The old world charm

The old world charm

The old world charm

Creativity is intelligence having fun’ said Albert Einstein. It is indeed a mix of intellect and ingenuity that has made ‘Cuckoo Hostel’ a familiar name among youngsters in the city. But Rajat Kukreja is quick to point out that it is not his individual effort.

Located in Koramangala, this hostel is a perfect example of community effort. Friends, strangers and volunteers chipped in to create a space that “would enable people to learn from each other,” as Rajat puts it. “When I started, I had no idea what it would eventually become,” he says. “All I knew was that I wanted to flip the concept of consumerism around and create a space that would inspire people. Plus, we were on a low budget too,” he says with a laugh.

A young design student whom Rajat hosted helped him implement his plan and friends chipped in. They found an old house and started refurbishing it while hunting for materials at factory sales. Rajat kept updating his Instagram and Facebook accounts with pictures of the venture and slowly word spread about this initiative and volunteers came along. “I had so many strangers coming in to help in whatever way they could, just because they loved the concept. They did the painting, carpentry, cleaning — everything.

Those who didn’t know how to do all this would just play some music or cook food for the rest of us. There was a girl, Chryslyn, who had a regular 9 to 5 job but she wanted to contribute in some way. So she came everyday at around 6 pm and cleaned up the entire space including toilets.”

The stories kept coming. People, including friends, donated chairs and cupboards and dozens of books. Debottam and Disha, who were in Bengaluru for some hours before leaving for Kodaikanal, chipped in by making a table. Spoorthi drove all the way from Mysuru to help with the manual work and contributed more than 250 books to the library. Others painted murals on the wall and generally pitched in with whatever they could.

Since the idea was to reuse as much as possible, beds were made out of industrial packaging, old and rusted lockers were painted in bright colours and turned into backpacker lockers, decrepit racks were turned into striking book shelves and old mattresses were given a new lease of life. Vibrant in shades of yellow and white, ‘Cuckoo’ is now a place where guests can do what their hearts desire — read, converse, sing or share life lessons with a willing audience. There is even a learning board in the place where people can offer or ask for lessons in just about anything from the other guests.

A former Airbnb host with a stint as a Gandhi Fellow and educational consultant, it was a communication programme in the Maoist belt of the country that introduced Rajat to a discovery-oriented model of learning where there are no teachers but just children exploring and learning on their own “That idea seemed very sensible to me,” he says.

Marvin Diaz agrees. An intern at HAL, Marvin was searching for places to stay in Bengaluru and came across ‘Cuckoo’ in the process. “I saw two photos and immediately called up Rajat,” he says. “More than the place, I guess I loved the concept. I was technically the first guest here. Then I realised that there were a lot more things that could be done here. We have plans for a compost system, solar panels, a small agricultural space and more. I realised I also wanted to help and stayed back, ” he adds. Marvin is the official hostel manager now and loves taking guests on guided tours of the place. Seems as if the cuckoo has made a place for itself in everyone’s hearts.