The paradise flycatcher bird swooped down on the window sill and sat there awhile. It chirped and made a dive for the pool in the courtyard. Contended with a refreshing bath, it flew away to the unknown. Nameless are the guests arriving at ‘Nanavu,’ the home of Hari and Asha. Most arrive uninvited, take their pick and leave. An expanding circle of winged friends gives company to Chakkarakkal Uchulikkunnil Hari and Asha. Some of their names go like this – Ven neela paatapidiyan, Muthu pilla paatapidiyan, Kaadu muzhakki, Manjakkili, Koduveri, Neelakkurinji, Nagappoomaram, Puliyaaril.
As far as the birds flocking the place are concerned, this is a dense forest. Butterflies and birds, normally seen only in the forests, assemble in their courtyard. Hari and Asha have created a home out of mud so as not to inconvenience them.
Nanavu is a home that does not have fans of any kind even in the scorching 40 degrees heat. It is a sacred grove of the highest order; spread over 34 acres of land. Considering the resident population of over 15 frogs, 80 birds and 150 butterflies one wonders if this one-room house is adequate to accommodate them all.
Cohabiting with the cockroach, frogs and birds are Asha and Hari with their singing and their story telling. Mice and squirrels fearlessly stride the verandah even as wild birds do not fly away at the sight of humans.
Visitors from afar
These are visitors who came to stick around in the home that Asha and Hari built. They came uninvited to become members of the household. Everything that they need for food and shelter is present here among the medicinal plants that throng this vast landscape. All the fruits in their ripened glory adorn the fields which are as yet untainted with the strike of an agricultural hoe. You can see here the marvels unfolding on a soil unused to the assault of sharp implements. An intense cool, fruit-flavored breeze and lush green pervade the yard swarming with lovely trees and flowers.
The house was constructed six years ago on 960 square feet of land. It is a spacious house that has a bedroom, sit out, hall, kitchen and work area. Solar panels enable utilization of light from the sun during both day and night. There is no fan or cooler in the bedroom or hall. There is a country fridge made of earthen pot for preserving vegetables and fruits. These will remain fresh for up to one week in it. All that needs to be done is add a little water.
There is no gas connection in the house. It is connected to latrine waste and biogas plant. Fertilizer obtained from it is used for farming. A country cow bred on green grass and water gives one company.
A house for half-a-lakh
The entire cost of materials needed to build the home was estimated at Rs. 50,000. Labour cost came to around Rs 2.5 lakhs. The total cost of the house and well amounted to Rs 4 lakhs. Architect Vinod created this ‘Cool Isle.’ The ceiling is concreted by laying two tiles and using a bit of rod in between. The walls are made entirely of rolled balls of earth. Addition of some lime in the soil keeps it termite-free. The monthly electricity consumption is 4 units.
Weights and measurements are unknown quantities
A query about the price of one kg matta rice might draw blank stares from the people here. They do not buy anything from outside for their home. Coconut oil, rice and curries and condiments for cooking are available right in their yard. Paddy fields are spread on half an acre land. The couple is the sole workforce here. The couple will be planting a few crops in the field during the rainy season. Other times it is vegetables. Carrot, okra and eggplant thrive on organic farming. Mere abstinence from chemical fertilizers, according to them, does not constitute organic farming. Absolutely no pesticides are used. Pests happen when the soil feels indigestion. It is enough to remove the soil then, per them. Enormous ripe mangoes and cucumbers cut and kept before them bear testimony to this fact.
Life is medicine
It has been seventeen years since Hari went to a doctor. It is not that he does not catch a cold or fever. But resting and fasting are his medicines. Allopathy and Ayurveda medicines still remain untried for them. They are living proof that vegetables and fruits grown in one’s own yard help ward off ailments. They do not believe in the science that treats a part of the body in isolation. They believe in finding out the root cause of one’s illness and in providing the necessary nutrition. Their philosophy is the same whether treating the earth they farm or their own bodies.
They are not asking you to turn an indifferent eye to the ways of the world. We can plant crops and build a home without digging and destroying the earth and harvest the yield without sowing poison in the soil.
All set for an organic stir
They are not isolating themselves by showing the world how man can live in harmony with nature. The couple is a constant presence in statewide organic stirs. Hari works with the Water Authority. Asha used to be a school teacher before taking voluntary retirement. On those evenings when they feel terribly lonely a kadumuzhakki bird duly arrives to give them company. He is a dear friend of Asha’s and an amazing mimic.
A talented bird that imitates whatever it hears. He echoes whatever Asha asks him. However far he goes in search of prey he promptly returns home. Neither the squirrel nor the woodpecker is a tenant here. They wait by the dimming light of the mud house for them to come home to roost before the fall of dusk.