Time stands still at this unique bungalow
The BBTC bungalow in Fort Kochi stands tall amidst a landscape drenched with history. MARY GRACE ANTONY visits the architecturally beautiful home with exquisite interiors.
FORT COCHIN never ceases to amaze. Wherever one wanders, there is always a little piece of history lurking nearby. Apart from the more significant landmarks mentioned in any tourist guide, there are several interesting places - be they old neglected streets, abandoned buildings cloaked in creepers or even something as solemn as a crumbling graveyard.
The heavy scent of days gone by hangs thick over the premises of such spaces, transporting one back to the days of early spice traders and maharajas. Take for instance the Bombay Burmah Bungalow, tucked away near the Church of St. Francis. This elegant home attracts the eye of many a passer-by, with its striking architecture and pretty garden. However, the most one can do is stop to gaze awhile, and then move on.
Here is your chance to get a glimpse of life within its aged walls. Constructed in 1926, the Bombay Burmah Bungalow cannot compete with its more ancient neighbours. Overshadowed by the Cochin Club directly opposite and the St. Francis Church barely thirty steps from its front gate, it is probably one of those little-known places that hundreds of tourists walk past every day.
The house was one of the initial four bungalows built by the Madurai Company, owned by the Earl of Inchcape. With the passage of time, three of these houses were sold. The Company retained this last house, and it remained the home of their administrative managers. The Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation (BBTC) purchased it in 1972.
For those who are unfamiliar with this old and reputed corporation, it was started by a Scottish family in 1840. Today, its operations include tea and coffee plantations, rubber, palm oil and timber. Mr. Joe Cherian, the then assistant manager of the BBTC, reminisces: "The Madurai Company was from that old generation of upright and honourable enterprises. I remember, when my wife and I moved into the Bungalow, the Madurai Company provided us with everything -from the furniture and 400 wine glasses, down to embroidered serviettes."
Ever since, the Bombay Burmah Bungalow has been the residence of BBTC managers. Its present occupant, Mr. Sunil Appaya, has been living there for the past two years. With its distinctive white walls and black edging, the Bungalow is constructed in typical British colonial style. The rooms reflect this architecture with their high wooden ceilings and simple lines, quite unlike the more common Dutch heritage buildings. Of particular interest, is the outdoor verandah - a charming sit-out area framed by colourful plants and creepers.
The residents live on the ground floor, while the entire upper floor serves as a guesthouse for the BBTC. Furnished in appealing earthy tones of brown and pale cream, the guesthouse consists of three attractive bedrooms, a large dining room and a well laid-out sitting room.
Further exploration reveals several less-obvious intriguing features, such as the round porthole window on the stairway landing, and the slanting skylight in one of the guest bathrooms.
As one of the more recent buildings in the Heritage belt, this compact Bungalow does not trouble its occupants with water or electricity problems. However, Mrs. Shereen Appaya admits that it is not easy preserving its quaint exteriors.
"We paint the walls once every two years or so, but the wooden floors and ceiling require constant polishing." she says.
Her husband enjoys the large and spacious rooms. "It is a comfortable and airy house," he says. If you are looking for a mysterious past, complete with exciting adventures, it is not in the Bombay Burmah Bungalow. Says Mr. Cherian, "There are no secret and hidden passages in this house unlike some other edifices in this area."
Indeed, the Bungalow almost seems to dwell in some separate quiet world of its own - where time stands still. Perhaps its only link with reality is its immediate neighbour.
The two houses share almost identical exteriors, although the interiors vary slightly. With a household staff of three people, the Appayas sometimes find the Bungalow a little difficult to maintain.
" It feels good to live in a heritage home." says Mrs. Appaya. "Knowing that people admire this house inspires us to ensure that it looks distinguished at all times".
Pics. by Johney Thomas
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