Home to many surprises

offbeat homes
Last Updated 17 November 2011, 16:33 IST

Nestled between Chikkagubbi and Doddagubbi, a good 25 km from Bangalore, Ravi Shah’s house sits uncaring, almost at the edge of a lake where the monsoon water fills in.

The house also overlooks a forest with mindlessly planted clumps of eucalyptus during the dry times, apart from assorted weeds, grass blades and creepers coloured in fresh wild yellow, mauve and pink. With irreverent unplastered brick walls, if one misses the faces and silhouettes hacked out of tree trunks, one could easily pass by thinking it’s just another house abandoned by its owners midway, owing to a financial crunch.

But if you look beyond these conventional thoughts, you see a large chiseled face in wood watching from the floor of the open terrace saying, “hey, we inhabit this space.” And no, the house is lived in, and not abandoned by any means.

No compound

A wooden gate, painted in white, swings open and shut, bereft of the compound  that it
is supposed to close.

It stands as a kind of a marker to the main door, which you can otherwise reach from any place across the radius of wild weeds, nettled bushes and the like. Along the path way stand two more sculptures in wood, one docile with folded hands, the other looking away.

Another bust in POP sits unmindful of the weathered carved wooden door, its iron chain hinge and washed out tints of red inside the grooves of carved florets and leaves, maintaining its distinction of being from another time and place.

What’s inside...

Yet, all the indicators outside still do not put you in that frame of familiarity. All these indicators still don’t prepare you enough to not be taken by surprise all over again when you open the door.

Once you push the door open and step into a small garden that has sprouted tenderly on a small mound, the early morning light streams in from the gaping openness of the roof above.

There are myriad wooden people standing and slouching and pondering all over, including the imposing 12-ft Bheema, who rises above the mezzanine floor to reach the roof. The windows are covered by an iron mesh, and yet, the rain, wind and light would claim the space as their own. The inside ushers in the outside.

This precisely is what artist Ravi Shah had in mind when he decided to build his little nest.
Taking up the challenge of building the house in a budget of under Rs five lakh, Ravi built his space under Rs three-and-a-half lakh.

The total area of the house is about 900 square feet. In spite of starting with a contractor and an architect who offered the outline of the basics of house construction, Ravi finally got down to building it hands on, with help from local masons and bar benders from the village.

The starting point was the foundation. Knowing what he wanted and having an inherent understanding of material and strength thanks to his being a sculptor, he worked on the foundation, digging the earth at a depth varying between a couple of feet and five-six feet, and filling it up with size stones and mud. People wagered that the building would collapse. But Ravi says that it will hold another floor. After opening into the small garden, the house flows gracefully into an open kitchen area, dining and living area.

In one corner lies a small circular meditation room with a dome in the ceiling. The bedroom is another circular structure that has enough space for a cot, a study table and chair and an assortment of things that an artist’s world is made up of. Painted in white, a vertical strip sliced way down from the roof to the floor creates an illusion of more space and light.

Creepers as curtains

A small mezzanine area doubles up as a spare sleeping area and library. It opens out to an open terrace, where some more sculptures lounge.

One corner of the terrace has an open bathroom, that well...has only the roof missing, which Ravi feels will be completed once the creepers grow. The same creepers will also grow into curtains for all the open glass windows of the house. The living area that flows out of the kitchen is bereft of all accoutrements apart from a big wooden swing, an old arm chair, side tables made of rolled up newspapers, a sundry horse face that does not seem to miss the rest of its body, and of course, Ravi’s people, carved in wood and painted on canvas. Being here, you know what brings warmth to a home. Like those tree trunks and wooden people.

Or the huge hand pointing to what’s written outside one door: “You know what you want. Build it.”

(Published 17 November 2011, 16:33 IST)

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