Chronicler of Orwell's birthplace
A. J. Philip, The Bihar Times

I knew K.K. Tiwari as he was our stringer at Motihari, a small town in North Bihar. Whenever he visited Patna, he insisted that I should visit Motihari and be his guest. He would tempt me with apt descriptions of the fascinating places he would take me to. On my part, I was looking for an occasion to accept his invitation.

It came in 1984 when lovers of fiction began thumbing once again the pages of George Orwell's classic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. I was one of them. And when Tiwari promised to take me to the house in Motihari where George Orwell was born on June 25, 1903, I could not resist the temptation.

Armed with a camera and a notebook, I reached Motihari one fine morning. It was not difficult to locate Tiwari, whom everyone in the town knew. We went straight to Orwell's house, which was in a state of disrepair. We could not enter the house as it was locked and the caretaker was nowhere in sight. Cows and dogs luxuriated on the premises reminding me of his most celebrated work, Animal Farm, which contains this gem: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Anywhere else, the house would have been converted into a museum to attract visitors. If the feature carried by a Kolkata daily on the house to synchronise with the birth centenary of Orwell is anything to go by, things have only worsened there. It will not be a surprise if the low-roofed structure crumbles one of these days. But what was more shocking was the claim it contained that it was a British researcher who discovered the house on his visit to Motihari a few years back.

I wish the Kolkata reporter had gone through the voluminous clippings of Tiwari, who had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the town, which he chronicled first for The Searchlight and then The Hindustan Times. In that case he would not have ascribed the discovery to the British researcher.

Not to miss the opportunity to show me the glories of Motihari, Tiwari took me to another house, an impressive double-storied bungalow, situated in the midst of a mango grove. "Look, that is the room where Mahatma Gandhi slept and this is the verandah where he met the farmers of Motihari, in whose cause he visited the town in 1917 and courted arrest." Suddenly, the Gandhian in Tiwari rose as he recited the famous statement Gandhi made explaining why he could not leave the area as ordered and why he must listen to a "higher law of our being, the voice of conscience". Later he took me to the spot where Gandhi's words are etched in stone.

It was time for me to leave, as I had to reach Raxaul that evening. He insisted that I accompany him to a historian in Motihari. The historian turned out to be a humble mali who looked after Birla's sprawling mango grove. At Tiwari's prodding, the gardener took out a massive register bound in red cloth which contained the biography of every mango tree - the day it was planted, the day the first manure was given, its height after every year and the year in which it produced the first crop.

"You have to visit one more historic house", he said as he guided the driver through the lanes of Motihari. When we reached a large house with a huge portico, he said with a mischievous smile: "This is the house where K.K. Tiwari lives". He allowed me to depart only after I had a sumptuous late lunch. Two years ago when I revisited him, he was as hospitable and warm as he ever was. It was, therefore, shocking to learn from a journalist friend in Patna early this week that the chronicler of Motihari was no more.

Chronicler of Orwell's birthplace (http://www.bihartimes.com/articles/ajp/orwell.html)


Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com