'Big Brother' is not watching

George Orwell's birthplace in dilapidated state

Taking advantage of the government apathy towards the monument, locals have taken away a huge chunk of bricks from there for their own use.George Orwell's birthplace at Mothihari in Bihar.

Most foreigners coming here from Europe want to visit Champaran for two reasons: First, they want to see the place from where Mahatma Gandhi launched his satyagraha in the form of indigo movement against the Britishers. Second, they want to have a glimpse of the birthplace of renowned British author George Orwell, who was born at Motihari (Champaran) on June 25, 1903.

Motihari was then part of the undivided Bengal, which comprised Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.

Nearly 62 years after he died, his birth place in Motihari, more than 200 km from the madding crowd of Patna, has become a “monument of neglect” and lies in tatters. The house, where Orwell was born and spent his infant days till his parents migrated to England, provides the clearest evidence of gross neglect as thick vegetation has mushroomed on the six-acre premises.

Piles of loose bricks cover the walls surrounding the house. Taking advantage of the government apathy towards the monument, locals have taken away a huge chunk of bricks from there for their own use. The huge open field in the walled structure has some dilapidated godowns which were used during the British rule for storage of opium cultivated at the instruction of the colonial rulers. The entire area, however, is filled with garbage. To make matters worse, some unauthorised huts have sprung up there.

All that is left to the memory of the legendary British author is his bust made of white stone and the foundation stone outside the gate of his house which get a symbolic facelift to mark his birth and death anniversaries. The Building Construction
Department (BCD) admits that Orwell's house is in a dilapidated condition and the premises encroached by locals. “We are unable to construct a proposed second gate at the structure due to encroachment by local people,” said a BCD engineer.

The Bihar government admits that Orwell's house is in a bad shape, but insists that it will be renovated soon. “We have proposed to renovate the house and give it a facelift as larger plan to develop the British litterateur’s house as a tourist destination,” said State’s Art, Culture and Youth Affairs Minister Sukhda Pandey. The minister, who has received complaints about Orwell’s house being encroached by locals, said, “All possible steps will be taken for protection and development of the historical and monumental structure.”

Sukhda Pandey said that her department had released Rs 32.70 lakh to the district administration for beautification of Orwell’s memorial structure and construction of road, drainage and boundary wall sometime back and utilisation report sought.  A reminder will be issued soon to the district administration in this regard.

On the encroachment in the British author’s house and the premises being used for residence by a school teacher, Pandey said that she has also received complaints in this regard on which she has sought a report from the district magistrate.

George Orwell was originally known as Eric Blair. Orwell’s father Richard worked for the Opium Department during pre-Independence era. His mother, Ida, took him to England at the age of one. He did not see his father again until 1907, when Richard visited England for three months before leaving again until 1912.

Hardly had someone then imagined that Motihari will go into the annals of history as the birthplace of world’s one of the finest author-cum-journalist-cum-writer.
In 1933, Eric adopted his pen name George Orwell.  He chose a pen name that stressed his deep, lifelong affection for the English tradition and countryside: George is the patron saint of England (and George V was monarch at the time), while the river Orwell was one of his most beloved English sites. Orwell lived in acute poverty for several years.

At times homeless. And at times, doing itinerant work. Eventually, he found work as a schoolteacher until ill health forced him to give this up to work
part-time as an assistant in a second-hand bookshop in Hampstead.

In 1944, Orwell finished his book Animal Farm, which was published the following year with great critical acclaim and success. The royalties from Animal Farm provided Orwell with a comfortable income for the first time in his adult life. From 1945, Orwell was the Observer's war correspondent and later contributed regularly to the Manchester Evening News. In 1949 his best-known work, ‘1984’ was published. He wrote the novel during his stay in Scotland.

At the age of 46, Orwell died of tuberculosis. He was in and out of hospitals for the last three years of his life. During most of his career, Orwell was best known for his journalism, both in the British press and in books of reportage such as Homage to
Catalonia (describing his experiences during the Spanish Civil War) and Down and Out in Paris and London (describing a period of poverty in these cities).

Contemporary readers are more often introduced to Orwell as a novelist, particularly through his enormously successful titles Animal Farm and 1984. The former is considered an allegory of the corruption of the socialist ideals of the Russian
Revolution by Stalinism, and the latter is Orwell’s prophetic vision of the results of totalitarianism.

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