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Majha House: Couple turns ancestral home in Punjab into cultural centre

Home is where art is: Two-day event encompassing literature and music will be held on March 3 and 4

punjab Updated: Jan 19, 2018 11:43 IST
Nirupama Dutt
Nirupama Dutt
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Majha House,ancestral home,Punjab
Preeti and KS Gill at Majha House in Amritsar. (HT Photo)

Kites that have flown in from the neighbourhood skies are hung all over the garden and the house to mark a new beginning. There is cheer and hope as writers, artists, academicians and social activists get together in the quiet neighbourhood at house number 489 in Basant Avenue here to discuss its new avatar. Earlier known as Billoo’s House, it is all set to become a cultural centre with the new name of Majha Centre, envisioned as a space for creativity and learning.

The neighbours know the house well and so also the late Gill uncle and aunty who were ever planting green palms, bushes and creepers in the memory of their elder son, 2nd Lieutenant SS Gill (Billoo), who lost his life at Chamb-Jaurian when he was just 21 during the Bangladesh liberation war that broke out between India and Pakistan.

The three-bedroom single-story house is being turned into a residency for writers and artists.

In spite of its greenery and charming nooks and corners, there always was an air of sadness here for the loss of Billoo was never overcome.

The younger son, KS Gill, who inherited the 40–year-old house, says: “The home has many memories for us and we didn’t wish to sell it though my wife Preeti and I are settled in Delhi where she is a literary agent and I run my own tech company. We wondered as to what best use could we put it. Preeti felt that it should be a literary and cultural centre for young Punjabis who often have to leave the state to follow their creative pursuits.”

Preeti, who has made significant contribution as author, publisher and literary agent, says: “Majha House, the cultural centre that has grown out of Billoo’s house, has witnessed much loss and longing and we have given this new name as salutation to the Majha region which has a rich tradition of literature and arts.”

While the three-bedroom single-story house is being turned into a residency for writers and artists, the annexe at Majha House is to be the vibrant space for discussion, readings, performance and film screenings.

In spite of its greenery and charming nooks and corners, there always was an air of sadness here.

“We perceive the space to be a free flowing, interactive, creative place where we can showcase films and art, talk about different critical issues that confront civil society today, discuss books and films with writers, illustrators, publishers as well as technical experts from the film and television industry — and create a comfortable non-intimidating space for exchange of ideas,” adds Preeti.

Gill recounts, “This house was built in 1978 and the land was given to my parents at lower-than-market price by the government of India as a sort of compensation for the martyrdom of their brave son. When my brother was killed my father was serving as the Chief Aerodrome Officer at the critically important Rajasansi Airport, Amritsar, and he continued steadfast at his post despite the devastating personal loss and was given the Shaurya award.”

The people of the city have welcomed the new addition. Kewal Dhaliwal, chairperson, Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi, says: “It needs committed local involvement. The art workshops would be a great help for young learners.”

The stage is being set. Come spring and the first two-day event encompassing literature, music, cinema and performance will be held on March 3 and 4.

First Published: Jan 19, 2018 11:42 IST