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A diabolical bungalow in Civil Lines

About five years ago, the bungalow's occupant Deepchand Bandhu, Delhi industries minister, died during his tenure at this house. Since then the bungalow is jinxed. As the bungalow was untenable, the government decided to convert it into a guest house. Sarat C Das finds out its current status quo.
Hindustan Times | By Sarat C Das, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 30, 2008 01:49 AM IST

An old government bungalow at Shamnath Marg has been such a scare that the people living in its neighbourhood avoid the pedestrian street running along its boundary wall. Some passersby furtively look at the house thinking if they fix their sight on this house for long it would woefully harm them. All these people in the neighbourhood believe the bungalow is gross evil as catastrophe befell upon all its occupants like a lurid whodunit on celluloid.

The bungalow number 33 at Shamnath Marg in the Civil Lines area falls under Delhi's north zone. The British demarcated the region for civilians, primarily for their senior officers, and set off their military camps at a distance. The Civil Lines has a host of historical monuments that include Coronation Pillar, Mutiny Memorial, Flagstaff Tower, Pir Ghaib, Chauburji Masjid, Hindu Rao's House, Metcalfe House and Viceregal Lodge. Also the place has famous graves of Nicholson Cemetery and Shah Alam.

It is sprawling bungalow with four bedrooms, a huge drawing-cum-dining room, seven quarters for domestic help, two garages, one storeroom as commodious as a big granary, and guard room.

About a half decade ago, the bungalow's occupant Deepchand Bandhu, Delhi industries minister, died during his tenure at this house. Bandhu, who also held portfolios of Labour and Environment for Delhi Government, was suffering from meningitis and died of multiple organ failure.

Following Deepchand Bandhu's death, a senior government official told media: "No minister or bureaucrat has ever willfully opted for this spacious house". Delhi's PWD director (allotment) CR Garg bid his time for a new occupant for a long time and finally gave up.

Senior bureaucrats, honourable ministers and many other distinguished people bore the brunt of this bungalow.

It is said the four prominent politicians who stayed at this bungalow could not complete their full term in office. Delhi's first chief minister, Chaudhury Brahm Prakash, a champion of the cause of Dalits and Quit India movement, had to quit office before completion of his tenure. Many said after he moved into the bungalow in 1952 the trouble started like a tinderbox and he quit office after three years.

Madan Lal Khurana too survived only three years in the office while an occupant of this bungalow between 1993 and1996. He resigned in 1996 due to the hawala scandal.

The jinxed house which was once allotted to Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, was rebuffed by Mrs Dikshit. Sources close to her revealed she too fell on the line of believing the house was not holy. Instead Mrs Dikshit chose to be content with a comparatively smaller bungalow. Late Delhi chief minister Sahib Singh too was offered the bungalow, but snubbed the offer.

Accoring to a Vaastu Shastra expert, "The entry to the bungalow is from the north-west corner - this does not allow any occupant to settle down permanently. Moreover, the fountain at the southwest corner - a place for Yamraj - adds to the bungalow's woes. Also, the spiral staircase arranged anti-clockwise goes against the principles of vaastu as this alignment suggests a downfall in one's career. Finally, since the house is a 14-corner building, there are bound to be negative influences."

Among bureaucrats, before Khurana, Choudhury Mange Ram, an executive councillor, was allotted this official accommodation, but had to quit before completing his term for "personal reasons."

The house also did not bode well for a host of other bureaucrats -- KL Rathi and RL Chopra. Another famous bureaucrat Nayak, who drafted the Muncipality Act of Delhi 1957, unceremoniously ejected from his job just the day before his retirement. Perhaps the bureaucrat remained unharmed was PP Srivastava.

For its sordid past the residential bungalow when found to be unteneable it was converted into an Delhi Government guest house -- mostly lying vacant though. The bungalow's servant quarters, however, are teeming up with people who are at war with each other. When neighbours report their squabbles the police turn up to mediate. It is little surprising while the servants in neighbouring houses peacefully coexist the tumoultous wrangle of this bungalow seems to be the making of somebody else.

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