Who cares about Kipling?
No one, it seems. The Dean's Bungalow at the Sir JJ School of Art campus, a Grade-II heritage structure once home to renowned author and Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, is in a state of disrepair. Apathetic officials profess ignorance about why the restoration work sanctioned for the building has not commenced, aggravating the precarious condition of the city's heritage.
The over 150 year-old Dean’s Bungalow at the Sir JJ School of Art campus may have been declared a Grade II heritage structure. But the house that was once home to renowned author and Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, is not being treated as one.
Though there were plans in 2008 to restore the ground-plus-two structure and convert it into a museum, the bungalow seems rather far away from that fate.
Over the last four years, no restoration work has commenced here and the bungalow — which is made mainly of wood — is in a dilapidated state. Its roof is broken and termites threaten what is left of the wooden structure. With no maintenance work having been done here in at least 10 years, the structure is at threat from the elements.
G Dahanukar, director, Directorate of Arts and the head of the campus, said, “I took charge of the JJ campus last year and am not aware why the restoration that had been sanctioned has not commenced. There was a government resolution a few years ago and a budget had also been sanctioned to make Kipling’s bungalow into a museum. But, I don’t know why that hasn’t happened. Once I go through the GR I will be able to give more details on the bungalow.”
The chairman of the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee, V Ranganathan, told this paper that since the time he took over the post (which was three months ago) he hasn’t seen any proposal from the state government for the restoration of the Kipling bungalow. “But there are some proposals with the committee awaiting an NOC for restoration of heritage structures. Our committee only gives the NOC. After that it is the owner’s duty to restore it, not ours.”
In the case of the Kipling bungalow, the responsibility for restoration lies with the state government which owns the land on which the JJ School of Art campus stands. Ranganathan added, “I don’t know if there was any proposal from the government on this subject. I will have to check.”
The state passed the buck back to the heritage committee. Rajesh Tope, minister for higher and technical education, said, “The entire JJ campus is a heritage structure and the heritage committee has to give the clearances for restoration. If the proposal has gone to the heritage committee I will see to it that it is expedited and the necessary sanctions are cleared through the heritage committee, so that the BMC can do the necessary work on the bungalow.”
Kipling’s father John Lockwood, a sculptor and potter, was appointed the principal and professor of architectural sculpture at the then newly founded Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art and Industry in 1865. The bungalow where Rudyard was born was later given to deans at the campus. However, it has been years since anyone lived here.
A former student said there was a time when students would sit in the bungalow to work on their projects and teachers would correct their papers there. “But it’s been years since that stopped as we were warned that the dilapidated bungalow could collapse anytime.”
Conservation architect Abha Narain Lamba said, “It’s sad that Kipling’s bungalow is being ignored. It needs to be preserved because Kipling’s father Lockwood was a principal of JJ School of Arts for many years and this is his bungalow.”