Sarva Mangala working with a father to develop the design

29.07.13 | returning to site & developing the bamboo structure

We were joined last week in Delhi by Ivar, who spent a couple of days here catching up with the progress before heading to Hariharpur with Leika (meanwhile Alex and Clem stayed in Delhi with Anshu to keep on refining the set of drawings for hand-over).  They were met at the station by none other than Sanjay, and it was great to be reunited with everyone in the village. After all the monsoon rains, the whole area has turned green, and the fields are being replanted with rice. Even though it’s cooled down a lot since we were last here in May, it’s still pretty hot and sweaty.
Soon after arriving, and checking the progress of the building, Leika visited Beena to make an appointment for a meeting with the teachers. The meeting started with a surprise dance performance by the children, who had learned new songs. The children had already grown a lot since we were last here. Following the meeting, we held a regular Saturday workshop together with the parents. The workshop started with a presentation by the teachers to update us and other parents who were absent from recent workshops. They have been developing a plan for playground, kitchen garden, boundary walls and flower pots for the new school. In today’s workshop, we took their progress forward and focused on defining a location for the kitchen garden and the playground. The teachers naturally divided the participants into groups and copied the master plan by hand onto several chart papers so each group could draw their own plan. Today we had a broader range of participants, from younger sisters of the mothers, to several fathers (normally its the grannies who are most active in workshops)! It was great to have different ideas coming out, yet, interesting to find out that some were identical (e.g. fencing the playground and kitchen garden was a common desire). We then moved to the site to check out whether their plan would work in reality. Some of their suggestions had conflicts with existing bamboo bushes or path ways. We didn’t manage to reach a conclusion during the workshop, so the task of identifying an exact site remains for the community. During our stay, we will go through a list of things in relation to the new school building which the community can take charge of, and put up a schedule for future workshops with the teachers.

Meanwhile, Ivar was focusing on the building work – spending time with Kamlesh and Jitinder to hear about how things have been going over the past six weeks. Although everyone on site was very up-beat and seemed smiley and happy, it’s clear that they feel some kind of  architect or formal contractor needs to be onsite supervising things,  as they are struggling to manage independently. The main anxiety among the community is, unsurprisingly, the damage to the mud walls. Work has started to replace the walls which collapsed around the staircase with fired bricks. After consultations with the Kamath Design Studio and Mr Anil Laul, it has become clear that we unfortunately will need to replace all the infill walls which have been built, and replace them either with fired bricks, or stabilized blocks. The choice about which to use will ultimately be up to Anshu and ITRHD, as this work will be completed at a later stage. Currently there is only enough money to complete the roof structure, so this is what we are focusing on for the moment. We will be launching a fund-raising campaign to cover the cost of the new infill walls (approximately £6000) as soon as possible. Ivar has been resolving small details such as the metal frames for the doors, and marking out the plot boundaries (hopefully for the last time!) – but is being careful not to start managing things too directly, as we’re there for such a short period of time.

Back in Delhi, Alex, Anshu and Clem have been working closely with Bhaskar and Ashish to develop the bamboo design, and come up with strategy to implement it on site. It turns out that the name of their studio, ‘Karyashala’, means ‘workshop’ in Hindi – so we’re a good match! They met up with two bamboo artisans, Kishan and Sitala, who would be working at site along with other labourers, and local people who will be trained in bamboo construction techniques. We still need to do a little more work to develop the details, and put together a presentation about how we plan to assess the structural strength of the design, in order to convince Mr Ganju that it’s the right direction to take for the roof and verandah. Having never worked with the material before, he is understandably apprehensive about using it and wants to be absolutely assured of its suitability. Mr Anil Laul kindly took the time to discuss the proposal with us yesterday, and made a few recommendations in terms of the design, but otherwise seemed confident in it. The challenge, as he sees it, will be to convince ONGC of its suitability. One thing he was clear about was that the bamboo we already have at site will only be adequate for secondary structural members such as the purlins, and not for the main beams or columns. Bhaskar has been in touch with a bamboo supplier in Assam, and is planning a trip there with Anshu to procure the 200-300 pieces we need for the structure. Nevertheless we should start treating what we have as soon as possible, so there is material for the artisans to work with when they arrive. Alex, Clem and Anshu are meeting Bhaskar once more this evening to go through the latest design developments, and then will head to the village tomorrow evening – to join Mr Ganju and Mr Laul for a site visit on Wednesday. We’ll be there until 4th, continuing to work with Bhaskar from afar, and then will hand everything over fully to IRTHD when they return to Delhi on the 8th August.