who worked for the then opium department, was posted at Motihari at the time of his son’s birth. “A sum of Rs 4 lakh has been earmarked from the district plan fund for the repair and restoration work,” East Champaran district planning officer R K Mishra told TOI. As this amount is not sufficient to renovate the house, he said, it has been decided to undertake the restoration work of one room only. The district administration, however, is willing to do more and is trying to get more funds. “We have sent a Rs 2.5-crore proposal to the state art and culture department for developing the birthplace of Orwell,” Mishra said. The proposal includes the construction of a boundary wall around the house and an open auditorium on the premises.

Art and culture department officials said they are yet to pore over the proposal. But they are more than willing to extend help for such a move. “An experts’ team would be drafted to Motihari to assess the ground reality,” art and culture department secretary Vivek Singh said over phone from Delhi. (via Facelift for Orwell’s birthplace in Bihar).

Lal, Bal, Pal - the men who put the Empire on retreat!
Lal, Bal, Pal – the men who put the Empire on retreat!

The British Raj, in a short 150 years, milked the world’s richest nation into the poorest.

To cover-up this historic embezzlement, the British built more monuments in 150 years, than all other rulers of India, over the previous 5000 years.

Conserving the colonial past

In Mumbai this has created a conservation industry. Of Colonial buildings!

Rudyard Kipling’s bungalow is more important that Lokmanya Tilak’s! India obtained funding for ‘saving’ the gargoyle-infested colonial railway structures from UNESCO. Supported by  breast beating activists who worked hard to increase awareness of structures funded by colonial loot and drug trade (of opium).

The liberal establishment in India is worried about all the colonial ‘heritage’ and structures. Old Mumbai mills are included – but not the even more ancient Buddhist structures. Don’t even mention the Chaphekar Brothers! May Mumbai’s Buddhist caves go to ruination.

The Mumbai Municipal Commissioner, while decrying the attempts by the Indian neo-Colonial Rulers, to ‘save’ Mumbai’s colonial past, makes no mention of these Buddhist caves. While Kipling’s bungalow is a ‘hallowed’ institution, Mumbai’s Buddhist caves are dying of ‘active neglect’

The Empire strikes back

I wonder what has happened to Balgangadhar Tilak’s house. Very little is known or done about Lala Lajpat Rai’s last residence. People have completely forgotten who Bipin Chandra Pal was. India has definitely ‘progressed’.

Among India’s chatterati, glitterati, the papparazzi, there is barely concealed longing for a return of the Raj. This hides a deeper malaise. The need for an Asuric Raj, which will build gleaming towers, glass and chrome plazas, shopping malls for the rich.

Colonial heroes

Wonder what Bihar’s Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar has to say on this. Has he considered a memorial to Bagha Jatin, whose anti-colonial exploits in the neighbouring area made him a living hero. Or a memorial to the son-of-soil, Jaya Prakash Narayan, who organized the colonial police force to strike work – and exposed the soft underbelly of the Raj. I am confident that Nalanda conservation must be suffering for lack of funding. But conserving George Orwell’s birthplace is presumably more important.

Indian affection for Rudyard Kipling is misplaced. Kipling  was ashamed and embarrassed of his Indian connections. He tried to cover up every iota of his Indian connection after reaching the West. Orwell was the more cynical retreating colonialist. To the British, evacuating from India, Orwell interestingly reminded that “those who control the past, control the future.”

After more than 60 years, Indian history is still held hostage by the British!

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