Hello, and welcome to BABLI – a project that was built upon the arid red-earth of Birbhum, in West Bengal, India – with a desire to try and rejuvenate a small patch of land in this vast dry-country.
Today, it is a formidable jungle: when the project was started, in 1990, there was only one date-palm tree, a few jujube trees and a splattering of tall, dry grass, and the rest was barren red-earth.
Here is a pictorial tour of our farm-cum-rural action project, – where we also have a Guest-House for like-minded people to come and share the peace and quiet with us…
The temple-like structure tucked behind the clump of trees is the ‘office’.
All our architecture is based on a low-cost (and incidentally quite aesthetic) conglomerate of Indian Temple Architecture and antique, German engineering traditions – which is the brain-child of Sri Samaresh Mukherjee, a professional Bengali architect, who happens to be a good friend.
The interesting, domed structure to the middle-left of the frame is where we stock our annual produce of rice – it’s an indigenous devise, called a morai, made out of tightly-wound hay ropes, which is very effective in keeping the squirrel and mice away from the grain!
This is probably the best of the various residential quarters at the project –
The ground floor is the back-view of ‘Room No.8’, which is a 3-bed ‘suit’ of the project’s guest-house –
The first floor is the kitchen-cum-balcony of one of the staff quarters.
This building is located along the edge of our pond and is tucked into a dense foliage of trees, as you can see in the photograph.
This curious structure is actually a building that has undergone quite a few modifications over the years…
Presently we use this area as a "workshop space"
We usually refer to this building as the Polu-Ghar – which, in Bangla, means a room for silk-worm cultivation .
That is what the room was originally used as, though it looked quite different then!
Now we have opened up its walls, since we have had to abort silk-worm cultivation some years ago thanks to terrible marketing options available locally, and the room is now used as a convenient ‘community-space’.
BABLI is primarily a place where we experiment with composite agriculture –
In other words, we do farming in such a way that one aspect supplements another.
So, for example, we cultivate regular crops and also grow various not-so-regular products, such as cow-fodder, which we feed our cattle with to improve the quality of the milk they yield.
In turn the dairy produces huge amounts of manure, which fulfills almost all our need for fertilisers.
Along with various crops like paddy, wheat, mustard, potatoes, ginger, turmeric and so on, we have mango and guava orchards, grow seasonal vegetables, house a poultry, duck-farm and a goat-house.
And of course, we have the jungle! The adjoining Chaupahari Forest is allowed to grow into the project freely. That’s what gives our place its special flavour.
And then, there are allied jobs…
… Plenty of them, actually! Processing the various produces, painting, mending, plumbing, carpentering, repairing, cleaning, and so on… we do most of that ourselves, and for certain things we rely on local specialist.
A few of the people involved with the project…
… Of course, there are others too! On an average, we have a team of about 15-16 heads of staff working at BABLI.