Saturday, January 13, 2007

Welcome to Huntworth

The historic town of Satara in Western Maharashtra wraps a rich legacy of over 300 years in its tiny fold.

300 years of epic history – the reign of the mighty Shivaji, the eventful Peshwa regime, Nana Patil’s parallel government, the radical educational initiatives of Karmveer Bhaurao, Yashwantrao Chavan’s visionary leadership ……. The lanes and bylanes of this place tell vintage tales of these rebels who blessed the soil with their noble cause.

Today, the legendary monuments of Satara echo the mutinous spirit of a bygone era. Prime among them is Sadar Bazaar’s Huntworth building – the residence of the then chief minister of Mumbai - Sir D B Cooper. Amidst the concrete encroachment from all sides, the bunglow stands tall celebrating its royal solitude with spiritual detachment.

Nobody can deny the times of yore – either we are trapped in the vicious tentacles of our past or we take it by its horns – dismissing the lures of illusions and wishful thinking. Huntworth has achieved the latter – its ripe age may have sapped it of energy, but the self respect is still towering. Akin to the vintage homes of Shakespeare and Milton, Huntworth holds fort on the sands of time - breathing mute testimony to a history of over eight decades.

The main entrance is unchanged, save for the new log cabin aside for security. The porch is also the same…what’s more; you would still find Sir Sahib’s umbrella to the side. Think of the several political monsoons it has weathered and you will lose count.Now it stands alone tucked in a corner…his forlorn memento.

Every door, every window, every wall of Huntworth has witnessed Sir Sahib’s dignity from close quarters – the tête-à-têtes, the debates, the schemes, the hospitality – they have seen it all. This observation has a life of its own flowing through the length and breath of the seemingly inert structure. The man is no more, the legend lives on….

All the inanimate things in Huntworth are blessed with his sanctity. Every minute of your presence here conveys the secret of their speechless existence – they are mute only in awe of the great man. Else, they had better ways to sing the glory…. ways that would transcend the shallow boundaries of human speech.

Huntworth has shared Sir Sahib’s greatest tragedy in equal measure – the untimely loss of his only son. Sir Sahib could never really recover from this shock. He passed away within three years of his son’s demise but so long as he lived, the greatness of the man rose above his personal grief.

Thanks to his pioneering strides, he graced the lives of millions around him only to touch their hearts. Huntworth was his loyal companion throughout this voyage – in times of celebration, in times of grief. Every stone of this structure breathes the passion, triumph, anguish and the fag-end loneliness of the man.


Think of Sir Cooper in the expanse of Huntworth and a distinct image dances before your eyes

A stairway is hinting at an uphill journey into the mists of the unknown.

One man, slowly but surely, is taking giant strides ahead. As he looks back, he signals to the vast population on his trail –

“Take only a step ahead ….and you'll find yourself way ahead”

A freewheeling translation of a chapter from the book “Sahasrakatil Vegla Parshi” on the life and times of Late Sir D B Cooper by Jaywant Gujar, Chandrakala Publication, Pune

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