| Goats outside George Orwell’s home
Motihari (Bihar), June 22: Three days from now, this could well be the only place in India where George Orwell will be remembered, though this is also the place that has no remembrances of the author.
Or, maybe it does.
A heavily pregnant cow grazes lazily at the gate of the house where Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair, stepped into the world on June 25, 1903. It grudgingly makes way for a visitor to enter the courtyard where two goats nip at the grass, oblivious of clicking cameras capturing Animal Farm.
Mohammad Javed Ahmed, a graduate student, said: “This house might have been like the farm in the author’s book, where the animals’ rebellion had broken out. Now animals rule the house. Look around, you may find here the novel’s animal characters who engineered the revolt.”
A little distance from the single-storeyed house, near an old opium warehouse, wallow a half-dozen pigs — the central characters of his satirical novel on the Russian revolution.
In Animal Farm, a revolution by animals is led by pigs against their owner Mr Jones, and the pigs then get corrupted themselves.
Orwell felt strongly about the degeneration of the Russian revolution into Stalin’s dictatorship. Some cultural historians have argued that he had anticipated the key developments of the last century: imperialism, the Cold War, the Bomb, totalitarianism and mass culture.
The house where he was born, PWB 2/12-15, is expected to be the stage for discussions on his works on his centenary when some local residents aware of Orwell’s position as an influential 20th Century thinker plan to hold a seminar.
In Motihari’s Teriapatty locality, the house sits on a spread of 10 acres covered with wild grass, clumps of trees and a rash of creepers and dotted with huts. The walls of the house are crumbling, but the tiled roof and the huge wooden planks holding it up are intact. A well, from Orwell’s days here, has weathered time but run dry.
A teacher lives at one end of the house from where Orwell’s father Richard Walmesley Blair, a civil servant, looked after the Motihari Opium Warehouse in the then Bengal province, researchers have found from government records.
“There has hardly been any repair of the house,” said Manish Kumar, who lives close by.
The Public Works of Bengal house apparently fell into disrepair after Ida Mabel Limonzin, Orwell’s mother, moved to England with her son and a daughter. Orwell had later returned to the subcontinent to join the Indian Imperial Police and was posted in Burma before he gave up the job to become an author.
“Till a few years ago, we were not aware that this house once belonged to the author,” says Brajnandan Rai, a teacher at Gopal Lal Shah School.
Awareness dawned when three research scholars from an institute dedicated to Orwell came visiting in 2000. “They had snaps from the archive which showed Orwell in his mother’s lap, right here in front of the well,” Rai says.
The researchers lived here for a week, talking to elderly residents, trying to establish the truth about the author’s birthplace.
In the wake of the researchers, a number of other foreign visitors have followed. District magistrate S. Seokumar was one of them.
His aide said: “Although the land in the area belonged to the government, this was given away to the governing body of the state-run Gopal Lal Shah School.”
“The former opium warehouse is a school hostel now. Doing anything for George Orwell would mean throwing the students out,” the aide said.
How about putting up a plaque to say George Orwell, the author, was born here' Though pigs now have a free run of the place.