Hari Chakkarakkal and wife Asha are not keen on medicines. In fact, they are not keen on a lot of things. For two decades now, this couple from Kerala has not been to a doctor, there has been no serious ailments and as a result, there have been no over-the-counter purchases either. Their life is careful, their carbon footprint almost negligible, and they are off the grid.
“Hari had a fever last week. And I prepared orange juice and that was his ‘food’ for two days — just that and proper rest,” says Asha.
Their philosophy hits you instantly once you’ve had a look at the house they’ve made for themselves. ‘Nanavu’, built on 34 cents of land, measures just 960 sft. Ninety per cent of its walls was constructed using mud gathered from the very same plot and it cost Asha and Hari not more than Rs 3 lakh. Six workers from Thiruvananthapuram, led by architect Vinod T. completed the radical project at Chakkarakkal in Kannur, in 2011.
“We all spend just too much money on constructing homes, getting married, and then on medicines and treatment. All these expenses are really unnecessary,” adds Asha.
Her husband then explains how to go about building a home from soil.
“Construction on one of these must start after the rains, and wait for the winter — which is the best time for work. Later, stay for the summer to finish the work. We used bricks only around the frames of doors and windows and cement only for the front wall,” says Hari. He works with the Kerala Water Authority, of Mattannur sub division. Asha was a schoolteacher in Kasargod who quit after she realised work was taking up most of her time. She now dedicates all her days to the paddy the couple grows nearby, to their vegetable garden and their cow, Paru. All of the animal’s milk too goes back to the calf, Dachu.
“We just need the dung and urine for cultivation. In return, we give them grass and water... that’s the cycle,” she adds.
Both are also active workers of the district environment committee and have been married since 2007. They also lead a trust — the Jaiva Samskruthi — that promotes healthy living. Every month, on the last Thursday and Friday, they hold a farm exhibition for agriculturists growing organic food and the produce is sold in Kannur. Their home from mud also provides shelter for birds.
“Migratory birds such as the paradise flycatcher, the monarch flycatcher and the white-throated rock thrush are some of the visitors here. We even have a birdbath here,” Hari adds.
Nanavu’s architectural design — which doesn’t need a single fan — has helped them make some true savings and the couple believes a change in the way land is distributed could bring along some immediate shifts in the way we live, and consume.
“Why do we need such huge homes? They consume so much power, water and other resources. It’s just wrong for people to consume more than what they really need. Each family should get at least 30-50 cents of land for cultivation and to work on it. The current system is just wrong,” says Asha.