Green gables

Green gables

The chaos of the metropolis stops at the gates of the Sir JJ School of Art. Walking in, one enters a quieter world, where there are more unfinished busts than human beings in the gardens. In a corner of the campus, shielded by JJ’s imposing facade, lies a small, rickety green bungalow. This is the Dean’s bungalow, home to the school’s first dean, John Lockwood Kipling; it is also where his son, the author, Joseph Rudyard Kipling, was born.

Currently not in use, the bungalow is a gable-roofed timber structure. Two frail timber arches frame the otherwise angular porch. The frontage is covered by gothic lattice work in several patterns. Above the porch, a row of windows, their frames painted white, fit snugly under the roof. On the same level, there is a round balcony-like extension on one side of the house, leading into what seems to be a long corridor. A second low-level structure, with latticed walls and a sloping roof, runs along the length of the house. Squinting into the exuberant morning sunlight, one is just able to discern the topmost gabled roof, which almost seems to crown the house in how it is set back from the front. Just beyond the porch, a rusted lamp marks the centre of a circular yard. 

A recently installed bust of Kipling, commissioned by the student council and sculpted by renowned artist N L Sonavadekar, stands by the front door. It is the only nod to Kipling’s connection with the house. Dust sheets taped to the front door obscure what lies behind them. The fate of the house seems uncertain. The last dean to live in the house retired in 2002. In 2007, the Jindal South West (JSW) Foundation took on the task of restoring the house. According to a news report, they planned to turn the house into a museum for JJ’s art collection, while reserving a room for Kipling memorabilia. At that time, the house was being used to store old exam papers before they were sold to recyclers. A further report in the UK Telegraph in 2010 suggested that the restoration was just about to begin, but the state of the house reveals that this plan may have never seen the light of day.

With trees growing perilously close, and perhaps into the structure, the green bungalow’s days are numbered if it continues to lie decrepit and be subjected to the vagaries of nature in its present state. Kipling lived in the house till he was six, but his experiences of growing up in the Indian subcontinent seeped into texts like Kim, the story of an orphaned Irish boy in late 19th century India. Sometimes, when a gust of air finds its way under the locked doors and windows, the dust sheets masking the interiors flutter tantalisingly. Kipling’s mystique may permeate the house, but what the powers that be do to it remains to be seen.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry