The Commune: The Frugal City

Dear Friends,

We spoke a bit about home in our episodes last month. Home is a complicated idea and I have been thinking about what home means to me. Travelling down memory lane, I landed at the memories of me running up and down my grandparents small house in the outskirts of Chennai during those childhood summer vacations. Beautiful light through large windows and birds chirping would wake me up. We began our mornings watching my grandfather draw water from the well in the backyard; spent the day on the swing in the front yard; played under the shade of the trees; the familiar smell of wet mud in the evenings as my grandfather watered the front yard. It feels like so long ago, and a space from another era. Each time I visit them now, I am reminded that plants, shrubs, trees, birds and other tree dwellers (monkeys!) would occupy space together – giving the house its identity and homely feel. It was local in that sense.

This of course is not true for most of my experiences of home. Having grown up in Hyderabad where our neighbourhood went from small independent houses in the early 2000s to only apartment buildings in 2020, transforming with it my idea of home and what makes a city – home. Distant from the early memories of my grandparents home is the reality I have today – almost fully separated from the natural world around me. 

Lewis Munford, philosopher and urbanism icon, said in 1963: “The city multiplies man’s power to think, to remember, to educate, to communicate, and so to make possible associations which bridge and bypass nations, cultures. This mixture, this cosmopolitanism, is the chief source of the city’s vitality. And we must enlarge and enrich it as we move towards a new urban form.” The current urban form definitely needs some rethinking, especially in the context of the mass exodus from our cities as well as coming to terms with the realities we face in cities because of climate change.

The idea of building homes with material found around us, with frugality, aligned with nature, with gentleness, seemed hard to describe and even harder to understand for me. Hearing about co-founder Deepika’s visit to Bir, Himalayas (read her reflections here), the photos of the mud home she shared, I found myself asking many questions. What does frugal mean? How does one build a home with mud? What does local mean in this globalised world? Who helps us build our homes? How is their labour valued? What are the benefits of such a home? What can we do differently and do now? The conversation with Chitra Vishwanath unpacks ideas of frugality, architecture and sustainability, and brings us closer to imagining new ways to build our cities and our homes. You can listen to the full episode here

The episode was recorded in pre-COVID times, but accompanying this episode is Deepika’s thoughtful reflection on ‘Cities As An Ecosystem‘, building sustainably and why this is more important than ever. You can watch these videos from our previous episodes on ‘How to change the way we buy‘, ‘How to segregate our waste‘, and ‘Some ways to care for the planet‘ to get us started on beginning to realign with the world and become part of the ecosystem.

Do visit our youtube channel if you haven’t seen the videos of the webinars we have done as part of our series on Intentional Living. Our intentional living webinars are conversations to bring people together and expand our horizons.

Look forward to hearing from you.

(Team TCC)

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