A Day On Site

Memories of work at the Timmaiyanadoddi site by one of the team members –

tiles_construction

The day starts early in Thimmaiyanadoddi. Everyone is up and running errands at the break of dawn. By the time one usually wakes up, in Thimmaiyanadoddi villagers have finished their daily chores and are sitting for their morning tea time discussion near the community center or at the village temple area.

The chief mason from the adjacent village arrives by 7.30 am along with a helper for the day and joins the heated discussion for a couple of minutes.  Once updated about the villager’s life developments since last evening, he charges towards to the house being built.

govinda_masonAfter inspecting his day’s requirements Govinda (the chief mason) announces, “I’ll finish everything today!”  Immense positivity is Govinda’s way of getting work done through the day. He updates us of the likes and dislikes, the beliefs and concerns of the owner of the house being built. The villagers hold Govinda in high regard and consider his words as final. “Govinda Anna, Devara mane beeku, e godeyalli agatta?’’ (Brother, I want a temple on this wall, is it possible?) He looks at us for a nod, but says yes anyway. This is the story of a small niche in the wall. A small space addition we tried in one of the houses. Over time it was acknowledged by the people to make a temple on the eastern wall of their living room. Our inputs were slowly being observed, interpreted to suit personal need and were accepted. This went on for every small detail: the verandah, niches, kitchen gardens, smokeless chulah, etc.

Bearing the harsh sun and wind, workers proceed through the day until noon when everyone disperses for lunch, a small nap and then reassembles within an hour. The house owners help the mason with labour that requires minimum skill, slowly getting trained in the process of building a house. “My son Devaraju can build a wall all by himself now!” a house owners mother remarks. One can sense a level of pride setting in at these moments. There are days where villagers argue over construction work, but it subsides by evening or within a few days.

The adults unwind with a cup of tea in the evening sitting in their verandahs and discussing the day’s events. Who built what? How many bricks were made? Who needs more bricks? And who will make the next Chula? The discussions continue till late evening until women recede to prepare dinner and by 8pm the hamlet is quite again resting until the next dawn.

A Rural Intervention : Village Homes

After the success in the construction of the community centre, the villagers were happy to begin work on their houses. With close interaction with the families, housing options were developed. Keeping in mind the cost restrictions, the designs had to maximise on the available space.

There were two main aims in the design. One was to achieve a higher level of building quality superior to the local construction methods with the same funds. The other was to include the home owners in the process to develop a sense of pride in them. One of the ways in which this was achieved was to involve them in making the mud blocks for their house.

Here are some of the key features of the house design:

It met with the needs of each family: The house design could be adapted to suit the user requirements. In a square of 20’ by 20’, four different house options were developed from a one bedroom to a four bedroom house just by the addition of lofts. The houses designs were also vastu compliant to adhere to culture of the villagers.Timm_kitchen

Houses were environmentally friendly: The kitchen plan was made to accommodate Astra smokeless chulhas. This was important to not only to make kitchens smoke-free, but also more energy efficient. Roofs sloped down towards the road to facilitate rain water harvesting and stabilised adobe blocks were used for construction.

They were made to be cost-effective: The cowshed and the bathroom would be constructed from existing bricks and roofs after being tested to ensure strength and durability. Loft, doors and windows would be made from recycled crate wood and the roof sheet from galvalume, which is also recyclable. The adobe blocks do not need to be plastered or painted, which also reduces the cost.

Initially, it seemed like some of the structures may not need to be rebuilt completely and would be improved just with some alterations and additions. But on further inspection of the existing structure with the help of a structural engineer, it was evident that the houses would not support any additions and hence, reusing the materials for new construction would prove to be a better idea. Residents seemed eager to have new and better homes and that was a good start to intervention.

Timm