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Rushdie's Solan house in shambles

india Updated: Sep 22, 2010 12:40 IST
Arvind Kashyap
Arvind Kashyap
Hindustan Times
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The ancestral house of India-born British writer Salman Rushdie, situated on the fringe of the Shilly Wildlife Sanctuary on the Forest Road area of the town, is in a shambles.

Awaiting whitewash and repairs on its tin roof since the author last visited the house in 2000, the house appears to be in a complete state of neglect.

Spread over three bighas of land, the sprawling bungalow, Anees Villa, which once witnessed activity when it housed the office of the state Education Department, currently wears a deserted look and needs proper upkeep. The main gate of the bungalow, which was damaged after a huge eucalyptus tree fell on it last month, needs repairs.

The bungalow came into limelight when Rushdie filed a writ petition in the Himachal Pradesh High Court in 1993, staking claim to it through his counsel Vijay S.T. Shankadass.

Having remained in the eye of a controversy over its ownership between Rushdie and the state government for five years, the villa was finally restored to the writer in 1997. The bungalow, also used as the official residence of the Solan Additional District Magistrate for a few months in the nineties, has been reduced to a virtual ghost house.

Mohmad Uldin, Rushdie's grandfather, bought the villa in the forties. Following Partition, it was declared evacuee property and was subsequently transferred to the Revenue Department as it was assumed that Maulvi Anees Ahmad, Rushdie's father, had left for Pakistan and did not visit Solan for years. Ahmad gifted the property to Rushdie in 1969.

The bungalow housed the office of the District Education Officer for years after Ahmad rented it out to the Education Department through his counsel. The department paid the rent to Ahmad till his death in 1987.

"The counsel of the owner last visited the bungalow in April this year and he told me that the renovation of the building would be carried out shortly," said Govind Ram, caretaker of the house.

The building presented a shabby look as this correspondent visited it on Monday as loose electric wires were hanging in the open and a few electric switchboards had come off. The windowpanes of the back gallery were found broken and the roof of the bungalow leaked at several places. The paint of the roof, windows and doors had come off and at places tin sheets had been separated from the wooden planks and rafters.

The dark green spots clearly visible on the outer and inside walls of the bungalow owing to poor maintenance and continuous seepage during the rains showed that the building needed immediate repairs.

Govind Ram said, "As the owner last visited the place with his son in April 2000 and asked me to take care of the house, I had brought these problems to the notice of the counsel."

He said the main problem concerned the seepage in the roof and the decaying wooden planks and rafters as a windstorm could damage the roof.

When asked about the possible visit of Rushdie to the house, Ram hoped his son would visit the place and take care of the bungalow. The house last got a whitewash in 2000 when Rushdie visited the house, he added.