Mumbai: JJ School of Art celebrates 150th birth anniversary of Rudyard Kipling

Kipling enthusiasts mark writer’s 150th birth anniversary with moving tribute at JJ College

As the sun set over the JJ School of Art campus, Fort, streaking the sky with a last, defiant tint of red, one heard author Rudyard Kipling words resonate. Kipling had described the place as, “a marvellous place filled with smells of paints and oils, and lumps of clay with which I played.”

The ‘Kipling Bungalow’ saw unusual activity on the author’s 150th birth anniversary tribute. Pics/Shadab Khan
The ‘Kipling Bungalow’ saw unusual activity on the author’s 150th birth anniversary tribute. Pics/Shadab Khan

This is the place that played host to his 150th birth anniversary celebrations last evening, with a reading of his work, which brought together Kipling enthusiasts and poets.

Jerry Pinto, Mustansir Dalvi, Ranjeet Hoskote and Kaiwan Mehta paid tribute to the English author and poet on his 150th birth anniversary at JJ School of Art campus
Jerry Pinto, Mustansir Dalvi, Ranjeet Hoskote and Kaiwan Mehta paid tribute to the English author and poet on his 150th birth anniversary at JJ School of Art campus

Dressed as if invited to a formal dinner, Nitant Zaveri, a literature student from St. Xavier’s College, Fort said, “I am supposed to be at a friend’s wedding, but when it comes to Kipling, I couldn’t miss it for the world,” even as organizers ushered the guests into the JJ College’s seminar hall for the event.

Reading out their favourite excerpts from Kipling’s work, authors Jerry Pinto, Ranjeet Hoskote and Kaiwan Mehta, along with Professor Mustansir Dalvi, event organizer and professor brought the room to life.

The audience laughed at every humourous description of the city Kipling’s autobiography ‘Something of Myself’ offered.

“It has been years since the halls of this institution have heard such beautiful prose,” said Dalvi, as Pinto recited Kipling’s poem, ‘Recessional.’

“No doubt, there are misplaced sentiments in his works, and a warped, distorted picture of the British Raj in India emerges. Kipling was planting seeds of the Empire through his writings, but there is a moral tone behind everything he writes. Kipling has been, in the truest sense of the word-inspirational,” said Pinto; referring to the heavy criticism his work has drawn for being pro-imperialistic.

As the reading continued, many in the audience mouthed the verses of Kipling’s most famous poem, ‘If’.

Carrying three large books, which turned out be collection of Kipling’s work, Shantanu Rai, an architect and Kipling enthusiast got misty eyed, as Dalvi ended the tribute with ‘If’, leaving him and many others wanting more.

Life’s lessons with the author
Rati Wadia, English Literature teacher for 50 years says, “I love Rudyard Kipling's poem ‘If’. In fact, I have put it on a placard and given it to my son because those are the principles of life I want my children/students to imbibe.

Rati Wadia
Rati Wadia

I have been teaching Kipling for so many years, and still find something new in his works every time. I like the stoicism, when he talks about treating the good and the bad with equanimity, in these lines from the poem ‘If’.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same...” I find parallels in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus was a stoic too.”

Kipling’s house of cards
A crumbling, old house right in the middle of the JJ School of Arts campus in Fort, stands as a sad tribute to Rudyard Kipling, whose father, Lockwood Kipling was the first dean of the arts college.

The bungalow is built a few yards from the spot where the English writer was born. While it is of great importance to the literary community and heritage lovers, it was home to the college dean till 2002, after which it was neglected. The dilapidated house has seen many revival and restoration plans, but the ivy-covered walls and rotting wooden parapets still remain frozen in time, alumni say.

“There used to be time when some of us would work on the balcony of the charming house. Now, with no attention being paid to the building, it began to grow increasingly unsafe for entry, and finally the college locked it up,” Mohsin Patel, an ex-student says.

“The house is in a bad shape and nothing much has been done to revive this structure, despite it being a very large part of our legacy,” said Professor Mustansir Dalvi. “The house may have gone into disrepair, but Kipling’s words remain as fresh and rich as ever,” said Rajiv Misra, principal, JJ College of Architecture.

While the state government, on many occasions had promised to convert the bungalow into museum for literature and art, Kipling’s apparently pro-imperialist views fueled many a debate among the literary community.

About Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865 in then Bombay presidency. His most popular works include The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), and many short stories, including “The Man Who Would Be King.” Kipling was one of the most popular writers in the United Kingdom, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English language writer to receive the prize. Kipling spent nearly a decade, from 1883-89 in India and Pakistan, working for local newspapers such as the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore and The Pioneer in Allahabad.

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