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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 November 2007, 11:34 GMT
Kipling's India home to become museum
By Zubair Ahmed
BBC News, Mumbai

Rudyard Kipling
Kipling was born in Mumbai but left for England as a child

Noted English poet and writer Rudyard Kipling's birthplace in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) is being converted into an art museum.

The Maharashtra state government, of which Mumbai is the capital, has formed a committee to implement the project by 2009.

The timber and stone two-storey cottage, built more than 100 years ago, is surprisingly not much affected by the ravages of time and sits delicately in the womb of the famous JJ School of Art campus in the heart of bustling Mumbai

The art school has a vast collection of contemporary paintings, dating from 1850, which will now be part of the museum.

And so will be a few articles of the author of Jungle Book, who also penned the beautiful poem, 'If'.

A bust of Kipling, installed on the veranda of the cottage, greets visitors, announcing in fading letters the day and year he was born in the house.

Paying homage

Vikas Dilawari, who teaches architecture on the campus, says foreign visitors often come to take a look at the bungalow, where Kipling was born on 30 December 1865 - the year his father John Lockwood Kipling joined the art school as its dean.

Mr Dilawari believes once the bungalow is converted into a heritage museum many more people will visit it.

"It's an attempt on our part to pay homage to a great writer, who was born in Mumbai," he says.

Kipling's bungalow in Mumbai
The cottage is still largely intact

Mr Dilawari's colleague Santosh Shivsagar is on the committee which will implement the project.

"It's a tribute to a great writer. The museum will become a reference point for Kipling," he says.

Until a few years ago no one thought of the idea of a heritage museum, largely because it was an official residence of the school's deans.

But Sangeeta Jindal, an avid art lover, was visiting the campus recently to find out about a place to showcase hundreds of rare paintings gathering dust on the campus.

"I had no idea the place was right there on the campus. I learnt about Kipling's bungalow which was lying vacant. That's how the idea of converting it into a museum was born," she says.

Intact

She says it is an honour for the people of Mumbai to be associated with an author of such international fame.

"Kipling left for England as a child, but never forgot Mumbai and always called it the best city in the world," she says.

Ms Jindal is contributing a portion of her personal fortune to the project, which will have a café and a library attached to the museum.

The cottage has been lying vacant for the last seven years and some parts need urgent repairs.

But it is still largely intact.

Vikas Dilawari
Mr Dilawari says foreigners often come to look at the bungalow

Niyati Pimpikar, daughter of one of the deans in the 1960s, had lived there as a child 40 years ago.

She is delighted to hear the Kipling house is being converted into a heritage museum.

"I am proud of being part of the Kipling legacy. Like him I also lived in that cottage as a child. It's a lovely house," she says.

Rudyard Kipling, who was English language's first recipient of the Nobel prize for literature, spent only the first six years of his life in the house after which his father sent him to England to study.

He did return to India as a young man, but it was to Lahore.

No room

The cottage is a typical colonial building, with high ceilings and sloping roofs. It is bang in the middle of a lush garden.

It is a twin cottage, and the other side of the house was meant for the dean's deputy

The museum, which is likely to be complete by 2009, will have a separate room, which will be called the "Kipling Room".

But it is ironical that there would be no room for John Lockwood Kipling. It was the senior Kipling who is credited to have made real contribution to the city's architectural development.

Mr Dilawari says he would like to pay tribute to the senior Kipling as well.

In his field of art and architecture John Lockwood Kipling was well known, he says.

Mr Dilawari says it was the senior Kipling whose architectural designs had influenced many buildings of the city of Mumbai in the 19th century, chief among them being the impressive Victoria Terminus railway station building and the municipal headquarters opposite it.

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