11.08.13 | saying goodbye to hariharpur

11.08.13 | saying goodbye to hariharpur

After six months of preparation, research, collaboration, design and construction we said our final farewells to Hariharpur last weekend. Clem, Alex and Anshu had joined Leika and Ivar in the village a few days earlier, to help hand everything over and bring our direct involvement in the project to a close. ITRHD’s architect, Mr Shiban Ganju, came for a brief visit the same day they arrived, in order to see the progress on site. He also needed to familiarize himself with the design so that he’s in a better position to take on the project from now on,  in collaboration with Anshu. The conversation at site was focused on the roof and verandah structure in particular  – which are the two main areas of construction still remaining. We’re really hoping that Mr Ganju will meet Bhaskar in the coming days, and be as excited as us about using bamboo, but ultimately the decision rests with him. Having never used the material, he is apprehensive about its strength and durability. As an alternative, he is considering repeating the barrel vaults on the first floor.  Although it’s hard, given the time and energy we’ve put into the project, to let go – we have to acknowledge that we can’t be involved from afar, and will of course respect the decision that IRTHD comes to about how best to proceed.

The time in the village was also a chance for Leika to develop the community workshop program further, and bring together her extensive research so that it can be a useful tool for ITRHD. Having drawn up a map of the village, collaborating with the teachers she then filled it with information about where hand pumps are located, where the ChaCha Nehru pupils live, where the most beautiful mud houses are and so on. One very exciting revelation occurred during this process, when we discovered that our construction supervisor, Jitinder, has a son at the school! During months of trying to involve more parents, we somehow never realized that Jitinder was actually a father himself.

For the final workshop, on our penultimate day, we presented the community with a copy of our book about the project – to be kept at the school for everyone to share. Watching the teachers’ and parents’ excitement as they leafed through the pages was really touching. Given the building is still under construction, it was nice to be able to give them something complete and tangible. This workshop was also a chance for us to introduce Anshu to the community, and for him to explain recent developments, including the decision to remove the mud walls and replace them with fired bricks. Everyone was understanding. and seemed excited about the agenda for the future workshops which the teachers will lead from now on – starting with the establishment of a kitchen garden at the site.

On our last morning we were invited to Bina and Kamlesh Ji’s house for a delicious breakfast, and then had our final lunch with the construction team. Each person was presented with a certificate and photo from the construction site, and we said a few words of thanks and encouragement. It was really nice to have this chance to say good bye properly, and to feel like the hand-over has happened in a formal way. We’re looking forward to regular updates from Arvind and Anshu, who’ll be staying the village until the building’s complete – and will watch with interest as the first floor roof comes up! Living with the people of Hariharpur has been an amazing experience and we’re really going to miss village life and the wonderful people we met. We will, however, definitely come back for a visit someday, and are looking forward to seeing the building complete and in use.