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Neighbour Krishna Sharma in front of Gauripur House.
Picture by Chinlop Fudong Lepcha
Kalimpong, April 16: Had Rabindranath Tagore been alive, he might have been moved to pen an elegy on the approaching death of the bungalow from where he had recited his poem, Janmodin (Birthday), live on the national radio more than 70 years ago.
Almost four weeks short of another anniversary of the recitation (that took place in 1938), it is difficult to imagine that Gauripur House on Hill Top used to be one of the favourite summer destinations of the Nobel Laureate.
The two-storied bungalow, owned by B.K. Roychowdhury of Calcutta, is on a scenic hill, near here, and is surrounded by lots of greenery.
Tagore had visited the bungalow three-four times and stayed as a guest of the Roychowdhurys.
However, the building is in need of serious repair.
Thick foliage has grown all over the house, the windows are broken, and the interiors are in a bad shape too.
Even the unmetalled approach road, which is part of the property, had seen better years. Wild growths have all but hidden most of the stretch.
“We had requested the government to take over the house and convert it into a museum on many occasions, but to no avail,” said M.K. Bhattacharya, a professor of political science at Kalimpong College.
Biswanath Paul, principal of a cooperative training centre that ran from the ground floor of the bungalow from the fifties to the late nineties, said he had approached the former chairman of the DGHC, Subash Ghisingh, with a request to acquire and preserve the building as a heritage property, but without much success.
“The bungalow can be revived as a heritage home (read hotel). It should get a good number of visitors,” Paul said over the phone from Siliguri.
There is no dearth of tourists to the place even now. It is a must-see, especially for the Bengalis.
“Tourists keep coming here frequently. Most of them go back with bitter-sweet memories of the place,” said Sangita Sharma, who lives with her husband on the first floor of the bungalow.
Her family has been the caretakers of the building for three generations now.
Sangita’s 80-year-old mother Krishna, who lives in a house just below the compound of the bungalow, recalled meeting Tagore as a child.
“I remember him as an old man with a khadal (wooden slippers). I was very young then. We were scared of going near the bungalow,” Krishna said.
Whatever could have been the reasons for little Krishna’s fear all those years ago, for people like Bhattacharya, Paul and his wife Bani, a retired professor of Sanskrit of Kalimpong College, the fear is that their efforts to preserve the place might never bear fruit.