A home away from home

GREAT Spaces

A  home away from home

A SLICE OF DAKSHINA KANNADA : The front view. (Left, right and                    below): Antiques that Karanth has sourced from places such as Karkala and Kundapur. Photos Poornima Dasharathi

‘Yelahanka is the new Gurgaon’, shouts a huge bill board as you drive down the Hebbal Flyover towards the airport. If you think about it, it does sound true. An area once full of agricultural and defence lands, north Bangalore has seen radical development in the last eight years. There is Prestige’s Dorchester, Sobha’s Althea, Purvankara’s Venezia and the list goes on.

However, existing peacefully among these villas and apartments, nestled quietly beside a kere is a ‘Mangalore mane’; reminiscent of the houses in Dakshina Kannada. It is the home of Shantaram Karanth, nephew of none other than noted thinker Shivaram Karanth.

I had to pass by this verdant area with the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) on one side and the vast Rachenahalli lake on the other, I reached a peaceful residential layout. As I opened the gate of the house belonging to Karanth, the front view of the building matched the mental picture I had of a typical Dakshina Kannada home - the tiled roof supported by dwara kambhas (main pillars), a spacious verandah leading to the inner home. The warm welcome by his wife Usha completed the picture.

As I entered the living room, his wife Usha pointed at huge carved furniture on one side. “That is a patas. In those days, they were used to store food grains back home,” she explained. Karanth opened the top handle to reveal a partition in it. “The bigger one is for bhatta (paddy) and the smaller one is for cleaned rice,” he described.
The hall is otherwise simple in its furniture and modern. Idella yen jasti illa maa, (‘this is not much at all’) Karanth said very modestly. A mechanical engineer by profession, he has lived in Switzerland for some time and has travelled to many countries. An avid traveller, he recalled some of his favourite trips, especially to Moscow and Paris.

Inspired by a Bijadi house

What inspired him to build this home away from home? He replied that he had visited frequently a house in the village of Bijadi, which was built by local artisans, encouraged and supported by Snehalatha Reddy, a famous social activist and artist. The structure was built using antique materials dismantled from old mills and homes that were pulled down. He then realised that he too could recreate such an ambience for his home.

In 1999, when he bought a plot, he bought the antiques from such houses facing demolition. The main pillars or dwara kambhas that greeted me were from a house that was pulled down in Karkala.

There are several houses in Karkala, Kundapur, Moodibidire where the old homes are being pulled down; corrosion being the main enemy of these coastal homes. While the homes are being rebuilt, the wood itself can be maintained as they are very hard. Karanth explained that the wood used for the interiors and beams are a variety called hebbalsu. Although this is very hard and long lasting, it’s tough to be carved upon.

Looking at the patas and other carved antiques, I marvelled at the strength and patience of the artisans.

As Usha led me around the home, I try to absorb the entire ambience. The car parking in front of the entrance has the same style of carved pillars and tiled roof. A datura creeper climbs innocently on one side. There’s a small circular seating area, ideal for a barbecue with antique cupboard doors in another corner.

Door now a puja room

As I walk to the back of the house and enter the common passage that leads to the hall, the small but highly carved puja room catches my eye. “It’s actually a door,” said Usha.
In the old days, the door to the main entrance used to be very sturdy but small with the intention of telling its visitor to bow his head as he entered she explained.

It reminded me of the maha dwaras of the ninth century Jain temples that used to be built with the same intention. That the door itself has been used as a makeshift puja room seems an ideal alternative.

While the developers sell western concepts of villas and haciendas, there are many individuals in the city who love to recreate Indian architecture, reminiscent of the towns or regions they hail from. It can be as varied as a typical home in Tanjore, Mysore or coastal Karnataka. It could even be the bungalows with English, Portuguese or French influences of the colonial times.

 Looking at Karanth’s home, I just wished our developers would sell the Indian concept at a larger scale. There would surely be just as many buyers.

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