Historic bungalow evokes admiration

The blue-painted century-old bungalow Shanthi Vilas, a heritage structure, on 2nd Main Road, Lakshmipuram, evokes awe and admiration in its very first glance. As one opens the huge gates with trepidation and walks up the stoned pathway, enters the portico and climbs the steps into the verandah and rings the bell, the tension disappears, once the door opens and the smiling face recognises you. There is warmth and bonhomie in the welcome, as I am ushered into the drawing room.

You just cannot help but start admiring the framed pictures on the walls, the beautifully carved antique sofa sets and the coffee table all neatly arranged. A look up at the ceiling and the old teak wood polished reapers and the tiled roof so beautifully maintained, has a soothing effect.

A S Nalini Iyengar, one of the siblings, who has restored the heritage structure to its past glory, is very down-to-earth and one who takes great pride in showing around the bungalow. “It is a legacy that we have been bestowed with. We did not see the rupee signs. We have a home which we are proud to maintain,” she said with all humility.
Seeing the way the sky-scape of Lakshmipuram is changing with most of the old bungalows being demolished and high rise structures raising their heads, it is indeed very rare to see a family trying to bridge the past and the present, so commendably.
There is a reason for the four great grand children (Nalini, Dr A S Rajagopal, A S Hari and Dr Padmini Prasad), the fourth generation, to cling to the past.  For it was their great grandmother, the first lady graduate in South India, Lokaseva Pariyane K D Rukminiamma who along with her husband Kavi Desikachar built this bungalow, all of 28,000 square feet on a 150 ft X 180 ft plot in the year 1910. Rukminiamma was also the principal of Maharani’s College Mysore and her daughter A T Lakshamma went on to become the headmistress of Maharani’s high school.

It took Nalini and her brother Hari three years of painstaking work to restore the home with seven bedrooms, a verandah, two drawing rooms, kitchen, storeroom and a puja room. It is the balcony in the inner drawing room with the teakwood platform that really draws one’s attention. Their brother and sister Dr Rajagopal and Dr Padmini who live in England, make a yearly pilgrimage to the bungalow.

As Nalini shows the family tree, she shyly reveals that her aunt from her father’s side is none other than the present chief minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalitha.

Dr Rangachar, brother of Rukminiamma and who was a palace physician, is the grandfather of Jayalalitha. Unfortunately, the house where the chief minister was born, has now been converted into a club after the bungalow changed hands, which is causing nuisance in the area.

“Our later father A T Srinivas Iyengar, prof in Forensic Medicine, Mysore Medical College had drilled into us the family values and the importance of carrying on the legacy. Hence all of us have chipped in to maintain this bungalow. In the future it will be the turn of the fifth generation to preserve this heritage structure,” said Nalini, as she affectionately placed her hand on her niece Tara, who was fondly looking at the picture of her great grandmother Lakshamma.

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