Thursday, June 30, 2016

From Bangalore to Angadibail, A Cyclist and his Dog

Setting Out: In Front of His Home in Bangalore  

Sailesh cycled to Angadibail with his dog, Mac in a trailer, all the way from Bangalore. He is on a journey to discover a minimalist, sustainable way of life and BuDa Folklore, Angadibail is his first pit stop. He will stay here until the ‘Mungaru festival,’ the paddy transplanting event on 15, August.

A BuDa intern, Meena Chocklingam from IIT Madras, interviewed Sailesh and here’s the story. 


This story starts more than two decades ago. As a seven-year old, Sailesh decided to leave home over an altercation with his father. He walked out, sat on a nearby sidewalk and thought about what he would do to survive on his own. He thought he could catch fish for food. Then he began thinking about what it takes to catch fish: the tools and the skills to trap them.  He went back home and began working on equipping himself with the skills of survival – of independence.
That seven year-old is now a successful architect with a business that he co-owns with two of his friends, in Bangalore. He is married to Maitreyi, a Bangalore-based writer, critic and poet. And he is finally living his dream of independence.

Where There's a Will...
 Taking a year-long break from work and all the constraints of urban life, Sailesh left home on the 28th of April on his cycle, with his mixed-breed Mudhol Hound, Mac. 

Ten days, 540 kilometers and over a thousand interesting conversations later, Sailesh made his first major stop at the forest centre in Angadibail. 

Having visited the forest centre on a super-bike last year during  Mungaru the paddy transplant season, Sailesh had decided to come back. And so, he did.

It does not take more than one conversation to realize that Sailesh is not just your regular architect. He is a biker, cyclist, trekker, rock climber, artisan, and wildlife enthusiast – among other things. Picking up survival skills has become his passion over the years – and miles.


Pleased to have him in Angadibail, we ask him what made him drop in. This is a wild place, he says. For all its wilderness, it is still a relatively safe bet as he is familiar with the route, the place and the language. With ease of communication, his hope is to learn more about life in the wild and minimalist living. Also, the fact that it’s run by like-minded people makes a big difference – people who wouldn’t look askance at his ‘adventure’. On a long trip like this, one cannot carry anything beyond the functional.  One also needs to know how to make and procure things on the go.

During Last Year's Paddy Plantation
Sailesh hopes to learn a lot from Eshwar Anna, the multifaceted housekeeper at Angadibail. He also appreciates the chance to live alone, for the most part. 
As an outdoors person, he hopes to settle down in a farm with “all” animals, a workshop and tools. He’s a self-taught handyman already and can work with wood, clay, cement, metal, and leather, to name a few substrates.   He now hopes to learn the indigenous farming techniques practised at Angadibail. Aware that it is not an easy undertaking, Sailesh knows that while picking up skills, it is equally important to understand and anticipate mistakes. He feels that a minimum of three years of hard-work is  required before one can expect to live by farming. He plans on staying at Angadibail during the monsoon and moving on after the paddy transplantation. 
In the course of the year, he wishes to work his way around depending on money. He states quite confidently that he will never starve as he can ‘sing for his supper’ – which, of course, is rhetoric as he’s tone deaf!  He could do hard labour and with an earning of half the minimum wage, he would still eat well, he insists.  
This Season's Sugarcane Plantation
This one year's ‘break’ is not something that arose out of usual factors like job frustration or boredom. This is something that he has wanted to do for a long time – to travel for the sake of travelling and not for the destination; to not know where he is going next and to not have a specific timeline. With a year in his hand, he does not have to plan ahead: each day is a fresh perspective.
While he has cycled along the Nilgiri range and the Leh-Manali stretch previously, this is the first time he is covering this long a time and space – and definitely the first time with a dog. He is often called ‘crazy’ for the kind of things he does. In reality, he takes prepared and calculated risks. He is calm and steady and the least inclined to panic in an emergency. Fear, he adds interestingly, is what keeps him alive. This ‘fear’ isn’t a baseless paranoia, but a real, pragmatic need for awareness. 

Chariot of the Dog
He designed and built a trailer for Mac and got him used to riding in it. There were a couple of trial runs to test the practicality of the size of the luggage. He had to reduce his luggage by several kilos after the pilot ride. His luggage now consists of a change of clothes, tools to fix the cycle, some medicines, a small solar panel and battery, water – and a large knife! 
He cycles from 5.30 in the morning till noon and camps wherever he is. He has slept in temples, bus shelters and used his tarp when it rained. When on the road, from noon to late evening, most of his time is be spent answering endless 'why's, 'where from's and 'where to's. 

Sailesh makes no bones about the rough part of the journey –  cycling uphill in some places, for instance, is killing, he admits. And there are times he questions his own ability to do it. But he carries on nonetheless.

Better Halves: Sailesh and Maitreyi 

He and his wife took a few months before he set out, to prepare for his journey. They worked towards downsizing their lifestyle, and material and emotional interdependence. They sold their car and one of their bikes. He also put up his prized super-bike for sale.  He had dedicated a year to ‘do up’ their rented house in Bangalore: he had single-handedly built a roof-top oven, an aquaponics system with plants and fish, a full-fledged terrace garden, and a huge cage with birds of various descriptions in it. He dismantled it all, to his wife’s admiration – she was amazed that he could give up everything he’d worked for in order to follow his heart.  

He credits his wife for making his journey possible. It helps that they are the best of friends rather than typical spouses, and understand and encourage each other’s individual interests.   While they are very similar in their beliefs and ideals, they differ in their capabilities – as a writer, her life revolves around books and ideas, while he is the ‘doer’ who loves creating tangible things. Thus, they complement each other – and are always in awe of the other’s talents. 

Mending the Mat with Eshwaranna

He is capable of building a house on his own. While the knowledge is a part of the package as an architect, he also possesses the required skills and physical strength to actually do it himself. He feels it is important to not let physical inhibitions stand in the way of working and is conscious about his fitness. His sense of being is centred on being completely independent: being capable of doing anything, and he constantly tests himself by this standard. This journey is part of that endeavour.

Since he was a child, Sailesh has always fantasized about living alone in a forest. In fact, he was quite radical about this idea: he felt that one was useless without this capability. While he has mellowed down considerably over the years and doesn’t hold such an extreme view anymore, one knows that he will always be that enterprising seven year old wanting to run away and fish, when he talks about hitting the roads after the monsoon, heading to Pune or Kerala or somewhere else altogether, with enough tools to dismantle a truck and his dear dog in tow.
Wherever he heads, BuDa Folkore wishes that its favourite cyclist, ‘Maitresh’ procures the best of tools, picks up the choicest of skills and travels happily ever after. 

-- Meena Chockalingam, Intern, BuDa Folklore


Glimpses of Sailesh's Life at BuDa Folklore

Dehusking Coconuts
Mac Surveys his Terrain 
Sailesh and Eshwaranna Build a Pathway Through the Stream

Angadibail's Cowboy
In Preparation for the Paddy Field

The Farmer Avatar

Carrying Leaf Litter from the Forest


The BuDa Family: (from L to R) Mac, Sailesh, Meena, Savita, Beera and Eshwaranna

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Making of ther broom-local craft

Here at Angadibail forest  we had our sessions with Banglore Steiner  School  not only to make functional and beautiful brooms but also to bring back the broom making tradition. 
you can see some of these steps in action!-a personalised experience
A simple craft of broom making 

Imagine a field full of wild-flowers, white heads popping out of the green, inviting you to come and lie down amidst all that beauty. 

Well, Seetakka brought us here for a task ...she wanted us to focus and start the work ...She came as a teacher to teach us how to make brooms out of this grass ..  
If you want to make a designer broom there will be no lying down. You need to get to work and pull out the long stalks/grass with the white heads to make the brooms locally called “hittumbe hidi”.-she called us right there .

Sitakka - our broom teacher showed us the best patches to harvest the stalks.
You'll find the longer (better) grasses in the damper places. They're also easier to pull out than the more dried ones.

She showed us a technique for even this simple task of grass pulling- you turn your palm upwards, slide your fingers into the stalks, let the heads get caught in the gaps at the base of your fingers and then pull upwards.

The next part of the task is to clean or remove the loose grasses off the ends called hokkalu . when you are pulling the main grass hokkalu is attached to it . Hokkalu meaning navel. this is the part of the stalk you disconnect from the rest of the plant.

Harvesting  these wild grass with a beautiful flower was so much fun ..We posed...  We smiled ...we held the big bunch of flowers close to us so that no one take it ..They were looking so beautiful! 

We smiled . ....we posed again....  we felt like we were preparing a bouquet for someone's wedding in the forest ....

 Suddenly our broom instructor gave us a shock. She explained the next step..and asked us to  pinch off the white tip -the flower- named after another body part, the head or “burude !! Such a sad thing to do ...:(((..Shaan was not at all pleased with this 

Once you have collected a big enough bunch you pinch off the white tip..

Such a painful task to remove the head 

It was getting dark ... So we decided to go home and do the task

Before beheading the grass we thought we take a photo of these beautiful flowers

. Once beheaded, we spread our bunch of stalks out in the sun to dry a few days.

When we met Sitakka after 3-4 days of drying, we took along a string/jute rope /suthli each with our bunch of grass . Your rope must be tied one side and then a loop made in the rope at one end and then the other end tied up tightly so you can work comfortably one it. 

Then starts the knotting/wrapping of the grass stalks. It is a fairly simple process, taking two stalks at a time and wrapping them around the previous two.

Despite its simplicity it does requires some application to get the weave tight enough and neat enough.

Sitakka inspects our work offering demonstration and corrections as needed, “do it neatly”, “make the end shorter”, “do it tighter”. 
It seems more involved and tedious than it the intermediate “grass skirt” result seems to merit. And we need to make it long enough.

Wow! It was quite beautiful. The dried grass gave it a goldish sheen and the spiralled top a majestic finish. Even if your length of grass is a bit shorter, you can still make yourself a slimmer broom like some of us did! "Chanda...chanda..."-Seetakka admired our brooms ...

-With Neesha Norohna

Monday, March 21, 2016

....and something beautiful remains .....

 This time trekking  along the beach for 4 days from Honnavar to Gokarna with a large group of students  from Sahyadri School  took me into  a different stroll.

The sunset ..the seashells ..the seagulls ..the starfish emerging from the sand ...the moon setting in the sea did not fascinate me ..

The children walked past  but I decided to stay behind  looking for something else

 I was watching with quiet fascination at the beautiful patterns created in the sand beneath my toes ..
I stumbled across many such patterns ....creations ....master pieces created by waves on  beach.   

Suddenly for me the beach looked like a canvas painted in diverse patterns 

Each pattern has to do something with the  currents, the tides ,the waves , the mineral deposits ,the rocks  and the organisms operate on the beach

The  Sand Bubbler crab, a crafty little beach-dweller  whose  sand ball creations are quite unintentionally artful.

the sand bubbler crab, nature’s very own artist 

While walking along  10 km beach at Dhareshwar i looked for this intricate patterns of  sand balls 

  designs made from tiny sand balls

creating these intricate masterpieces, knowing that the tide will soon come in and wash away his work forever.

 they're actually just the remnants left behind where a sand bubbler crab's been snacking

Like a lot of the most fascinating art forms, particularly ones that use nature as its medium, the sand bubblers delicate creations are short lived . Each time high tide returns, the sand ball formations crumble and are washed away, .

Early morning at  om beach in Gokarna  others were looking for a hot cup of coffee at the beach side restaurants  i was observing another fascinating art gallery

A sandy beach at low tide is often a magical place to be.  The receding sea can leave abstract patterns, often similar but never the same.

                                  The beauty of water meeting land ...

                              As the waves recede at low tide patterns are left in the sand  

             These beaches  typically consist of heavy iron-rich minerals and these    streaks are of those

         Wind in the sand trees......

    I observed.... The waves retreat gracefully and something beautiful remains ...

 Information  about sand bubbler crab -Thanks to Ravi Hegde.