To Orwell Today,
subject: Query from The Times


I am a journalist for The Times and am trying to visit Orwell's birthplace in Motihari this week.

I was wondering if I could speak with someone about this and also whether you have contact for someone based in Motihari who is involved with efforts to conserve the house etc.

I'd be very grateful for any assistance.

Robin Pagnamenta
South Asia Correspondent

Greetings Robin,

I wonder if you realize (no doubt you do) that Orwell himself, disguised as Winston Smith, wrote for The Times in "1984"? It adds an interesting dimension to your upcoming visit to Orwell's birthplace.

Actually, in the news today, it's reported that a website has been created in Motihari dedicated to fulfilling the dream of making the house where Orwell was born into a museum. There'll be contact info there when it's up and running (although at the moment it isn't connecting).

Website on George Orwell launched in Motihari
Hindu Business Line, Dec 2, 2012

A website was today launched on the birth place of British author George Orwell who was born at Motihari in East Champaran district of Bihar in 1903. The website showcases details about the one-storied house where Orwell, best known for the dystopian novel 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' and the allegorical novella 'Animal Farm', was born and lived for sometime. His photographs and related materials are also on display. The details of local people who strived hard to protect the birth place of the 20th century's best chronicler of English culture over the years too have been put up on the web site. The website* was launched by the Rotary Motihari Lake Town club — a unit of the Rotary International Club — at a function here, the local club President Devpriya Mukherjee said.

~ end quoting ~

I've corresponded over the years with Debapriya Mookherjee of the Motihari Rotary, the organization behind the creation of the museum and now the BIRTHPLACE OF GEORGE ORWELL website.

Almost three years ago -- in January 2010 -- the Motihari Rotary erected a statue of Orwell in front of the house and Debapriya Mookherjee sent a photo:

Orwell Bust

A few years before that the Rotary erected a plaque describing the historical significance of the location. An ORWELL TODAY reader visited the site in 2008 and sent a photo:


I've never seen a photo of the plaque and the statue side by side in front of Orwell's house but it would be interesting to see them together. Perhaps, after your visit, you'll send a link to your article in The Times to share with ORWELL TODAY readers.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

To Orwell Today,

Thanks a lot. Btw, do you have any suggestions/contacts for a good expert on Orwell's life who knows and can talk about his early childhood in India?

Very grateful for your assistance.


Greetings again Robin,

Actually, there isn't much to talk about.

Orwell's early childhood in India was in fact early 'babyhood' because he, his mother and six-year-old sister moved to England in 1904 when "Eric Blair" was one year old. His father, a career agent in the British Civil Service, stayed in India, coming home for three-month's leave in 1907, at which time Orwell's younger sister was conceived. Orwell's father returned to India and then came back to England upon his retirement in 1911 -- by which time Orwell was eight years old.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

*Birthplace of George Orwell Website

Ministry of Truth (...Winston worked in the Records Department (a single branch of the Ministry of Truth) editing and writing for The Times....)

PS - I saw your article in The Times today (with a photo of pigs in the yard but disappointedly no pic of the house or the plaque and bust of Orwell)


George Orwell birthplace on its last legs as indifference turns it into animal farm, by Robin Pagnamenta, The Times, Dec 7, 2012
In a flyblown town in northern India, a large pig wallows in the mud, twitching its whiskers beneath the hazy winter sun. Over by the old banyan tree, goats wander aimlessly towards an abandoned brick warehouse, stopping briefly to gnaw at a tangle of bushes. The writer George Orwell might have appreciated the irony of the bureaucratic failure to save his birthplace from turning into, well, an animal farm. As the 110th anniversary of his birth nears, campaigners say the house where he spent his first months is at risk of collapse...

listen Motihari residents go online to protect George Orwell's birthplace, Radio Australia, Dec 14, 2012
An online campaign has begun in India to protect the birthplace of British author, George Orwell in the small town of Motihari. Two years ago, the state government of Bihar declared the building a protected site but squatters, wild animals and neglect have taken a toll. Fed up with assurances that have made little difference, local residents are going online seeking support for the conservation of the house....

George Orwell's birthplace becoming animal farm, The Australian (from The Times), by Robin Pagnamenta, Dec 8, 2012
..."The house needs complete and immediate restoration," says Debapriya Mukherjee, a member of the local Motahari Lake Town Rotary Club who helped to erect a plaque and bust of Orwell at the site a few years ago. The house is in a remote area of Bihar, India's poorest state, near the border with Nepal, and receives few visitors. Stepping inside the small room where Orwell - real name Eric Arthur Blair - was born on June 25, 1903, rusting metal beams struggle to support a ceiling covered in mould and mildew. Outside, broken tiles lie scattered across the roof, which slumps alarmingly to one side....One reason why Orwell appears to have left so little impact on Motihari, now a ramshackle town of about 100,000 people, was that his life here didn't last long. Within a year of his birth his mother was on a ship back to England with her children - a common practice among Anglo-Indians at the time. He grew up in Henley-on-Thames and later won a scholarship to Eton. Nonetheless, keen to attract tourists to the area, local enthusiasts have drawn up detailed plans to transform the house and grounds into a George Orwell-style theme park, featuring a library, landscaped gardens, ornamental fountains, amphitheatre and laser show.... After his departure from Motihari in 1904, Orwell never returned to India, although his father stayed until 1912 and Orwell himself later worked in Burma with the Imperial Indian Police force between 1922 and 1927..."The house is more than 100 years old now and it survived a big earthquake in 1934, so it's not in good shape," Mr Mukherjee said. "I hope something can be done before it is too late...

Netizens to save George Orwell's house, Deutsche Welle, Dec 6, 2012
An online campaign has been launched by concerned citizens to save British author George Orwell’s birth home in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, near the border with Nepal. Ever since Debapriya Mukherjee along with literary aficionados started a website a week ago to mobilize support and pressure the state government to help conserve George Orwell's birthplace, he has been bombarded with messages. The 56-year-old businessman, who lives in the tiny town of Motihari in the impoverished state of Bihar, is confident that this online campaign will result in action to preserve the cult author's dilapidated house. Already, he has support coming in from literary clubs and philanthropists....He is being helped in this endeavor by the local Rotary Motihari Lake Town club, keen to put Motihari on the map of literary destinations.... At present, there is nothing to indicate - no signs, no photographs - that this decrepit house was where Orwell spent the first year of his life. Orwell lived in Motihari for a year as a child before leaving for England in 1904...

New website to seek protection for George Orwell's birthplace, by Neeraj Joshi, PardaPhash, Dec 2, 2012
Patna: Birthplace of legend British author George Orwell admired for literary works, 'Animal Farm' and '1984' lying in sheer neglect has finally got a firm support from Motihari residents. Making use of available latest technology the residents have gone online to get support for the conservation of house where legend author was born in East Champaran in Motihari. The website launched by Rotary Motihari Lake Town members to apprise people about reality. According to senior Rotarian in their bid to mobilise support for this cause they have launched this new initiative online to inform people and offer those interested a platform to know more about it....

Website on George Orwell launched, Hindu Business Line, Dec 2, 2012

ORWELL MOTIHARI BIRTHPLACE MILLIONAIRE (...I read, also, that Kumar won't be letting the million-dollar winnings interfere with his plans to study for the Civil Service exam. That's another Orwellian similarity because Orwell had to study very hard to pass the India Civil Service exam too. He even hired a tutor to help him get through it. The news articles about Sushil Kumar say that after he passes the Civil Service exam he'll be building a library in Motihari so young people will have access to learning. I can't help but think that books by George Orwell will be prominent on the shelves.)



Orwell Bust ORWELL STATUE IN MOTIHARI (Debapriya Mookherjee sends news & photos of a bust of Orwell that has been installed at his birth place; the date of the unveiling was symbolically January 21st, 2010 - the 60th anniversary of Orwell's death)


India gov't saving Orwell's birthplace from decay (dedicated fan Jackie Jura runs ORWELL TODAY website) & George Orwell & India ("I am Indian and was born there") & Orwell birthplace to be restored (priority to protect it followed by renovation) & Orwell birthplace saved from becoming animal farm (funds being raised for Orwell museum in Motihari) & Orwell's birthplace aims to attract tourists (Jackie Jura at ORWELL TODAY thrilled gov't will restore) & India declares Orwell birth house protected (plan to develop building & site in Motihari). AFP/Blog/NYT/Times/Telegraph, Dec 27-31, 2009


Clive is planning another trip to India and wonders about progress on the renovation of Orwell's bungalow in Motihari, Bihar

Chandreshwar visited Orwell's birthplace in Motihari on Orwell's 106th birthday

Reader Amit is from Motihari - Orwell's birthplace - and wants to be a part of efforts to develop it as a shrine and tourist attraction

LONDON BANKER BEHIND BIHAR (Reader Manish is keen to help refurbish and develop Eric's birthplace as a tourist destination)

British couple wants to renovate Orwell’s Bihar house. Thai-Indian News, Apr 25th, 2008
Patna - ...London-based retired English professor Clive Collins and his wife Monica Collins have written to the district magistrate in Motihari as well as the local Rotary Club, offering help...."Moved by reports of Orwell's dilapidated house, the British couple has decided to renovate it and develop it as a tourist spot," Debapriya Mukherjee, district chairman of the Rotary Club, told IANS on phone. The couple has also assured the Rotary Club that they will launch a campaign to spread awareness about Orwell and his works in Britain, Mukherjee added. About four years ago the Heritage Foundation of India announced that it would renovate Orwell's house. However, no progress was made.)

House Fence HouseWaterPump House Birth House Bedroom VISITING ORWELL'S BIRTHPLACE (reader Clive sends photos of his 2008 visit to the house where Orwell was born)

Reader Clive is going to India in March 2008 and plans to visit Motihari and the house where Orwell was born

Nasir suggests readers send in suggestions for the Motihari Orwell project

ORWELL'S MOTIHARI NEIGHBOUR (sends news about Orwell's birth place)

ORWELL MOTIHARI MUSEUM MUSINGS ("...We have initiated a movement to restore Orwell's Motihari home," Rotarian Debapriya Mookherjee said, adding that they were planning "a plaque outside the house with the writer's life history, a museum and a library with Orwell's works and the restoration of his house to its original grandeur" from article in London Times of India and Makeover of Orwell's Home in BBC, Aug 23, 2005)

Shashi from Motihari wants to make a documentary film on Orwell

ORWELL MUSEUM A HAPPENING (Nasir sends news that Orwell Museum in Motihari is being funded 5-million rupees by the Heritage Foundation of India from article Homage to Orwell: India's opium state plans park at author's 'home'. The Independent, Jun 29, 2005

Nasir sends information from Mr Mookerjee on how to get to Motihari and where people can stay when they get there

Nasir is receiving no response for fund-raising plans to restore Orwell's house in India

Nasir suggests fund-raising toward restoration of Orwell's house in commemoration of his birthday on June 25th

Nasir wonders about my great-grandparents being buried in India

ORWELL MOTIHARI MUSEUM PROGRESS (...Maybe in the future a wealthy philanthropist with a vision of freedom for mankind will donate the money required to fix up the house of Orwell's birth. And it would be a good idea if the government of India took some pride in being the birthland of England's greatest writer of the 20th century and donated the house for purposes of being restored and made into a museum and shrine. No doubt an alternative house could be found for the school teacher who is presently living there.... Nasir sends updates on progress of the Orwell museum & accommodations in Patna and the article All's Not Well With Orwell's House. Telegraph, Nov 14 2004)

Caroline is updating the Bihar chapter of Rough Guide to India & needs info on Orwell Museum & accommodation in Motihari

ORWELL MUSEUM IN INDIA (Nasir says Motihari is restoring Orwell's birth house into a museum from article in London Telegraph, Oct 28, 2004)

Baby Orwell & Mother OrwellNannyIndia BIRTHPLACE SHRINE TO ORWELL (reader Nasir says: The house that Eric Arthur Blair was born in still exists but is occupied by trespassers who will be difficult to remove. But they can be compensated and made to leave. It can be restored and made a shrine to Orwell. It is in the town of Motihari in present day Bihar. It will be nice to start a fund and restore it. Keep in mind it is 101 years old)


BOOKLOVERS' CORNER (...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...)



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