Mumbai Memoir 87- ‘Nobel’ structure in Mumbai’s ‘concrete jungle’!
When I sit at my study table, the view outside the window often transports me into the bygone era of Mumbai’s colonial past. The skyline sketches a landscape of British made old architectural buildings which stand out, amidst modern skyscrapers that define Mumbai’s ‘concrete jungle’. Out of all the British build institutions around South Mumbai, the closest to my heart is ‘Sir, J.J. School of Art’ The reason for my fascination towards this institution is that, the field of Education & Art both are dear to me and, as this institution nurtures both, therefore its presence in the vicinity has naturally added value to the landscape of my mind!
The J.J school of Art was established in March 1857. It was named after Sir. Jamshetji. Jeejiboy, a Parsi businessman and philanthropist, who had donated Rs 100000 for constructing the school premise. In 1866, Lockwood Kipling (father of the British writer Rudyard Kipling) became the first Dean of this art school. The school building was designed by architect George Twigge Molecey in neo- Gothic style. The school’s campus and the Dean’s bungalow, where Rudyard Kipling was born and lived for the first six years of his life, is a heritage structure which very few people are aware of. On several occasions, I have explored the school’s architecture, sculpting, drawing, painting and applied art departments and was impressed by the work of art which were displayed there.
In year 2008, Jindal Steel Works (JSW) Foundation took up restoration work of the art school’s architectural structure, which has re-kindled the vintage spirit the premise once radiated. The school was build way before electricity was introduced to Mumbai (then called as Bombay) The brilliance of the school’s architect is seen as one notices the use of natural space and light in the institution’s premise. It is evident that air ventilation too was well thought of then, as few rooms of the art school still have holes in ceiling through which a huge hand pulled cloth fan use to be suspended. This fan was pulled by a ‘punkah coolie’ who was specifically employed to cool the room.
Being a writer, I am naturally drawn towards biographies and lifestyle of authors, novelist and facts of the literary world. Knowing that Rudyard Kipling’s childhood was spent in the premise of J.J School of Art, I just couldn’t resist the desire to pay a visit to the bungalow in which the award-winning novelist once lived. After seeking due permission from the authorities, I visited the Dean’s bungalow to get a first-hand experience of the place, where the ‘The Jungle Book’ author spent his initial childhood days of life.
Rudyard’s love for Bombay is evident in a quatrain (a poem of 4 lines) which I read recently:
“Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate,
Between the palms and the sea,
Where the world-end steamers wait.”
It was a delight to walk in the front yard of the bungalow and imagine the old times when little Rudyard would have been playing there and probably absorbing the Indian ethos that later went into formulating the characters of ‘The Jungle Book’! Just then I saw a rooster crowing nearby. As if the rooster was proudly announcing to the world about the glory, which the Bombay-born Kipling, brought to the English language, by being the recipient of the 7th Nobel Prize for Literature (and 1st Nobel ever won for English language) in 1907!
Photo courtesy: Shraddha C Sankulkar