Home in the Lap of Nature…..

The Real Face of Realty

Market is overflowing these days with the advertisements about properties. It is the leading investment industry in town that thrives mainly on increasing demand and hence price of properties. Basically this is about a vicious circle of greed that some people may term as “progress”.

Those who have no house, desire to rent a house. Those who have a “house on rent” desire to buy their “own” house. Those who already own a house desire to own two houses. So naturally the demand keeps increasing multiple times the actual requirement. Since the demand is high, prices keep rising higher. Anything that sells for a higher price becomes an investment asset. So now properties become an investment asset. Naturally the demand increases ever more. The more the insecurity in social mind, more the sale and purchase of such assets!

There is nothing created in this business yet money keeps rolling. It apparently gives a “feel good” mood but kills the habit of “working for money”. “Sit back and earn” is a dangerous culture. But never mind, this is not about the illusory economics of the realty business.

This is about what after you make all that money….There is the next advertising sport awaiting you….

The Weekend Home

The holiday home….”stay in the lap of nature”…. NA PLOTS!!! Observe the hoardings in and around the city. 80% of them are overflowing with serene pictures of lush green hills and valleys lined with blue rivers! That’s where you will get to stay…. Or so they claim!

You like the pictures and luxurious advertisements…. And you visit the site. A stately site office welcomes you with some more attractive landscape flex boards. A colorful broacher with landscaped plan decorated randomly with green blots of trees, some high quality 3D visuals of plush, furnished houses…. And they sell you a dream house! Then you look out of the window…. Yes! you can see a rolling hill adorned with bright green grass (if you go property hunting between the months of July to October!)

You feverishly sign the documents! And the moment deal is cracked…. So is your dream! By the time your house is built, the hill is no more green… its ugly color of grey… the color of concrete and the color of weathered plastic fence… the color of your hair by the time you get possession of the house!

There are many more houses popping up identically like yours along the driveway. You check ten times to confirm which one of those factory-made cubes is your own house! From distance, the hill that was green once now looks like deceased skin of the earth!

There will be designed landscape of course! Of fancy delicate plants that remain wilted almost half the year….. Or shamelessly overgrow as weeds. Nature will painfully try to heal itself through tiny patches of soil you leave by the concrete driveways…. Old grown trees that you had seen in their pretty pictures have long gone from the hill… replaced now with stubs of some foreign tree standing within a cage, along the driveway, waiting thirstily for a tanker to pass by…

And the serene stream that was shown in the graphics… it has dried away. Besides you do not need that mud bank to breed mosquitoes. You have a wonderful blue tiled swimming pool right there in your premise! Why…no… we hardly get time to go and stay in that house… let alone to swim!!

You wanted to stay in the lap of nature…. But now it is killed. You have a house… an expensive one…but just like your city house…crammed up with all the “modern amenities” that you will hardly have time to look up. A handkerchief size patch of yellowing lawn will laugh at you, mocking your own desires now confined again in a few square feet of a weekend home!

This is high time we as consumers start to look into the reality behind the face of realty market! This is high time we start to question and demand some ethics! But in order to demand ethic we must first “know” them. We must know what we really desire deep down in our hearts….

Life in the Lap of Nature

Life in the Lap of Nature

When you started to look for a weekend home, you had actually started to look for a life in the lap of nature… had you not?! You desire to stay in a house surrounded with trees and birds, just as they portray on the bill boards! You work hard for years and years to be able to afford such house… and you end up buying a lump of concrete placed among some more lumps of concrete that look exactly like yours! “NA plots and row house schemes?!”

First proof that you are NOT getting a house in “nature”: check the colorful plan they show you. Forget the uniform green wash on glossy paper. Look at the plots. They are just enough proportioned to fit a house…. There is no space left for nature to crawl into your backyard. A handkerchief sized lawn is not nature; do not insult your own intelligence!

Second proof: if you fit all your “modern amenities” in the lap of nature, you end up staying in the lap of amenities…. Nature has just run away!! You city house was much better; nature had anyway run away from the cities long ago!

I believe that there is not a single human heart that does not respond to nature and feel big, light and fluffy as cloud! Every single person holding this sheet of paper smiles at the mere thought of standing in a clearing among trees with soft breeze that even smells green!

If you really, truly desire to live in the lap of nature, continue to read. Otherwise I have already lost my case and your interest. But if you have mugged up in your schools….rubbed nose in your jobs…just for a house within trees, my nature lover, this is for you….

Living in the lap of nature is not about affording or buying a house. It is about a mindset… about adopting an entirely different lifestyle. Just as you cannot truly live with your family without loving them, you cannot live with nature without loving it! Nature is not a piece of artifact to be bought and kept in the corner of your house! It is a dynamic, living and life giving entity that flows through us right at this current moment! Love nature!

And one cannot love nature without understanding it! Understanding is the first basic stage of love! Understand your surroundings and the silent loving traces and trails of nature around you. I know they did not teach this in schools. But they cannot “teach” you to love anyway!

Observe the green hill that you wish make your home someday. See the clusters of trees and shrubs…and birds nesting in that thicket…. It is their home first. Would you like a guy called “developer” come and run a bulldozer over their home and then give you a little yellow patch of lawn?!

Small shrubs and thorny bushes, deciduous trees that have always adorned our Sahyadris…. They are the nature you have been looking for! Give them just a moment out of your busy life… and they will tell you the ten secrets of living with nature!

The Ten Secrets

  1. Do not cut any old grown trees or clusters on your land. Add more native trees to the green. They are hardy, just need little water, protection and love!
  2. Do not level, cut, fill or flatten your land. Responding to the natural terrain will give a unique home of your own. (Pic: that insect mud castle….)
  3. Learn about the wonderful biodiversity that is already making a home in your land. Hire ecological experts to study and show you the nature’s wealth you got free of charge, when you bought the land.
  4. Leave a large portion of your land for nature to be your neighbor…. Give it some space! Protect the natural habitats such as seasonal water pools, streams, trees, bush clusters in that area.
  5. Design your house for minimalistic requirements and smaller footprint. You do not need Olympic size swimming pool or a huge golf course if you wish to stay with nature!
  6. Using natural material or recycled material is not as impractical as your contractor says. Concrete is expensive and harmful in many ways. Use it as less as possible.
  7. Keep manicured landscape features to their minimum. Foreign ornamental plants and lawns require large amounts of watering, artificial nutrients and hence expenses.
  8. Arrange for amenities that you truly need during a holiday. Watching the moods and melodies of nature is going to be your best recreation activity, and it comes for free!
  9. Plan your wastes properly. The sewage can be effectively used to recycle nutrients back to the soil, instead of polluting the rivers. Decomposable solid waste can be composted easily. And take your non degradable plastic wastes back to the city from where it came. Your new neighbor Nature does not love plastic litters!
  10. Ignore what the bill boards and advertisements say…. Beauty of nature cannot be picked out from a glossy catalogue. You must find it in wilderness. Trust your innermost instinct… it unfailingly takes us back to the nature.

    A flood-proof soil-fort built by the Harvester Ants
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Applying Eco-Logic in Architecture

I see Ketaki, my ecologist boss, standing in front of the architects…. Awkward at first and then…. Soon as she launches into her favorite topic… ecology…. So cool and poised she sounds… and so comfortable as if it was just some discussion struck between friends sitting out in porch! I forget that we are in an air-conditioned, fine designed conference hall of some glossy corporate office!

They are the leading people in construction business… and there she is, trying to teach them what the green really means! She doesn’t know architecture and the holy “mother of all arts” reverence that architects hold!! But she knows one thing…that perfection in any field of human life cannot stand against the simplest laws of nature! A perfect piece of architecture takes its existing environment into a very serious consideration.

The ancient profession of architecture is nothing more or less than a constant quest for that very same perfection! We are trying to find the fine balance between MAN, NATURE and the most vital element… called SPACE.

In modern times… the human element is being replaced with machine element, and is dominating the delicate balance….  I must remind you that the building design is structured over its parking layout requirements! Are our buildings about human comfort or about stocking more and more machines within?!
Space element is under huge stress and hence becoming sparse… more compact… more consuming designs are becoming a necessity…and an architectural challenge. And we architects love challenges! We thrive on them! So we design and design and design! We never stop and think… we never take a pause and try to restore the lost balance…. We never refuse to design for the imbalance…..

We are forced to neglect the third aspect of architectural design…the nature element. We have no space or priority for it. And that is exactly where we board the sinking boat! We have made the cities as safe and as pristine as sinking boats….meaning absolutely dangerous and chaotic to live in!

And let us not blame the governments, laws and bureaucracy all over again! The entire architectural community has been given the rights to design and consent. We have only used our rights to fill our pockets so far. Except a few respectable exceptions, we have been irresponsible and disrespectful towards the three aspects of architecture… man, nature and space.

Yes, I know we are never taught to understand nature. That is where the ecologists come into picture. We hire all kinds of consultants to take care of the air conditioning, electrification, services and structure… but we should consult an ecologist to reduce the ecological impact of every project.

An ecologist will tell you in perfect smooth technical jargon why planting native trees is so important. As an architect insist on selecting only native trees in your landscape palette. How difficult is that tell me?! There is no bureaucracy stopping you from that!

An ecologist will keep you from exceeding the use of concrete in everything. Concrete costs a lot more than just money. Think of the illegal sand mining that is raping our riverbeds… before you order a truckload of concrete. It is our responsibility to design with accuracy and material efficiency.

Ecologists constantly study the alternative materials that are either recycled or reaped from a renewable source. Architects need to open their eyes and accept these material alternatives. Alter their aesthetic presumptions if necessary to look beyond the beauty of glossy metallic paneling!

I am watching an ecologist standing in front of me…. Trying to reach out to the architects…. A researcher meeting the planners and designers…. If they really meet up at the golden mean, I am sure we can change the very limits of current architecture.

The Roadside Culture

Every day I buy fresh vegetable by the roadside, while returning home from work. Not just me but every Indian household has at least one person doing this task every day.

But yesterday the roadside was clean and vacant. There was a municipal corporation truck in a corner, loaded with jute bags of tender coriander peeking out. A huddle of corporation authorities and hawkers was busy in a bargain.

This is not just one incidence. It happens nearly every day somewhere around the city. There has been a lot of talk about the unauthorized hawkers in local newspapers. Their issues and their solutions and the discussions over and over… It is still going on.

This roadside market grows right into the vehicular flow, causing traffic jams and fights across the roads…. Written complaints and actions…. Someone suggested a harmless solution, of building small “mandai” markets in every area of the city. Middlemen with strong internal contacts got hold of the shops in new market. A common vegetable vendor remained by the roadside.

Buyers preferred shopping while returning home from work, right by the road….fresh vegetable was sold away quickly, and why would the hawkers leave their road side?!

Who is at fault? The hawkers or the buyers… No?  Then is it the municipal officer who can whisk away the hawkers but cannot take any action on the rich furniture shop that spreads its sofas right on the road side?

Isn’t our system at fault? We think and behave with our oriental hearts and adopt our governing systems from the westerns! And while sorting the mess created in this contradiction, we fall even deeper into the problems.

Many Non-Indian Residents (Those who live in India but are ashamed of it) say, “Oh the roads are so clean in the US”. And I think of a reply, “These are my roads. If you do not like them, kindly leave this country and settle in the US, (if they’ll accept you!) You wouldn’t get a crispy, dirty paani-puri by their roadside. And I never underestimate the Americans for not knowing paani-puri! Then why those American standards should be applicable here?!”

Shopping in a designated area called a “mall” is a western concept, since most of their diet does not include so much farm-fresh raw food. Everything is processed and packed away into plastic wrappings. In a country where every household buys their fresh stock of vegetable daily, this system of shopping in a mall cannot suffice! Today there are more malls in Pune than I can count, but has the roadside market receded by an inch? It hasn’t! We still need those hawkers!

The hawkers and their high pitch calls, bargains and incalculably confusing discounts! “Didi, coriander will be seven rupees just for you, otherwise it costs nine!” and that stray cow hiding behind one big size aunty, nicking and guzzling away a lump of cabbage. The hawker would whisk away the cattle as it is business time but, later at night, when the roads are quiet, he would feed a wilted lettuce to the meek animal with his own hands.

How could all that be unauthorized?

All this chaos and the life that germinates through this mayhem….does it have no cultural value? At all?

Yes, our roads are dirty and we do not have eight-lanes of glossy, fast moving super ways. But our roads have a culture and a distinctly different personality that cannot be worth a zero!

Sinhagad Road apprears to me like a homely lady surrounded by domestic shops and grocery stores….like a good cook, good mother who has children to feed.

Lakshmi Road always comes with her gold jewelry glinting over an expensive traditional “nauwari” sare, like an elite lady from the royal days.

Fergusson Road can be easily seen as a flirty college girl, dressed in tiny shorts, nibbling away pani-puris and expensive coffees, giggling over latest FB update on her high-tech phone!

A society creates and enhances its character by the roadsides…. And then it becomes a civilization! Who cares whether they authorize it or not?!

Do we have to wipe away our multi-colored culture to bring discipline and cleanliness? so artificially planted will it even survive?

Or could we dream of colorful, lively and cultural roads that are cleaned by the nature of itself…. And maybe we could dream of a country that matches with its roads?!