NEW DELHI: Seventy-two-year-old Madhu Varma, the granddaughter of Sachchidananda Sinha -- one of the prime makers of modern Bihar, has made an appeal to authorities not to demolish the historic Patna Collectorate, joining a growing chorus for preserving the centuries-old landmark.
Sinha, who donned multiple hats during his illustrious career as a barrister, a lawmaker, journalist and university administrator, was at the forefront of a movement that eventually led to the creation of a separate province of Bihar and Orissa in 1912 with Patna as its capital.
Patna Collectorate, the seat of the district administration, which started its journey at the current site near Gandhi Maidan (then Bankipore Maidan) in 1857, witnessed the historic moment when Patna ceased to be a part of Bengal presidency and became the capital city of the new-born state.
Madhu Varma, the granddaughter of Sinha, and a double gold medallist in history from the prestigious Patna University feels sad that Bihar authorities conceived its demolition, instead of preserving it for posterity.
"Patna Collectorate is part of our history, Patna's history as a city and Bihar as a state. It has witnessed landmark moments in its existence since the Dutch era and is a very valuable architectural heritage too. It must be preserved and bequeathed to the coming generations to tell the story of Bihar," she said.
Born in Patna, Varma, now in her 70s, still fondly recalls the old Dak Bungalow and the quaint Patna University vice chancellor's Bungalow at Gandhi Maidan, and many other heritage buildings, which have made way for modern structures in the last several decades.
"I grew up in old Sinha Kothi off Fraser Road which had a series of handsome houses, practically all gone. The Sinha Kothi later became the Bihar State Education Board office, and our family shifted to a new building next door. So many memories associated with the old Kothi, and the Sinha Library adjoining it which my grandfather built in the 1920s," she recalled.
Patna was a beautiful city with well-maintained old public buildings, charming bungalows and kothis and people took pride in these buildings, said Varma, who left her hometown in December 1973 after her marriage.
"So much has already been lost over the last few decades. Old buildings, especially public buildings like the Patna Collectorate, serve as the memory of the city. And, I appeal to the government to not demolish the Collectorate, but restore it and connect it to tourism. It will educate people about their history and generate revenues too," Varma said.
Her husband has retired from the Army, and now the couple lives in Gurgaon.
But Madhu Varma says, "My heart still hankers for my Patna".
Madhu Varma's daughter and Sinha's great-granddaughter, Anu Varma, who moved to the US in 2000 after her marriage, said, "Amma loves Patna".
The Bihar government had in 2016 proposed to demolish the Patna Collectorate to make way for a new complex, sparking huge public outcry and appeal to save it from various quarters in India and abroad.
Hearing a petition by INTACH, the Supreme Court on September 18 this year had ordered a stay on the demolition of Patna Collectorate, which has brought some relief to heritage lovers.
A citizen-led movement 'Save Historic Patna Collectorate', started in 2016 has garnered support from people across India and over 16 countries, including the US, the UK, Scotland, Iran, Canada, Singapore, Bangladesh and Brazil.
Both Varma and her daughter have extended support to this people's movement that seeks historic preservation in Patna and rest of Bihar.
"I am a firm believer in the idea of preservation and restoration of any kind," said Anu, humbly proud of the legacy of her great grandfather. Anu, also born in Patna, recently shared a post on the Instagram handle of Museum of Material Memory, about Sachchidananda Sinha and his family, and described him as a "great collector of artefacts".
"My grandfather was an England-trained lawyer, but he is also remembered till today as one of the prime architects of creation of modern Bihar in 1912, and he was also VC of Patna University, and my children know about his legacy," Madhu Varma said.
Sinha was born in Arrah near Patna in 1871.
After returning from England, he started practising at the Allahabad High Court.
Following the creation of Patna High Court in 1916, he shifted his practice there.
He was also the provisional president of the Constituent Assembly of India when it met in Delhi for the first time in 1946.
"The youth must fight for the good causes, otherwise we will forget everything," said the granddaughter, who had attended the birth centenary celebrations of 'Sinha Babu' as he was fondly called by people.
Varma said, "I have given my gold medals to my children. They are the keepers now".
Anu, who possesses her mother's medal from her master's degree in history, said, "It is a family legacy and kept safely in a vault".