And then one fine day, in the middle of the pandemic, Reva and Ranjan decided to become pseudo sanyasis. They left their parents in the comfy family home and walked out to the appliance free mud-house. The realization was that life was becoming zoo-like, more so in the pandemic. Everything is delivered to your home-cage – food, water, energy. Abnormal is the new normal. Normal, which used to be growing and cooking your own food and taking care of your own home, feels abnormal. Moving to the mud-house, for them was about finding their own normal. They now run their firm, Primalise from this mud-house. Primalising, for them, is not about going back, but about going deeper. They help businesses and institutions find congruence. Congruence between purpose and pursuits – helping build strategy that is rooted in cultural ethos.
It was here that a small group of teachers formed a community where they could practice principles of sustainable living. A piece of land was purchased adjacent to Bhoomi College, the school’s sister institute. The land was parcelled out into small plots of 3,000 sq ft – and members started building houses there, mostly following vernacular architecture techniques. About 12 houses have been built so far – and these families call this community their regular home. Reva and Ranjan are also part of a farming community called TVC – Tamarind Valley Collective where 52 families are attempting to revive 100 acres of degraded land through permaculture. Their aim is to regrow forests and revive diminishing rural livelihoods. Their Nexon EV takes them to this place and back on a single charge (175km) with 75 odd kilometres still left in the car!
Coming to the electrical world of this house. As expected there are solar panels on the roof. Just enough to power the phones, laptops and a kettle that is part of the limited device armoury at their house. The Nexon EV is powered by the grid – and there is some thought going on for putting up a larger 3 kW solar plant for charging the EV from the roof instead of the grid. There is a 15,000 litre underground tank for rainwater harvesting. The couple also has an emergency AWG – Atmospheric Water Generator, which uses air moisture to condense up to about 25 litres of water a day. The preferred running of this gizmo is night time, when the moisture levels are high.
What hits you most in this house is the absence of lights and fans. Thanks to the mud walls, the house remains at a comfortable temperature. The absence of internal walls and a high roof helps in retaining this coolness. Also, the breathing roof which is built using Mangalore tiles allows for constant air circulation. There is a small sleeping and work area on the mianni – Punjabi for mezzanine. In summers, the ‘bedroom’ shifts from the relatively warmer mezzanine to the cooler lower part of the house.
This accounts for the fan-less existence. But what about the lights? The humans here follow the circadian rhythm. They wake up a little before sunrise – and sleep a little after sunset. So the house bulb is the sun. There are a couple of solar lamps around the house, which get used when their old parents visit. The ambient light around also helps them navigate around the house when it is dark. If you look at older houses they used to have wall niches – recesses built into walls. And this house has many of them – this is where they place their oil fuelled diyas.
What I liked most here was their pets – Kaali and Chitti. The hens that are a recent addition to their family. They are like identical twins – except for their tails – which you should have guessed by now is what gives them their names. And yes, there are 5 little bits of good news. The hen family is now raising 5 chicks. Given a chance outside your dinner table, these folks live a life of about 7 years. And yes, they do contribute in their own way to the dinner table (there are no tables here though, you cook and eat squatting on the floor) – a regular supply of fresh free range eggs.
What the couple might not have anticipated however was the cost of these eggs. Kaali and Chitti have been raiding their vegetable patches. “The eggs are just a bonus”, says Ranjan, “the two beautiful beings complete our small ecosystem and have mended some crucial broken cycles – they eat our cooked leftovers and we eat their raw leftovers; they farm the whole day – weeding, picking worms, and scratching and turning soil. Chicken manure enriches our land and above all they bring cheer into our lives.” The two also have a free run in the house – it was fun to have them walking all around and all over us as we sat talking. Chitti was also engrossed in watching Reva on the camera screen as we were shooting the interview.
At the Malik household, except for the chickens, there is no help that comes for domestic chores. And all chores are done sans automation. The watering of the plants is done manually. And so is the farming, chopping firewood, cleaning the house and grinding spices. This is a choice they the Maliks have made. There is no security watchman at this gated community. So the residents have to come off to receive and see off their visitors at the locked gates. As Reva and Ranjan walked back after seeing us off, I reflect on the message that they are giving us through their lives. The time has come for us to de-mechanize and become more human!