Over the years, I have also seen the vandalisation of the fine architecture here. The buildings are choc-a-bloc with wooden partitions and cubicles, the quadrangles crammed with shabby PWD-built structures to accommodate the burgeoning babu brigade. Even the walls, with their finely cut rose Dholpur sandstone, have not been spared, most of them brutally forced to fit the ubiquitous, leaking cooler. In the last 70 years, there's been almost no maintenance of these heritage buildings, almost as if we take no pleasure in them. Even our great leaders seem to have walked down these corridors, decade after decade, unseeing.
I have had the good fortune to go to Rashtrapati Bhavan many times, driving through the Sunken Court past the Jaipur Column into the courtyard with the majestic Cobra fountain. As I walk up the grand staircase past Lutyens' modest bust, I salute and thank him silently. Once inside though, my spirits droop. The paint is peeling on the ceilings, much of the Lutyens-designed furniture has gone to the kabari, replaced by loads of shiny PWD kitsch. The curtains are a horror, the upholstery even worse. When I called on the President soon after he took over, I had requested that he order a comprehensive repair and maintenance plan for these grand buildings. After all, everything is over 70 years old, most of it original Lutyens-Baker designs. Maintenance work, if done, will have to be carefully supervised. I suggested that a selection be made from among the best Indian professionals to do the job, of course supervised by a carefully selected five-member panel. The budget, as befits the First Citizen's prestige, should be no consideration. The only plea I had was that the PWD be kept out of it. The President responded positively to my suggestions and I'm still hopeful that he'll persuade the Centre to attend to this urgent need.