MANGALORE: City's only museum, which links modern Indian history with the 16th century objects, is now in peril. The Srimanthi Bai Museum at Bejai is in a shambles.
The stately museum building perched on the Bejai hills once housed one of the top officials of British Raj, V.R. Mirajkar, a Mangalorean, and his mother, Srimanthi Bai. Colonel Mirajkar was a doctor with the Medical Corps of the British armed forces in India. He lived in this house till the death of Sreemanthi Bai. Later, he donated the house with 1.2 acres of land to the Government, and built a house nearby where he lived till his death in 1971. The house has three floors and its huge teakwood caskets have artefacts collected by Col. Mirajkar for 40 years till 1969.
But this great legacy of an officer is in danger. The museum is crumbling with big cracks on its walls, leaking roof and wooden windows and doors becoming weak because of the dampness. The museum has not seen a coat of fresh paint for the past 12 years.
The museum has no drinking water and toilets for visitors. The once beautiful garden is full of weeds, and most important of all, there is no curator for this museum. The assistant director of the State Archaeology Department visits the museum occasionally. He cannot offer much help as he cannot take up repair work or purchase items for more than Rs. 500 a month. The pump house is also crumbling and the workers are scared of operating the pump for the fear of causing electric short circuit. The museum has only three employees though six posts have been sanctioned. It needs at least four security personnel, but has only one. Owing to such lapses, some of the exhibits have been stolen.
There was an attempt by a local builder to encroach upon part of the land. But the employees of the museum prevented it by bringing the matter to the notice of the Government.
District in-charge Minister B. Nagaraja Shetty and former Mayor K. Diwakar are living close to this prized possession of Mangalore. But they have not evinced any interest in restoring the museum to its past glory, people living around the museum say.