Salman Rushdie’s heritage house in Himachal crumbling (With Image)

September 20th, 2010 - 10:56 am ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Solan (Himachal Pradesh), Sep 20 (IANS) Salman Rushdie’s ancestral home, where the acclaimed India-born British novelist spent many summer vacations as a child, is succumbing to the ravages of time and neglect.

The roofs of the single-storey villa, built in 1927 in typical hill architecture style with smoke-emitting chimneys, have developed leaks and rainwater finds its way through crevices into the rooms. Most of the walls of Anees Villa, the six-bedroom bungalow locked over the past 13 years, have developed moulds.

Though the roofs developed leaks around four years ago, it got worse this monsoon.

“The roofs have developed leaks and the recent heavy rains have badly affected them. Due to seepage, most of the inside walls have developed black mould spots. Even wet rot has set in on structural woodwork,” caretaker Govind Ram told IANS.

He said since most of the time the rooms remain locked and there is no ventilation, the rot problem has got aggravated.

“Since sahib (Rushdie) took possession of the bungalow in 1997, he has only visited here once. His lawyer (Vijay T. Shankardass) is taking care of the property. We have already informed him about the leaking roofs,” said Ram, who has been taking care of the house for more than a decade.

Rushdie last visited the villa along with his son Zafar for a few hours on April 14, 2000.

Last month the gate of the house got damaged when a big eucalyptus tree fell on it following heavy rains. The 150-foot-tall eucalyptus tree even blocked the passage to the villa.

Built in 1927, the Rushdie estate, spread over three bighas (one bigha is 0.4 hectare), was purchased by Mohammad Uldin, grandfather of Salman Rushdie.

When the Rushdies left for Pakistan, the government declared it an evacuee property and transferred it to the revenue department.

Salman Rushdie’s father Maulvi Anees Ahmad gifted the villa to his son in 1969 and Rushdie put a claim to it in 1992.

After being convinced, then deputy commissioner Shrikant Baldi granted the property back to Rushdie in November 1997.

Rushdie’s neighbour B.K. Aggarwal said the area is highly moisture-prone due to the presence of thick deodar forest.

“The villa housed several government offices before Rushdie took its possession again in 1997,” said Aggarwal, who settled here more than four decades ago.

According to him, it was a trip down memory lane for Rushdie during his visit in 2000.

As he stepped in his house, his immediate remark was: “How can one forget one’s childhood days?”

Rushdie, during his visit to the villa in 2000, announced that he wanted to develop it as a writers’ retreat, but that promise is yet to see the light of day. He has since never referred to it again or bothered to look up the property for which he fought a legal battle.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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