By Mahim Maher / Photo: Suresh K. Bhavnani / Photo: Ayesha Mir / Photo: Mahim Maher
HAWAI’I / HYDERABAD: This story starts in Hawai’i and ends in Hyderabad, spans half a century, includes a death threat and arson, 27 heirs, Rs28 million and a happy ending. (Jawaharlal Nehru makes an appearance too, although in passing.)
This December, if all goes according to plan, 79-year-old Indru Watumull will travel from her home in Hawai’i to see her family home in Hyderabad, Mukhi House, whose building has been 95% restored after five decades of abandonment. “Every time I hear[d] of something happening in Pakistan [over the years], I’d wonder what’s happened to Mukhi House,” she told The Express Tribune at her home this summer.
Mukhi House was built in 1920 by prominent Hyderabad figure Mukhi Jethanand (see box). “Mukhi wanted a real palace,” explains Kaleemullah Lashari of the antiquities department and the one-man army who has been working for five years to restore it. Indeed, one of the Mukhi family daughters, Dharam, who has incredibly sharp memories of the place even at 95 years of age, refers to it as ‘Mukhi Palace’ and not ‘house’ as the plaque says outside.
Unfortunately, Lashari’s searches of municipal archives and interviews with the family did not yield an architect’s name. But this much is clear: The house had all the trappings of a palace. It was built in the Renaissance style, but has strong influences from art deco in the form of murals, art nouveau via the stained glass windows and the Classical in the shape of its columns. And it looks magnificent.