Nobel laureate Naipaul's family home open for public

Port-of-Spain, Feb 14: Naipaul House, the family home of Trinidad-born Nobel laureate, Sir Vidia Naipaul, here is finally open for public viewing after several years in the making.

Describing Naipual House as a national treasure, Trinidad & Tobago's Minister for National Diversity and Social Integration Rodger Samuel said: "It has a rich history. It is about heritage and legacy. Legacy from father to children, legacy of creativity, legacy of potential and wanting better for you and your future generations."

Naipaul's family home at 26 Nepaul Street, St. James, a suburb west of this capital city of Trinidad & Tobago, is reputed to be the setting of the much-celebrated novel, 'A House for Mr. Biswas', a work that was seen as an important factor for him winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001.

A commemorative plaque was unveiled earlier this week and guests were taken on a tour by Sir Vidia's sister Savi Akal, who also grew up in the house. Though Akal lamented the fact that the opening was long in the making, she was elated to finally see her family home renovated and opened for public.

Samuel called upon citizens to develop a sense of patriotism and exercise responsibility as "keepers of the national heritage".

"When we have pride we will fight to protect our heritage, reminders of the past, tales of our history and generations of tomorrow. Heritage included language, customs, places and moveable collections. It will be listed as a National Trust," the minister said.

Minister of Sustainable Development and Planning Bhoendradatt Tewarie called on the private sector to pitch in and assist in its maintenance.

"I don't think that something like this, and something that is focused on a literary genius and the legacy of literary genius in our country should be something that is purely state-supported," he said.

Akal, reflecting on the family and Sir Vidia, said that her brother was always supportive, and knew that the Naipaul family was going to do something with the House.

She also added that Sir Vidia is not very well.

In the tour of the House, guests admired family photographs, antique furniture, including a rocking chair, cabinet, Hutch and original Morris chairs, and a shelf beneath the staircase stacked with a collection of dusty books along with John Milton's 'Paradise Lost'. Sir Vidia's classics were not spotted.

Seepersad and Drupatee Naipaul moved into the house in 1946 from Chaguanas, central Trinidad, which still remains and is called The Hanuman House.

It was the home of the late Pundit Capildeo who patterned and designed it along the styles in Uttar Pradesh, India, from where he came between 1845 and 1917 to work on the sugar plantations in this Caribbean nation.

The Naipauls moved to St. James to ensure that their children got a better education in the city.

Naipaul House also has two apartments, which could be used for visiting scholars researching Trinidad and Tobago's culture.

It is also intended to serve as an international study centre for education, international and local cultural tourism and research on the Naipaul's family writings.

Kenneth Ramchand, chairman of the Friends of Mr. Biswas, said that it was an historic moment in the development of Trinidad and Tobago's culture.

"In this age of dissolving and confused values, the spirits in this House, the writers it nurtured, and the standing appeal it makes to us to absorb the values of literary arts, are more than ever necessary to teach us how to live as if life matters," he added.


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