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Orwell's birthplace in India to be restored
October 29, 2004 11:11 IST
George Orwell, a giant of 20th century English literature who shot to fame with his novels Animal Farm and 1984, will be honoured at his birthplace in Motihari, Bihar, where his father Richard was an opium agent in the colonial service.
A leading Rotarian from Motihari, Debapriya Mookherjee, has taken the initiative to restore Orwell's birthplace at Public Works Building 2/12 in Motihari, which is on the verge of surrendering completely to the elements.
According to a report in The Daily Telegraph on Thursday, the roofline is bowed and buckled by years of monsoon rains, while a large grapefruit tree has undermined the southern wall.
Only the stone floor looks solid, cracked as it was by an earthquake that almost levelled Motihari in 1934.
"We shall rebuild the place, restoring it the way it was when Orwell was born and placing signboards outside to tell visitors his story," Mookherjee told the daily.
At present, there is nothing to tell visitors that this modest two-room house was where Orwell, christened Eric Arthur Blair, spent the first year of his life being tended to by his mother, Ida, and an Indian ayah.
But at a ceremony on January 21, 2005, the Rotarians will install a placard marking the 55th anniversary of his death, the report said.
Motihari, with a population of 1,50,000 is the place where in April 1917 Mahatma Gandhi began his non-cooperation movement in support of local farmers being forced to grow indigo for the British textile industry.
In a celebrated speech, Gandhi told the colonial court he had ignored its banning order not for "want to respect" of the law, but "in obedience to the higher law of our being -- the voice of conscience".
Motihari has a museum recording Gandhi's passing -- including photographs, his slippers and walking stick -- and it is hoped Orwell can be similarly honoured.
The almost roofless opium godown in front of the Orwells' bungalow could become a library, student hostel and visitor centre.
"We have already written to the local government requesting permission to begin work and have received our first donation of Rs 11,000 for the work to begin," Mookherjee said.
More problematic than restoring the buildings will be finding something to put inside them, as nothing meaningful has survived from the Orwell era.
However, the current occupant of the bungalow, a schoolteacher named Braj Nandan Rai, has accepted The Daily Telegraph's recently purchased paperback edition of Animal Farm as a start.
Dr Anita Gupta, a member of the Association of British Scholars from Jamshedpur, has been asked to acquire any of Orwell's personal effects for the project.