Wednesday 27 March 2013

The place from where Tagore wrote two of his landmark Bengali novels

It was once home to the legendary engineer-statesman Sir M. Visvesvaraiah. It was also the residences of former Chief Ministers S. Nijalingappa and D. Devaraj Urs.
A majestic building it has a history of its own. It is centrally located but unfortunately politicians have given it short shrift as they fear to stay here-they strongly believe that it is haunted and anyone who stays in the buildings would quickly lose power.
However, the imposing building shares an important link with the legendary poet-writer and Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. It was here that Tagore  began writing his famed Shesher Kobita and the instalments of Yogayog.
Yogayog is a work of fiction and it revolves around the life and times Ghoshal and Chatterjee families, who are neighbours and sworn competitors. The Chatterjees run up huge losses and fall into bad times, while the Ghoshals make a fortune. Many instalments of this gripping take were written here in room Number five.
Tagore’s visit has been commemorated in a plaque next to the room that says, Rabindranath Tagore visited here in 1919.
Similarly, the other work of Tagore-Shester Kobita-is a landmark in Bengali literature. This novel was serialised in 1928, from Bhadro to Choitro in the magazine Probashi and was subsequently published in book form in 1929. It has been translated into English as The Last Poem (translator Anandita Mukhopadhyay) and Farewell song (translator Radha Chakravarty). You can see a full radio play of Shesher Kabita on Youtube. It was performed at the lawn of Sir. P.C. Mitter's heritage house on Elgin Road on April 1, 2012.
Thus, Bangalore has the distinction of being the workplace for Tagore’s two works. Tagore came to stay in this building from Colombo. In May 1928 Tagore visited Colombo to regain his health. However, even after a ten day stay, his health did not improve.
The then Vice-Chancellor of Mysore University, Brajendranath Seal, invited Tagore to Bangalore who came here in June 1928. He stayed for nearly three weeks in Bangalore and it was here that he began writing Shesher Kobita and the instalments of Yogayog.
When it was first built, Sir Mark Cubbon stayed here. He soon left for England but died en route at Suez in Egypt. This is Balabrooie, a marvelous building in the city.
After Cubbon, it was occupied by Sir Mirza Ismail, the Dewan of Mysore, and his family members.
The sprawling expanse of manicured lawns and immaculately-maintained columns of the Gothic building are eye catching. However, for the most part, Balabrooie, which was the State guest house near Windsor Manor, lies empty and forlorn.
Balabrooie was once the home of  Sir M Visvesvaraya and later two  of Karnataka chief ministers Devaraj Urs, S Nijalingappa and B D Jatti. Another Chief Minister, S.R. Bommai, shifted into Balabrooie burt he lost power ten days later. Since then, few Chief Ministers have dared to enter the house and kept a safe distance from it.
The name Balabrooie is as romantic as the building. According to a book by former Chief Secretary, T P Issar, the guest house is styled on European classical lines and its name comes from the Isle of Man, located off the British coast in the Irish Sea.
A number of residences on the Isle bear the name Balabrooie which means ‘river bank farm. It was so named by Sir Mark Cubbon, the former chief commissioner of Bangalore, who hailed from the Isle of Man.
Balabrooie also served as the headquarters for the Justice Chandrasekhara Commission which enquired into the attacks on churches in Karnataka.
Once the nerve centre of political activities, Balabrooie is on Sankey Road and right opposite the High Grounds police station. The last long term occupant was Devaraj Urs.
Another important guest or rather the most important guest to have stayed on here was Mahatma Gandhi . Even his family members stayed on here during the freedom movement. Indira Gandhi also stayed here.

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