Sunday, 24 June 2012

Memories dear and close ....


Fire singes heritage building



June 10th was a lazy Sunday afternoon. After lunch, switching on the television, I perked myself up cozily in bed. Suddenly my attention was caught by these particular lines flashing on the screen, while browsing through the news channels. "Fire broke out at a heritage building in Upper Assam". "Fire fighters trying to douse the fire, no reports of casualty...... ".
My heart sank. Jumping out of bed I mechanically picked up the phone and dialed a number. But before my call was responded, live telecast of the sad news of this heritage building was on. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I saw the huge flames gulping the roof of this Colonial building. I could see men running in and out carrying with them whatever they thought of some importance or value. Books, files, furniture all scattered on the front lawn. It was extremely painful as I watched helplessly, the smoke billowing out of this majestic mansion.

With much difficulty the fire could be stopped from spreading to the ground floor. However, the entire roof and a portion of the first floor was completely damaged.



 I am talking about the stately colonial building, the official residence of the Commissioner of Upper Assam, where I lived a wonderful stretch of my life. My time here was full of memories, sweetly fond. Jorhat, a charming little township, a district headquarter, where this building stands tall. 

Jorhat was the last capital of the Ahom Kingdom. This commercially flourishing town was completely destroyed by a series of Burmese invasions till around the year1817. The British force arrived at Jorhat in the year 1824. Tea industry soon grew up in and around this small yet beautiful township. 

This bungalow, one of the oldest buildings of Assam, was constructed in the year 1921 as the official residence of the superintendent of the Jorehaut Tea Company. Much later, after the end of British rule, the Assam Tea Corporation Limited owned this building till finally it was formally taken over by the State Government of Assam.  

The two-storied house with its distinctive green roof and whitewashed walls has remained ever imposing. It is the witness to the history of Assam during the rule of the British.



My memories gradually carried me back to those exquisitely idyllic days in this colonial bungalow in the picturesque surroundings. How I loved to put in all my efforts to keep the interiors as well as the outdoors in top form. The teak floors needed frequent polishing, the endless window panes needed wiping and the huge doors, dusting. Quite a few workers had to toil everyday completing this job. A sprawling 22 bighas of land comprising the kitchen garden, flower garden, the front lawn and the back yard with a number of fruit trees. I remember sitting on the lawns umpteen times, planning, discussing and finally instructing the gardeners about planting of crops, culture of flowers, arrangement of potted plants and flower vases. In these sessions of exchanging tips I gained quite a bit of knowledge which has now come in handy. That was the time I had even ordered and studied several foreign publications on how to grow annuals and perennials, culture of bulbous blooms and nurture of exotic house plants. The cut flowers, vegetables and flower arrangements from my garden begged several awards in respected flower show competitions.

Few of the silvers the flowers of this garden brought me.

The swimming pool was of course no longer in use when we moved into this heritage building. The water lilies in the pond were a delightful sight with a few tiny fishes jumping in and out occasionally. The garden with this pond was a major attraction for the visitors.

I named the extreme left room on the first floor, the 'morning room'. This room would be filled with the first rays of the sun making it so very pleasant and glowing with hope! Passing endless time looking out of the window as far as my eyes could take me, turned out to be a hobby. Most of the time my pot of tea would sit on the trolley covered with tea-cozy getting cold. My mind would wander away from where the eyes failed and a few verses would flow .......

On one of those rosy days ........ my father playing with his grand children and one of the family pets. 

Guest room was on the extreme right side where an elegant four poster bed stood enhancing the beauty of the room. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, had spent a night in this bungalow and used this very bed in the year1961. My particular attention and care went to a few last lovely colonial bed side tables, book shelves, dining table and a few chairs scattered all over the spacious rooms. The huge heavy mahogany secretary table in the bungalow office, downstairs, was a masterpiece. Keeping them all shining was a major task to complete for the workers.

The ball room, the dining hall, the master bed room, the children's room, the kitchen (which was away from the main bungalow), the long lounge ....oh, all so wonderfully fresh in my memory. The fans hanging on long pipes from the high ceiling, their wide and long blades served so well even today. The extra long T bolts on the equally tall doors were fascinating. The immensely high ceiling made you look really tiny inside the rooms. The carpeted stair way leading to the lounge up stairs was so awfully gorgeous. The graceful fire places which we rarely used added to the ambiance.

The classy little rose wood book shelf was my personal favourite. I had it placed near the couch in the morning room. Arranging my collection of Thomas Hardy, D H Lawrence, Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy I would feel myself right in midst of all those characters I so adored. Being the lady of this magnificent mansion, I travelled hundreds of years behind, to the era of Emma, Anna, Bathsheba, Elinor and Merianne the Dashwood sisters ........  Oh how enchanting it was, to be in that age!

My heart could not accept the fact that most of it was gone now, destroyed by the menace of a single electric spark. Assessment of the damage and plans to restore this heritage building is on as I write this piece ........... 






The restored heritage building now .... (2013)








49 comments:

  1. Oh that is so terrible. A beautiful structure like that goes up in flames.

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    1. Thankfully the fire could not touch the ground floor. Restoration of this heritage building will soon take place.
      Thanks for dropping by Rachna.

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  2. Ruprekha,

    Really very sad. Hope it can be restored to some extent to be what it has been.

    Take care

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    1. Yes, I hope so Jack and pray that the building regains its original beauty soon.
      Thank you so much. Hope you are doing well.

      Delete
  3. Ruprekha, I am inviting you and Kavita to dinner in Delhi on Sunday, Nov 4. David and I will treat you both to the evening meal. Please email me at glendahinchey@yahoo.com

    Hope you can make it! So far, Kavita told me she will come.

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    1. Thank you so much gigihawaii. Would love to meet you. Will try my best to be at Delhi on that day. Will mail you.
      Take care.

      Delete
  4. Ruprekha baideu,
    It was a co-incident that a couple of days before the sad incident I read the opening few paragraphs of your blog on Dhekiakhowa Bar Namghar. So, when the report of the fire came on the TV screen I was thinking if that was the colonial bungalow you had referred to in your blog on the Bar Namghar. Sadly that's been proved true. The damage has been done, but the lines you've penned here shall lessen the anguish in both the writer(you) and reader(us)'s heart. Regards. Shiva.

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    1. Thank you so much Shiva, for being so understanding.
      Yes, unfortunately within a week of my referring to this bungalow, this sad incident took place. Jinxed!
      Lets hope it can be restored soon.
      Hope you all are doing well.

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  5. The typical mentality that exist in our country. The neglect and indifference towards heritage and what has been passed down generations and what we are supposed to safe keep for posterity.

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    1. Absolutely! Agree fully.
      Thanks a lot.

      Delete
  6. That is too bad. What a beautiful mansion (not a bungalow, which is smaller) it was! You were fortunate to have lived there, and I hope that someday it is restored to its former glory.

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    1. Yes gigi, much bigger than a bungalow. In Assam, this mansion is generally referred to as Cinnamara Bungalow or the Commissioner's Bungalow. I too have over the years got used to that name.
      Lets hope our wishes come true and it is restored soon.

      Delete
  7. Replies
    1. Yes, sad indeed.
      Thanks for visiting my space.

      Delete
  8. Rupreka, It is extremely sad to see so many fires destroying the history and heritage be it in Jorhat or Mumbai or Delhi due to our ineptitude to look after them:(

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  9. Hi Ruprekha
    So sad to hear about this unfortunate fire in this lovely and charming mansion. And your nostalgic memories are narrated so vividly spiced with marvelous pictures. It must have been a great privilege and pleasure to have been able to live in such a grand bungalow with huge surrounding lawns and plenty of greenery and flora and fauna - a virtual oasis !
    Thanks for dropping by and leaving your wonderful comments ! How is everything at your work place? Warm Regards & Best Wishes Ram

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words of appreciation Ram. Yes, that was a period I would cherish all my life.
      Things are looking up at work front now, although I have practically been on my toes to see some result :) Not finding much time to visit lovely sites like yours.
      Warm regards.

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  10. Rupreka it is sad that we are loosing a lot of the legacies due negligence as in Jorhat, Mumbai and elsewhere! What a shame:(

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    1. Yes I agree fully. Every now and then the news of damage to these heritage buildings is quite depressing. Good news is that restoration work on this Jorhat building will soon start.
      Thank you Rahulji

      Delete
  11. wonderful write-up, so touching and so sad to happen. what a tragic fall of a colonial mansion.
    BM

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    1. Thank you so much. I'm so glad you found the time to drop by :)
      Your appreciation is accepted with much honour. Do visit sometimes.

      Delete
  12. I am pained to go through the post. I have no words to console you. I could visualize your grief. Hopefully the building would get restored but the antiquities it possessed may not be brought back. I hope the fire could have spared some of them. Incidentally I too had a fox terrier with the same looks.

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    1. Yes, lets hope so....
      Back then I never thought of documenting either the house or the antiquities in it. Regret that a lot now. Never felt the need of a camera those days. This particular family pet too has left us some four years ago due to old age. That's how life is I guess......
      Thanks for your support.

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  13. thats painful...i cant say more

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  14. I cant say much; losing heritage building is one thing, seeing what was your home once going up in flames in another. I feel sad and sorry.

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    1. Much appreciate your feelings Insignia.

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  15. Such a beautiful place turned to ashes. So sad.

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    1. Yes, very ....
      Only hope it can be restored although the antiquities that are lost to the fire will never be there again.
      Thanks a lot....

      Delete
  16. IT is sad , all over world govt's spend so much for the upkeep of the heritage building and in india we dont bother that much , sad when we lose the buildings and part of our heritage like this ..

    I can understand what you are going through .. sad

    Bikram's

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    1. Much appreciate your concern Bikramjit.
      Yes, sadly of late we've lost quite a few of these heritage buildings all over the country.

      Delete
  17. Hello Aunty,
    It is really disheartening to see something so close to our heart being reduced to ashes! I myself had to part ways with the house I grew up in, so I understand the agony of it. But I must say, its was a very magnificent building. Hope the restoration work starts soon. Such buildings add an ample amount of beauty to our land!

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    1. Yes, Aayushi, I know what you have gone through and feel as much.
      Jorhat is one small district head quarter which is dotted with quite a few heritage buildings. I have lived in three of them extensively. Life in these buildings had been really charming. Shall write about that lovely time some day when I'm little free.
      Yea, lets hope this building soon gets back to some of its original glory if not entirely.

      Delete
  18. Oh my goodness! You lived in that huge, gorgeous mansion? Wow! I'm so sorry for this awful thing to happen. Thank you for your kind visit and words.

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    1. Yes Kay, life in that mansion was simply charming. I tried and lived my life to the fullest as fit for this heritage building. Lets hope it can be to some extend restored if not entirely.
      Thanks for your visit and appreciation.
      You have a lovely blog, I'm going to try the Mango Bread :)

      Delete
  19. Will they be able to restore the portion burnt to its pristine glory?
    Atleast in heritage buildings smoke alrms should be installed to put down fires even before they engulf the buildings.
    I can understand your sadness having lived in that building.Your description brought to mind's eye the picturusque ambience in which the building rested.

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    1. Lets hope it can be restored to some extend if not entirely. Yes, smoke alarms are a must, but somehow, we have always been very casual in our attitude in this regard and losing one after the other such heritage buildings.
      Thank you so much KParthasarathi.

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  20. It looks awesome....it is a sad thing to have happened....you have described the memories associated with the place so beautifully... hope they restore the ground floor soon....

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    1. Thank you for your kind wishes Ramya. I'm so glad you dropped by.

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  21. oh no! that was awful. i can understand how deeply this must have affected you emotionally. the pictures speak volumes of both your memories and your pain

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    1. Thanks Sujatha. Memories will stay on .....

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  22. omg..touching..dunno what to say buddy..but sharing yr feelings..

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  23. So sad to see such a beautiful home burn to ashes like that. I hope you're doing alright -- if you want to talk, feel free to reach out to me.

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    1. I'm good Dark Knight, thank you so much.

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  24. Its very sad to know that something that close to your heart has been reduced to ashes. Hopefully its renovation work would bring some of the glory back.

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    1. Thank you so much Navjot. I'm overwhelmed at your concern and good will, thank you.

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  25. Ba, I just have tagged you in my blog post for “Capture of the Colour”.
    Here the link of my post :
    http://www.rupamsarma.blogspot.in/2012/08/capture-of-colour.html

    waiting for your post :)Thank you.

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    1. Thank you Rupam. Keep visiting your space whenever I find the time. Wish you all my best for your lovely work, always ...

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