Building from scratch

No object is ‘useless’ once you know what to do with it. And 43-year-old V Ananda Perumal wanted to declaim this to the public.

Published: 12th September 2021 05:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th September 2021 05:39 AM   |  A+A-

Interior and exterior view of the study centre in Kondanagaram

Express News Service

TIRUNELVELI: No object is ‘useless’ once you know what to do with it. And 43-year-old V Ananda Perumal wanted to declaim this to the public. He knew that if he showed the practicality of this principle, he could encourage public to adopt sustainable living practices, which he wishes to spread across the State.

And the declaration this Tirunelveli resident made cannot be any ‘louder’. Sitting on his small parcel of land in Kondanagaram is a whole study centre constructed mostly with disposed materials like broken roof tiles, hay, and empty beer bottles.

“To teach sustainable living practices to all is my dream. To impart such lessons, however, we needed a place that reflected our ideals,” Perumal told TNIE.

On the construction of the building, Perumal said no less than 3,000 pieces of broken roof tiles were collected from roadside to build the walls. A mixture of hay and red soil served as mortar. These primary walls are supported by two brick walls on either side to make the building resistant to southwest monsoon winds. The interior was plastered with a soil-rice hull paste.

As for lighting and decoration, empty beer bottles did the trick. It cost Perumal Rs 2 lakh, three months, and a lot of sweat to build the centre. He said he received support from his family, his friends, and volunteers.

Asked what made him to embark on this path, Perumal, well-known in the locality for the Kavin Art Gallery that he runs and the handicrafts he makes with coconut shells, said he was inspired by renowned organic farmer Nammalvar and wanted to do his bit. He also takes works as zero-waste wedding-venue decorator. 

Lessons for future
When Perumal began the construction, many urged him to drop the plan, terming it to be a ‘useless and impossible’ task. They thought the building would collapse. Now, however, a lot of them have expressed their interest to learn from the study centre. At the centre, Perumal takes classes on handicraft and sustainable lifestyle to anyone who walks in. This apart, he organises classes by experts in fields in sustainable development like architecture and organic farming.  

Last week, Senthil Kumaran, an organic farmer and part of Vanagam (Nammalvar Ecological Foundation), conducted a session on saving vegetable and fruit seeds for farmers and other residents.   

After the session, a Pettai resident who sells mats said: “I took part in the session after I got to know about it from a friend. The classes made me realise the importance of saving seeds that we usually discard daily. I also learnt about this ecological building and other construction methods to lead a sustainable lifestyle.”
And therein lies Perumal’s success.

True, he does not make tall claims nor does he offer complete solutions. He marches towards his lofty ideals in the humble way he can. Along the way, he changes lives, and that’s the Brightside. 


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