Rudyard Kipling’s house in India is going to be turned into a museum, but the famous author will not be mentioned anywhere in the building because of political sensitivities.
“If we tried to convert it into a Kipling museum simply because Kipling was born there, that would ruffle quite a few feathers. In the political storm, you may find that the conservation effort would be set aside,” said Mukund Gorashkar, who is in charge of the project for the JSW Foundation, which plans to start the renovation work next month. Kipling was born in 1865 in the Dean’s bungalow in the grounds of the JJ School of Art in the bustling Victorian heart of the then Bombay. His father, John Lockwood Kipling, was the school’s first dean.
Kipling described the location of the bungalow in his poem To the City of Bombay. His experiences there formed the template for the character he created in his novel Kim – a white boy who is indistinguishable from the Indian children around him.
Mr Gorashkar said the municipal government officials with whom he had dealt since the project began had reprimanded him whenever he referred to the building as the Kipling house, and insisted that it be called the Dean’s house.
Sharad Keskar, Chairman of the Kipling Society, explained: “You have a fairly ignorant officialdom in India, who don’t know much about Kipling apart from that he was an imperialist or part of the Raj. Officially he’s still persona non grata. I think that is changing, but it’s rather a slow change.” The light green timber building, with its vast, airy rooms, and elegant gothic lattice work, is in urgent need of restoration after suffering severe water and termite damage while it was left empty between 2000 until 2007.