Mumbai : A century-old wood and stone bungalow nestles in the sprawling campus of the famed J.J. School of Art here, but it has long fallen into disuse, with pigeons nesting inside. It is the place where legendary writer and poet Rudyard Kipling, the first Englishman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, once lived. Thanks to the Maharashtra state government, the bungalow will now be converted into an art museum.
One room will be used for keeping Kipling’s artefacts. Kipling, the author of “The Jungle Book” and other works many of which were set in India, was born there Dec 30, 1865 and lived there for six years when his father John Lockwood Kipling started was head of the department of architectural sculpture at what was then known as the Jejeebhoy School of Art and Industry.
The original cottage of Kipling’s birth was brought down in the early 1900s and a new house, the present green wood and stone structure, was built. The landmark structure is now being renovated as part of the institute’s sesquicentennial celebrations.
Standing amidst trees that are more than a century old, the cottage was traditionally the home of the deans of both the Sir J.J. School of Art and Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art. The place attracts numerous Kipling enthusiasts from all over the world.
“The bungalow, which has inspired art students, speaks volumes for the state of neglect. After former dean M.G. Rajadhyaksha retired in 2002, the electricity connection was cut for non-payment of bills,” said Sangita Jindal of the Jindal South West (JSW) Foundation.
The foundation has now been permitted by the Maharashtra government to restore the unkempt landmark structure. It will invest Rs.40 million for a three-pronged preservation project.
“Sadly, the house is now being used to store old examination papers till they are sold as junk. We are happy that state government has permitted us to start the long-awaited restoration work from December,” Jindal.
“We expect to finish the restoration by early 2009, complete with a café and a bookstore.”
With the entire campus being classified as a Grade II heritage structure, the restorers said that the façade of the bungalow cannot be altered and they would like to place the museum on the itinerary of “Heritage Walks of Mumbai”.
“As the entire campus is a classified heritage structure, there will be no alteration of the original façade of the bungalow. We will repair the interiors, keeping the original structure intact and will create enclosed spaces for the display and open gardens for the students,” said conservation architect Vikas Dilawari, who will restore the bungalow.
“J.J. School has a treasure trove of over 2,000 rare paintings and sculptures worth millions of rupees, all lying dumped in musty cupboards which have become infected with fungus and white ants,” said J.J. alumnus Subash Bahulkar, who has taken it upon himself to document the works of art.