Memorial

VISITNG ORWELL'S INDIA BIRTHPLACE

"The second child of Richard W. Blair & Ida
Famous Novels -
Animal Farm (1945)
Nineteen Eighty Four (1949)
25th June 1903 - 21st January 1950"

To Orwell Today,
re: Reader going to India & plans to visit house where Orwell was born

Hello Jackie Jura,

As promised, here is a report of our March 2008 visit to George Orwell's birthplace.

My wife and I managed to make our way to Orwell's birthplace, in the town of Motihari in northern Bihar. We had various options for getting there, but most were not really practicable. There is a direct train there from Varanasi, where we had been staying, but it takes twelve hours - that's if it is not delayed along the route (trains in Bihar are notoriously late) - which would have made a day trip out of the question. Another possibility was to get to Muzaffarpur, from where there are several trains a day to Motihari, with a journey time of only two hours, but Muzaffarpur itself is not easy to get to, and we had not been able to get any information about hotels there. In the end we made Patna our base, and took a car with a driver from there to Motihari for the day. The journey of only 150 km. currently takes four hours, largely because of extensive roadworks where the road is being upgraded (it is one of the main roads from India into Nepal). I imagine that when the work is complete it should take at least one hour off the journey time.

Once in Motihari we made our way to the house of Debapriya Mookherjee, who was president of the Motihari Lake Town Rotary Club when they identified the Orwell bungalow for the centenary of his birth, and erected the plaque outside in 2005. I had been in contact with him by email. He invited us in for lunch with his wife and family, and then escorted us to the Orwell site. For those who have not seen pictures, let me describe what there is to see.

You go through a low archway in a wall into a large open area, and the first building to be seen is the dilapidated opium 'go-down' or warehouse.

Gate Warehouse

Most users of this website [Orwell Today] will be aware that Orwell's father, Richard Blair, was an opium collector for the British colonial government; the warehouse was where the opium was stored after collection from the local farmers who were forced to grow the crop, before being freighted to Calcutta and thence to China for sale to the thousands of addicts. (When the Chinese Emperor attempted to stop this, the Royal Navy blasted the Chinese into submission - an episode curiously missing from most school history books.) The warehouse has now lost much of its roof, but its size is still impressive.

Turning to the right you then see the range of two brick-built bungalows, the first of which was the one occupied by the Blair family. Outside it is the large plaque erected by the Rotary Club.

Yard Left Yard Right House Fence

The bungalow, externally at least, is probably very little changed from the time when the baby Eric Blair was born there in 1903; the only obvious difference was the 'tuk-tuk' parked inside the gate.

Rather than give a detailed description of the buildings I would suggest that you have a look at the photographs which I have attached. On the grassy area outside cows, goats, dogs and pigs wandered about - quite appropriate for the author of 'Animal Farm'. The bungalow is owned by one of the government schools, and occupied by Mr. Rai, a teacher of English, who very kindly allowed us inside.

House Birth House Bedroom

He showed us into his bedroom, which apparently is the room in which Eric Blair was born.

The kitchen is separate from the rest of the house, across a courtyard, and of course at the time would have been the domain of the servants.

House Pump

In the courtyard just inside the gate is the borehole, now capped and with an electric pump; in Richard Blair's day it would doubtless have been hand-operated.

During the time we were there a reporter and a photographer from the local office of the Hindustan Times arrived, alerted by Debapriya Mookherjee, who interviewed us and took a couple of photographs. A report presumably appeared in the paper the next day or soon after, but I haven't been able to find a copy. In any case I imagine it would only be in Hindi; there is a national English-language edition of the Hindustan Times, but we were told that the reporter and photographer worked for the Champaran edition (the local region).

I understand that the Rotary Club has plans for the development of the site, with the purpose of encouraging visitors to the town and putting Motihari 'on the map', so to speak, but they are hampered at the moment by a lack of funds and by the fact that all the while the building is owned and occupied it is not feasible to go beyond the erection of the plaque outside.

Memorial

Time will tell. In the meantime, I would urge all Orwell fans to make the 'pilgrimage'. The more people visit the more it will help to encourage the local authorities to make the site better known.

There are other attractions in the town: it was the place where Gandhi began his protest movement against the colonial government in 1917, when he visited Motihari to mobilise the farmers of the area who were compelled to grow indigo and opium for the British for no reward. There is a statue of Gandhi, and a museum commemorating the episode, with photographs and artifacts and the actual table around which the British magistrates sat when he was arrested and charged.

According to Debapriya Mookherjee there are three good hotels in the town, so an overnight visit should be possible. If we had known this we might have been tempted to spend more time there. These are the Hotel Monika, the Hotel Divya Raj and the Hotel Arrati. Of these, the only one we saw was the Hotel Monika (co-incidentally my wife's name, although with a 'c'); it looked a fairly modern building and is probably quite comfortable.

The Orwell bungalow is at Gyan Babu Chowk, Motihari, Bihar. If you need any more information about how to get there, or about hotels in Varanasi or Patna, please contact me and I will be happy to pass on anything I can.

-Clive Collins

Greetings Clive,

Thank you so much for being the first to fulfill the dream of Nasir - a long-time contributor to "Orwell Today" - and breaking the trail for future pilgrims to Orwell's birthplace.

Probably the spirit of little Eric Blair himself was with you (and Monica) as you paid homage to the great man he became - George Orwell - there in Motihari, India.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

ORWELL BIRTHPLACE NOT FORGOTTEN

ORWELL BIRTHDAY TYPING & CAKE

ORWELL MOTIHARI MEMORIAL MATERIAL

ORWELL STATUE IN MOTIHARI (Debapriya 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)

ORWELL TODAY BIRTHDAY TYPING

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 (Jackie Jura at ORWELL TODAY thrilled gov't will restore) & Orwell's birthplace aims to attract tourists (funds being raised for Orwell museum in Bihar)& India declares Orwell birth house protected (plan to develop building & site in Motihari). AFP/Blog/NYT/Times/Telegraph, Dec 27-31, 2009

INDIA PROTECTS ORWELL BIRTHPLACE

ORWELL BIRTHPLACE NO ANIMAL FARM (Reader Zoe asks for help obtaining photographs of Orwell's birthplace in India)

Govt declares Orwell's house in Bihar as protected site. Press Trust of India, Dec 27, 2009 (In good news for fans of George Orwell, the author of one of last century's best dystopian novels '1984' and 'Animal Farm', Bihar government in eastern India has decided to declare the house in which he was born as a 'Protected Site'. Orwell, creator of 'Old Major', the central character of 'Animal Farm', was born as Eric Arthur Blair on June 25, 1903 at Motihari in East Champaran district. His father Richard W Blair worked for the opium department during the British rule. Orwell was taken to England by his mother Ida when he was one year old. "The house is in a dilapidated condition. The state government's priority is to protect the building and other development works would follow later," Art and Culture Secretary Vivek Singh told PTI on Sunday. Singh said a detailed report about the history of the house, its present condition and land records had been sought from the district administration. A team of experts would be sent to Motihari to assess the situation from archaeological point of view, he said. "The department would initiate the process of declaring Orwell's house a Protected Site in accordance with the provisions of Bihar Ancient Monument (Protection) Act of 1976. The process will take around three months," he said. The matter was brought to Singh's notice by locals of Motihari who wanted Orwell's birth place to be protected)

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

Reader 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.)

VISITING ORWELL'S INDIA BIRTHPLACE

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)

Bihar pays cash to stop kidnappings (30,000 abductions since 1992). BBC, Mar 27, 2006

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 (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

Nasir sends Merry and Happy wishes to Orwell devotees

ORWELL MUSEUM IN INDIA (Nasir says Motihari is restoring Orwell's birth house into a museum from article Orwell was here – India seeks to write new chapter in author's life. London Telegraph, Oct 28, 2004)

INDIA, ORWELL, JFK & CHINA (Nasir and Jackie discuss Orwell's job offer at Lucknow Pioneer and pick bones about India & China)

SHRINE TO ORWELL (Nasir says the house that Eric Arthur Blair was born in still exists and should be made into a shrine)

ORWELL BIRTHPLACE VISIT 1984

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...)

PILGRIMAGE TO ORWELL and HOMAGE TO ORWELL

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

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
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