Solan, August 13
Indian-origin British writer Salman Rushdie’s house Anees Villa at Solan, which was gifted to him on his 21st birthday by his father, presents a picture of neglect today.
Gifted to him by his father in 1969 on his 21st birthday, the property originally belonged to the celebrated writer’s grandfather Muhammed Ulladin.
The family of Byasa Devi has been looking after the house since 1998. “We were paid for the upkeep by Salman Rushdie’s attorney for several years but for the last 6 to 7 years no money has come,” confided Devi.
She said the house is in dire need of repair but its condition is deteriorating in absence of funds.
The once manicured lawns paint a shabby picture with overgrown grass and weeds dominating the property. The hitherto well painted roof shows signs of rust as the palatial British-era house has neither been painted nor repaired in years.
Rushdie had visited Solan in 2000 and had gone around the house trying to rediscover his childhood memories. He had later announced from London that he would convert Anees Villa into a writers’ retreat. The plan, however, could not take off he did not visit the place again.
Built in 1927, Anees Villa served as a hostel for a local school in 1950s and then remained unoccupied for some years. Till 1951 it was the registered property of his father. It was declared evacuee property by the government.
The state government had been paying a rent of Rs 2,208 for many years where several government offices were housed. In 1983, the government stopped paying the rent, declared it anonymous property and transferred it to the Revenue Department of the state. In 1992, Salman Rushdie put forth his claim on the property in the state high court.
In November 1995, the title of the property went in favour of Maulvi Anees Ahmed, Rushdie’s father. It took the noted writer another review petition for claiming exclusive rights over the villa on the basis of a gift deed with him.
The then Deputy Commissioner, Shrikant Baldi, passed an order and granted the property to Rushdie on November 15, 1997, and with that the writer became the legal owner of Anees Villa.
Rushdie had decided not to sell his property but had wanted to convert it into a writers’ retreat. As a goodwill gesture, the district administration had provided telephone and water connection to the villa after it was restored to him.
Shammi Ahluwalia, a town resident, recalls how the Booker prize winning author had visited this house in 2000 and prior to that he had paid a visit some years ago when he had come at night and had left before sunrise. It housed the office of the District Education Officer in 1980s, Ahluwalia said.
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