December 31, 2016 4:16:09 am
A NARROW pathway, framed by greenery, leads to the wood-and-brick structure inside the JJ School of Art campus. There is no signboard, but every student knows this is the ‘Kipling Bungalow’, shrouded by bushes and its beauty somewhat paling. Even as its English green facade fades into the bamboo scaffolding, labourers are hard at work, replacing the old wooden panels with new ones. By March 2017, the bungalow will be restored to its former glory, to showcase a permanent gallery of work by famous alumni of the college.
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“We are retaining whatever parts of the heritage house can be restored without replacement. The spiral staircase on both ends will be conserved, so will the wooden beams and panels,” says Anant Patil of the state’s Archaeology department, which is heading the restoration work.
The 5,892-square-metre area, which was till early 2015 the residential quarters of the college dean, will host public lectures, workshops and felicitation programmes for famous artists. It has four airy rooms on the ground floor, leading to another four on the first floor through the set of two wooden spiral staircases. While the old Mangalore tiles will be replaced by new wooden panels and tiles over the slanting roof, the window beams and door frames will be polished for a fresh look.
“We plan to keep the wooden effect. As it is a small bungalow, we have not faced problems in procuring wooden panels. Usually, for large wooden structures, procuring a single huge plank gets difficult. The only challenge is to ensure the new structure is strong, as it is only made of wood and bricks,” Patil adds.
The bungalow has an ornate metal bust in memory of Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling, rusting now but to be preserved in the restored structure. It reads: “Rudyard Kipling, son of Lockwood Kipling, first Principal of Sir JJ School of Art, was born here on 30.12.1865.” This is the only visible link the bungalow has to its history.
Kipling was born in 1865 in the bungalow adjacent to this one, when his father John Lockwood Kipling served as the first dean of JJ School of Art. The original house was demolished as it aged. The present bungalow was built in 1882 after Rudyard, still a young boy, was sent to England. The house has served as an abode for subsequent deans. In February 2015, culture minister Vinod Tawde sanctioned funds to conserve it, and to convert it into a museum for artists.
“This is the first college for arts in all of Asia. We have produced several noted artists even before Independence, who will be displayed here,” says Rajiv Mishra, principal of JJ School of Architecture. From M F Husain to F N Souza to Antonio Piedade da Cruz, the permanent gallery will showcase famous works of several alumni.
With a total budget of Rs 4 crore, a part of the British-style house has already been restored. Work is now underway in the main bungalow. The wooden frame structure is currently being polished, and the brick walls painted and beautified. “We do not have evidence on whether the original colour of the house was green. We have still not decided on the colour the restored house will be given,” Patil says. Kipling returned to Mumbai once, when he was 17. In a book, he recollects that the entire campus had thick vegetation, and the bungalow where he lived with his parents, John and Alice, mostly has empty plots around it.
For several years, the bungalow was crumbling under neglect, with untrimmed trees hitting the roof and peeling paint taking away the bungalow’s charm. “With the restoration, we are sure the place will become a tourist spot,” principal Mishra says.
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