The house where Orwell was born is to be restored
and converted into a museum.


To Orwell Today:

Hullo Jackie,

In continuation of our last correspondence about the SHRINE TO ORWELL you will be glad to know that they are restoring Orwell's birth place. It came out in yesterday's Times of India:

'Orwell was here' -- India seeks to write new chapter in author's life
London Telegraph, Oct 28, 2004

An obscure Indian town is to honour a giant of 20th-century English literature more than a century after he was born there to an official in the British Empire. Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell, began his life in Motihari, a town in a backward corner of eastern India, where his father, Richard, was an opium agent in the Colonial Service...Until last year, when a troop of scholars and journalists arrived from New Delhi for the centenary of Orwell's birth on June 25, few people in Motihari had even heard of the author of Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four. Now, with the assistance of the local branch of the Rotary Club, the house where Orwell was born is to be restored and, finances permitting, converted into a museum. There is much work to be done. Orwell's birthplace - which has the un-romantic address of PWB (Public Works Building) 2/12 - is on the verge of surrendering completely to the elements. The roofline is bowed and buckled by years of monsoon rains, while the southern wall has been undermined by a large grapefruit tree. 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 Mr Orwell was born here, and placing signboards outside to tell visitors his story," said Debapriya Mookherjee, a leading Rotarian. At present, there is nothing to tell casual visitors that this modest two-room house was where Orwell spent the first year of his life being tended to by his mother, Ida, and an Indian ayah (nanny). But, at a ceremony on Jan 21, the Rotarians will install a placard marking the 55th anniversary of his death.

Orwell left India as a one-year-old in 1904, never to return. He almost did in 1921, when he applied to join the Imperial Indian police, but he was rejected, probably because of his Left-wing, pro-Congress sympathies. It might be too soon to dream of tourist goldmines - Motihari is reachable only by a 19-hour train journey from Delhi, or a spine-crushing five-hour drive from Patna - but Rotarians are undeterred...The almost roofless opium godown (warehouse) 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 11,000 rupees [£135] for the work to begin," said Mr Mookherjee. 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 school teacher named Braj Nandan Rai, gladly accepted The Daily Telegraph's recently purchased paperback edition of Animal Farm as a start. Beyond that, 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.

After writing to the local office of the British Council (without reply), Dr Gupta is to petition the Indian Ministry of Culture and British Council headquarters in New Delhi for donations. Anything from Britain, she said, would also be gratefully received. "A signboard is not sufficient for a writer of Orwell's stature," she said. "I have visited Stratford-upon-Avon and the houses of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. I would like to think we could achieve something on those lines."

~ end quoting from Times of India ~

If you want a copy of the article you can look in or send me your postal address if you cannot find it there.

With warm regards,
Nasir Abid

Greetings Nasir,

That's great news about Orwell's birth place being restored and converted into a museum. Thanks for telling me about it. I've just now read the story from the London Telegraph and see that they have donated a copy of Animal Farm. When the museum's brick and mortar work is complete I will donate a copy of my booklets HOMAGE TO ORWELL and PILGRIMAGE TO ORWELL. And if I ever return again to India I will make a pilgrimage to the museum in Motihari to pay homage to Orwell.

Please keep me up to date on its progress.

All the best,
Jackie Jura, 2004

PS: The following excerpts express my thoughts on England's lack of an Orwell museum:

excerpt from Chapter 9,

by Jackie Jura, 2003:

...After getting off the underground we strolled leisurely down the High Street of Hampstead which is a very trendy area full of unique shops and cafes and interesting-looking flats and houses. Zoe noticed in the A to Z that a nearby park had a statue of Karl Marx "if we wanted to go and see". I almost choked on my ice-cream cone and told her I'd much prefer going to see a statue of George Orwell - one of England's greatest writers - than of an author no one's read but everyone talks about, and who was the figurehead of a political system Orwell spent the last fifteen years of his life actively opposing. But to this date there are no statues of Orwell...

...Before we knew it we'd reached the bottom of the hill and were literally standing in front of our destination, "Booklovers' Corner":

Booklovers' Corner

...It's now a clean, modern Pizza House, which to me is symbolic of how little public acknowledgement Orwell gets compared to other writers like Marx, as was mentioned earlier, and Dickens who has a museum near the British Museum. Why isn't there a museum for Orwell? His words get flashed around all over the place by the whole world, eg "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU" but his meaning has been totally distorted. There should be a place where the public can learn the true meaning behind "BIG BROTHER" and realize that it isn't about sex-starved airheads loving every minute of being on camera 24/7 for all the world to see. A museum to Orwell could house all his books and his existing manuscripts and all his quirky collectibles. It could be drawn to peoples' attention that Orwell set the style for the tweed-jacketed university types with leather patches on their elbows. And what about all the new words he invented, like doublethink, thought police, crimestop, facecrime and the phrases he coined like "At 50, everyone has the face he deserves" to name a few.

Or if Booklovers' Corner couldn't for some reason be a museum, then why, at least, isn't it a tourist-attraction bookstore promoted as "carrying the largest selection of Orwell's writings in the entire world - If we don't have it, he didn't write it" or something along those lines. I went into the Pizza parlour to see if I could imagine it as it used to be but it didn't seem to hold any Orwell ambience at all...

excerpt from Part 2,

by Jackie Jura, 2004:

...Demaris also showed us another photo that is framed and on the wall. It's of the PLAZA DE GEORGE ORWELL in Barcelona, Spain, that was taken by the neighbour who lives two miles north at Kinuachdrach. That inspired a discussion about how there is no plaza or monument or museum to Orwell in England whereas there is a statue of Karl Marx and a Charles Dickens museum. Demaris conjectured that maybe it's because Orwell isn't a "dead author". I asked what she meant by that and she said words to the effect that "Orwell isn't dead because his name is mentioned every day and his words are quoted to such an extent that it seems like he's still here talking to us". I thought that was a brilliant explanation for why there isn't a monument to Orwell and after discussing it with a friend since coming home she added that "there IS a momument to Orwell, it's just not made of brick and mortar. It's the living, breathing presence of his words that is his monument". I thought that was so true...

ORWELL MOTIHARI MUSEUM PROGRESS (Nasir sends updates on progress of the Orwell museum & accommodations in Patna)

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